“Will be wild” – Re-cap of yesterday’s Jan. 6 hearing – National & International News – WED 13Jul2022

“Will be wild” Recap of 7.12 Jan. 6 Hearing –

This hearing focused on the mobilization and participation of extremist militant groups like the OathKeepers and ProudBoys in the events of Jan. 6.

Team Rudy and Team Normal

The first part of the hearing centered on a clash between what has become known as “Team Rudy” (or “Team Crazy”) and “Team Normal”.  On this occasion, “Team Rudy” included Trump’s outside counsel Rudy Giuliani, Sydney Powell as well as Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (Trump’s former National Security Advisor). “Team Normal” seemed to comprise of White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Eric Hirschman.

The clash took place during what was described as an “unhinged” meeting at the White House on December 18, 2020. Flynn, Giuliani, Powell and (for some reason) Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne showed up to the White House unannounced. They were able to speak to Trump alone for several minutes before Team Normal arrived. At that point, things became heated.

“Will be wild”

Powell, Giuliani, Cipollone and Hirschmann all provided vivid accounts in recorded testimony. Powell (who famously suggested that Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez had somehow rigged the 2020 election, despite having been dead since 2013) was demanding to be appointed “special counsel” to oversee the investigation into the “election fraud”. As Cipollone put it, “I didn’t think [Powell] should be appointed to anything”.

During or possibly before that meaning, “Team Rudy” had drafted an executive order, which the committee produced. The order would have directed the Department of Defense to “seize, collect, retain and analyze” all voting machines in the states Trump was contesting. “Team Normal” pushed back on this, and the order was not issued.

The meeting went on for several hours. Then at 1:41 a.m., apparently frustrated at Team Normal’s refusal to do his bidding, Trump sent out a tweet summoning his supporters to D.C. on Jan. 6. It concluded “Be there, will be wild”.

“The Ministry of Self-Defense”

Following this tweet, the OathKeepers and ProudBoys formed an alliance, under the apparent coordination of Gen. Flynn and Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative and Trump confidante. They set up an encrypted chat dubbed “the Ministry of Self-Defense” where members strategized and shared tactical maps of the Capitol and D.C. which pinpointed police positions. Another encrypted chat called “Friends of Stone” allowed Stone to communicate regularly with these irregulars.

In the days before Jan. 6, both Stone and Flynn were photographed in D.C. with leading members of the ProudBoys and OathKeepers. The two men even had private security escorts provided by the militant groups.

An anonymous former employee of Twitter also gave pre-recorded testimony about the violent extremist chatter on the platform leading up to Jan. 6. The witness said that Twitter seemed to “revel” at playing such a central role in the unfolding drama, and was thus reluctant to intervene. If Trump had been any other Twitter user, the witness said, he would have been banned from the platform long before he was. After pleading for months for someone to intervene to prevent bloodshed, the witness said, “On Jan. 5, I realized that no intervention was coming”.

“All hell is going to break loose”

On Jan. 5, Trump’s former campaign manager Steve Bannon had an 11-minute phone call with Trump shortly before 10 a.m. Shortly thereafter, Bannon went on a radio show, telling the audience that “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow”.

That same day, Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) said on a phone call with other GOP Reps. that leadership should form “a safety plan for members” for Jan. 6. Lesko was one of the GOP members of Congress who raised objections to the certification of electors on Jan. 6. But the day before, she told her colleagues she was “really worried”. She said there were Trump supporters converging on D.C. “who actually believe that we are going to overturn the election, and when that doesn’t happen- most likely will not happen – they’re going to go nuts”.

Texts between members of Trump’s staff and others connected to Stone’s “Stop the Steal” campaign also revealed something interesting. Apparently, Trump’s plan all along was to tell his supporters to march towards the Capitol following his rally at the Ellipse on Jan. 6. However, his team were conspiring to keep this quiet until after the speech was over. Perhaps an attempt to avoid the appearance of pre-meditation?

Live witness testimony

The two witnesses who testified live were Jason van Tatenhove, a former spokesperson for the OathKeepers and associate of founder Stewart Rhodes, and Stephen Ayres, a former Trump supporter who pleaded guilty to entering the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Jason van Tatenhove

Van Tatenhove testified to the violent aspirations of OathKeeper’s founder Stewart Rhodes. Rhodes had loudly called for Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act following the election but before Jan. 6. Van Tatenhove speculated that Rhodes saw Trump as an “opportunity” to legitimize his own vision for a violent overthrow of the government. He also said that we had been extremely “lucky” that the violence of Jan. 6 did not lead to a wider conflict, and finally expressed concerns about what could happen in the next election cycle.

Stephen Ayres

Ayres was not a member of any extremist group, but rather just a run-of-the-mill Trump supporter. He spoke of how Trump’s rhetoric and belief that the election had been stolen influenced his decision to go to D.C. that day, and what the consequences had been for his own life. Ayres described himself as a “family man and a working man”. He formerly worked in an Ohio cabinet factory for nearly 20 years. When his involvement in the Jan. 6 attack became known, he lost his job. He also faced numerous charges, eventually pleading guilty to disorderly conduct and others.

Ayres said that once Trump finally issued a tweet telling the protesters to leave the Capitol, many did, including Ayres. “If he’d put out that tweet earlier in the day,” Ayres said, “maybe we wouldn’t be in that bad of a situation”. Ayres said that after the attack, he did his own research and realized the election fraud claims were unfounded. When Rep. Cheney asked if it would have affected his decision to go to D.C. had he known that Trump knew himself that the claims were “nonsense” (as former Atty. Gen. Barr and many others told him), Ayres said he certainly would not have gone to D.C. that day. Like van Tatenhove, Ayres expressed concerns about what might happen in the next election.

Preview of next week’s hearing- and more witness tampering?

In her closing remarks, Rep. Liz Cheney previewed the contents of next week’s hearing. The next hearing was supposed to take place on Thursday this week, but has been postponed. That hearing is now scheduled to take place next Thursday, July 21, during prime time, but these things are always subject to change.

The subject of the next hearing will be a minute-by-minute retelling of the events of Jan. 6. This will include both the events at the Capitol, and the scene at the White House, during which Trump refused for hours to call a halt to the carnage unfolding. Testimony from White House counsel Pat Cipollone will figure prominently.

Cheney also revealed that Trump had attempted to call one of the committee’s witnesses (one who has not yet appeared). That witness did not respond to Trump’s phone call. Instead, they informed their attorney, who informed the committee, who informed the Justice Department. Cheney warned against further attempts at witness tampering.

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