Tuesday's Jan. 6 hearing focused on how Trump galvanized far-right supporters
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Each hearing by the January 6 committee pushes responsibility closer to then-President Trump.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The committee presents more and more sworn depositions. Usually, it's by Republicans. Often, it's people who worked for the president. Sometimes, it's even from people who promoted his election lies. The result yesterday was like a video documentary, describing White House meetings from multiple perspectives.
INSKEEP: NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas has been following these hearings. Ryan, good morning.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: OK. The basic outline of events leading up to January 6 was known. Trump encouraged people to come to Washington and they did, including extremist groups. And they attacked the Capitol. What do all these videos add to the understanding of what happened?
LUCAS: Well, we saw and heard a lot from Trump's last White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, yesterday. Cipollone was interviewed by the committee just on Friday. And Cipollone said he agreed that the election was not stolen. That was a message that he and other top advisers, like Attorney General Bill Barr, were also delivering to Trump. But Trump didn't want to hear it. Instead, he was listening to a group of informal outside advisers, Sidney Powell, former Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and Rudy Giuliani.
And the committee zeroed in on a December 18 meeting at the White House that devolved into a screaming match, really. The committee showed a text from White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson describing this six-hour meeting as unhinged. Powell and company were pushing these outlandish theories about election fraud. Cipollone's side was pushing back. After the meeting ended, though, in the wee hours of the morning, Trump sent out his tweet calling on supporters to come to Washington on January 6 for a wild rally.
INSKEEP: What was the importance of that one tweet?
LUCAS: Well, Democrat Jamie Raskin, who co-led this hearing yesterday along with Stephanie Murphy, they described Trump's tweet as, in essence, a call to arms. And the committee showed that after that tweet, Trump's followers were galvanized, particularly online. Here's what Raskin said.
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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 6th.
LUCAS: We also heard testimony from a rioter who stormed the Capitol, Stephen Ayers, a former cabinet factory worker from Ohio. And he said he came to Washington because Trump asked him to. He said he marched to the Capitol - didn't have plans to, but marched to the Capitol because Trump told him to. And he said he left the Capitol after Trump tweeted, telling the rioters to go home. All of this is part of the committee trying to make its case that it's Donald Trump who is directly responsible for the events that happened on January 6.
INSKEEP: Do they have even more evidence of that than they've shown so far?
LUCAS: Well, they have another hearing scheduled for next week. It will be in primetime. And the focus of that one is going to be on the 3 hours or so on January 6 as violence was taking place at the Capitol, when Trump was not taking action to stop that violence.
INSKEEP: One other thing, Ryan. What did Liz Cheney say, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming say just as everybody was getting ready to leave?
LUCAS: Well, she said that Donald Trump tried to call a witness who the public has not yet seen in the committee's hearings. She said the person didn't answer the call and instead alerted their lawyer, who then informed the committee. Cheney said the committee told the Justice Department about it. And then Cheney said this.
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LIZ CHENEY: Let me say one more time, we will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously.
LUCAS: Now, the suggestion here, of course, is that Trump was calling this committee witness to try to influence their testimony. The committee's raised concerns about potential witness tampering previously. But this time, Cheney namedropped Trump. And that sends a message, a very public message. I also, for the record, did get in touch with the Justice Department about this, and it declined to comment.
INSKEEP: NPR's Ryan Lucas. Thanks so much.
LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.