Today's Jan. 6 hearing looked at the role of Q-Anon, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Former President Trump planned in advance to direct protesters to march to the Capitol on January 6 even when his aides said they worried about the extreme rhetoric they were hearing. That is the latest allegation from the Congressional Select Committee investigating the Capitol riot. The committee focused on a Trump tweet in December 2020 calling for a, quote, "wild" protest on January 6. Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland said that tweet was a kind of call to arms for Trump supporters, who started making plans online.
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JAMIE RASKIN: Many shared plans and violent threats. One post encouraged others to come with body armor, knuckles, shields, bats, pepper spray, whatever it takes. All of those were used on the 6.
CHANG: Well, NPR investigative correspondent Tom Dreisbach has been following today's hearing and joins us now. Hey, Tom.
TOM DREISBACH, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.
CHANG: OK, so this hearing today - it covered a lot of ground with witnesses both in and out of the White House. And I want to start with the people inside the Trump administration. What more did we learn today about the run-up to January 6?
RASKIN: Well, throughout these hearings, we've heard from a large number of top Trump advisers who repeatedly told Trump the election was not stolen, there's no evidence of widespread fraud and that, by mid-December, those legal challenges they had raised, which they had lost repeatedly - those legal challenges were over. Now we can add to that list of officials who told Trump that - White House counsel Pat Cipollone. He testified with the committee on Friday, and we saw clips where he agreed that Trump should concede.
CHANG: Right. And then despite that, Trump continued to pursue these baseless claims about the election. And some of those claims were being pushed by outside advisers - right? - like Rudy Giuliani. What did we learn about the efforts of those people on the outside?
RASKIN: The committee really focused on this one day - December 18, 2020 - and a meeting that took place in the Oval Office. On one side were Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn and Rudy Giuliani. They were pushing some of these really far-out election theories, some involving Venezuela. There was discussion of seizing voting machines at one point. Now, on the other side were White House lawyers like Pat Cipollone and others who thought these ideas were essentially ridiculous or even illegal in the case of the voting machines idea. According to testimony we heard, it became a six-hour screaming match between both sides, which a White House aide described as, quote, "unhinged." Here's the testimony from White House lawyer Eric Hirschman.
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ERIC HERSCHMANN: I think that it got to the point where the screaming was completely, completely out there. What they were proposing, I thought, was nuts.
CHANG: OK. Well, now we know the Trump administration ultimately did not pursue seizing voting machines. So what actually came out of that meeting?
DREISBACH: Well, even though some top advisers like Pat Cipollone and Eric Herschmann said the election was over, Trump continued to try to overturn it. And the very next morning, December 19, Trump sent a tweet calling for his supporters to come to a big protest on January 6. Quote, "be there, will be wild." We heard how that led to planning from a wide variety of extremists like the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys. And some of the rhetoric from them and others described how January 6 might be like the new 1776, an American Revolution. In response to that, a Trump spokesperson named Katrina Pierson, who was helping plan the events for the 6 - she told the committee that she was worried about what she was hearing from those groups, but those concerns from her were not listened to.
CHANG: OK. Well, as we mentioned, the committee presented testimony that Trump planned in advance to tell his supporters on January 6 to march to the Capitol. Can you just explain, Tom, what is the significance of that piece of this?
DREISBACH: Right. There's been some debate about whether those comments were spontaneous or pre-planned. According to that testimony from Pierson, this idea had been discussed for days in advance. We even saw a draft tweet - never sent - where Trump told people he would march to the Capitol. And, of course, Trump ultimately did tell people to march to the Capitol despite the testimony we heard that he was told people in the crowd were armed. In the aftermath of the attack, we learned former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale sent a text message where he said Trump's rhetoric, quote, "killed someone." Now, finally, I should just say at the very end of hearing, we heard some important information from committee co-chair Liz Cheney that they had information former president had called a witness who was set to testify. Cheney said they referred that information to the Justice Department.
CHANG: That is NPR's Tom Dreisbach. Thank you, Tom.
DREISBACH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.