On Dec. 19, 2020, President Donald Trump posted on Twitter one of his many baseless claims about the presidential election, alleging that it was “statistically impossible” for him to have lost to Joe Biden and alerting his supporters to a Washington protest in the coming weeks.
That tweet would serve as an invitation to far-right militant groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers as well as other violent extremists who were part of the pro-Trump mob that overran the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to block the certification of Biden’s electoral college win, members of the House select committee investigating the insurrection said Sunday.
The effect of that tweet — as well as other messages from Trump and his allies — will be explored this week as the committee resumes its public hearings. Tuesday’s session will focus on Trump’s connections to those far-right and political extremist groups.
“People are going to hear the story of that tweet, and then the explosive effect it had in Trumpworld, and specifically among the domestic violent extremist groups, the most dangerous political extremists in the country at that point,” Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”
Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), who is scheduled to lead Tuesday’s hearing with Raskin, said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” that the Dec. 19 tweet was a “siren call” to those groups that Jan. 6 would be a “last stand” to keep Trump in power.
Trump had already mounted a broad and ongoing pressure campaign — on Vice President Mike Pence, the Justice Department and state election officials — to help overturn the election results, she added, and his tweet amounted to a call for those violent groups to provide “additional support” leading up to Jan. 6.
Committee members also confirmed Sunday that they had received a letter from a lawyer for former Trump chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon stating that Bannon will waive his claim of executive privilege and testify at a public hearing. Bannon was indicted on charges of contempt of Congress last year after refusing to comply with the committee’s subpoena.
Bannon could still assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and may insist on conditions, such as testifying on live TV rather than in a closed-door deposition, that committee members may not want to agree to.
Raskin said Sunday that the committee would be “very interested” in hearing from Bannon, but indicated it was unlikely that his initial testimony would be public.
The hearing on Tuesday will be the committee’s first since Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, gave bombshell testimony about Trump’s rage and inaction on the day of the Capitol attack. Hutchinson testified on June 28 that Trump knew that some of his supporters were armed but urged them to march on the Capitol anyway, and that Trump had told Meadows to talk to some of his aides who had relationships with far-right militia groups.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said Sunday it would be “a logical conclusion” that Trump was aware the mob that day included members of those violent extremist groups.
“We are going to be connecting the dots during these hearings between these groups and those who are trying in government circles to overturn the election,” Lofgren said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “So we do think that this story is unfolding in a way that is very serious and quite credible.”
Raskin, Murphy and Lofgren all indicated that testimony from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone would be played during the hearing. In a closed-door hearing on Friday, Cipollone testified before the committee for eight hours, providing information that “corroborated key elements of Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony,” committee spokesman Tim Mulvey said in a statement Sunday.
Hutchinson had testified that Cipollone sought to prevent Trump from traveling to the Capitol on Jan. 6 with his supporters, fearing criminal liability and telling her “something to the effect of: ‘Please make sure we don’t go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. Keep in touch with me. We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.’”
There was a lot of information from Cipollone’s testimony that “fit into this bigger puzzle” that the committee is assembling, Murphy said Sunday.
“The overall message that we have been gathering out of all of these witnesses is that the president knew he had lost the election, or that his advisers had told him he had lost the election, and that he was casting about for ways in which he could retain power and remain the president, despite the fact that the democratic will of the American people was to have President Biden be the next elected,” she said.
The next hearing will also focus on “the fundamental importance” of a Dec. 18, 2020, meeting of Trump allies that took place at the Willard hotel in downtown Washington, according to Raskin.
During that meeting, a group of outside lawyers that included Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani — dubbed “Team Crazy” by some in the Trump White House — discussed efforts to try to overturn the election results. Potential steps included seizing voting machines around the country, Raskin told “Face the Nation.”
“But against this ‘Team Crazy’ were an inside group of lawyers who essentially wanted (Trump) at that point to acknowledge that he had lost the election, and were far more willing to accept the reality of his defeat at that point,” Raskin said.
Twitter banned Trump from its platform after the Capitol attack, citing the risk of further violence.
Jacqueline Alemany and Isaac Stanley-Becker contributed to this report.