In the days leading up to the seventh Jan. 6 committee hearing, the reporting from various outlets and public statements from committee members indicated it would focus on the actions of right-wing extremists before and during the Capitol attack.
But for the entire first half of the hearing, Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla. 7th District) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md. 8th District) sought to show the importance of a Dec. 19, 2020, tweet from former president Donald Trump.
"Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election," the tweet read, in part. "Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!"
The tweet was the foundation for the committee's presentation. It aimed to present evidence that the social media post resulted in a significant mobilization of far-right extremists and other supporters around Jan. 6, setting the stage for the violence that ultimately unfolded.
"With the proper incitement by political leaders and the proper instigation from the extremists," Raskin said, "many members of this crowd could be led to storm the Capitol, confront the vice president in Congress, and try to overturn the 2020 election results."
"This tweet served as a call to action, and in some cases as a call to arms," Murphy said.
Trump sent the tweet in the early hours of Dec. 19 after a White House meeting between the former president, members of the White House Counsel's office, and lawyers who had come to the fore in the post-election period — dubbed "the crazies" by some White House advisers.
A video of Pat Cipollone, former White House counsel, is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The meeting, which was called "unhinged" in a text conversation shown during the hearing, began with the so-called "crazies," including Sidney Powell, Trump's former national security adviser Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and others, coming to the White House without an appointment to meet with the former president.
They tried to advise him to continue contesting the election result, despite the fact the Electoral College had met and voted four days earlier on Joe Biden's victory. Their proposal centered on a plan to have the defense secretary seize voting machines and to appoint Sidney Powell as a special counsel to investigate spurious claims of voter fraud and prosecute supposed election-related crimes.
Members of the White House staff, including Pat Cipollone and Eric Herschmann of the counsel's office, and then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, found out about the meeting and rushed to the Oval Office where they advocated against the plan and refuted claims of a stolen election.
Cipollone, who first interviewed with the committee last week, testified that he opposed the plan to put Powell in a position to prosecute election-related crimes
"I was vehemently opposed. I didn't think she should be appointed anything," Cipollone said in recorded video testimony.
Trump ultimately did not go along with the proposed plan. Later in the night, he issued the tweet in question, prompting a near-instant reaction from his supporters and members of right-wing groups.
The committee played clips of online right-wing personalities, including Alex Jones, Tim Pool, and Matt Bracken, talking about and hyping Jan. 6 and what Trump was asking of his supporters.
"One of the most historic events in American history has just taken place," Jones said in one clip. "He is now calling on we, the people, to take action to show our numbers."
The committee also showed evidence indicating other groups started to change their existing plans and target Jan. 6 due to Trump's tweet. One group, Women for America First, changed its request for a demonstration permit in Washington, DC, to Jan. 6 after previously scheduling for a different date.
Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty last in June 2022 to disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, left, and Jason Van Tatenhove, an ally of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, right, arrive to testify as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The responses to Trump's tweet also indicated a surge in interest around the date, including some supporters alluding to the potential for violence.
The committee shared audio testimony from an anonymous former Twitter employee expressing concern that the Dec. 19 tweet changed the tenor of conversation on the platform, and increased the chances of violence. The person said Twitter had a responsibility to do something
"After this tweet on Dec. 19, it became clear, not only were these individuals ready and willing, but the leader of their cause was asking them to join him in this cause, in fighting for this cause in DC, on Jan. 6 as well," the person said. "I very much believe that Donald Trump posting this tweet on Dec. 19 was essentially staking a flag in DC on Jan. 6 for his supporters to come and rally."
The committee also explored the role of right-wing extremist groups in the lead-up to insurrection with a particular focus on the Proud Boys, a far-right group with ties to white nationalist ideology, and the Oath Keepers, a far-right anti-government militia.
The evidence focused, in part, on the connections between the groups and the former president's allies Roger Stone, the longtime Republican operative, and Flynn, the retired three-star general and former Trump national security adviser.
The committee shared a photo from Dec. 12, 2020, showing Flynn being guarded in Washington by several Oath Keepers in a private security capacity
The evidence presented of Stone's ties to the groups was much more extensive. Committee evidence showed Stone had communicated with both groups regularly.
Encrypted content from a group chat called "F.O.S. (Friends of Stone)," which included Stone, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, and Stop the Steal Campaign organizer Ali Alexander, showed extensive discussions about Jan. 6 and other pro-Trump events in November and December 2020.
Another Oath Keepers chat showed Stone spoke with Kelly Meggs, head of the Florida Oath Keepers about security on Jan. 5 and 6.
Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., left, listens as Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., speaks as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 12, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
On Jan. 6, photographs showed Stone was guarded by two Oath Keepers who have been indicted for seditious conspiracy, one of whom pleaded guilty. Raskin said that according to the Department of Justice, the man who pleaded guilty admitted the Oath Keepers were ready to use violence, even against the national guard, to keep Trump in power,
The committee also showed video of Stone taking the Proud Boys' "fraternity creed," an oath required for the first level of initiation to the group.
In addition to the recorded testimony and evidence, the committee heard from two live witnesses on Tuesday: Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesperson and self-described "propagandist" for the Oath Keepers and Stephen Ayres, an Ohio man criminally charged for his actions during the Capitol insurrection.
Van Tatenhove, having previously been involved with the Oath Keepers, testified about what the group is and offered his perspective on the its motivations.
He told the committee he first became involved with the group after covering their standoffs with federal authorities as an independent journalist. He was involved with the group for three years before leaving after seeing the group embrace white nationalists and other "straight-up racists," as well as deny the Holocaust.
Tatenhove said the group is a "violent militia" that dreams of and plans for a violent event like Jan. 6 to trigger a larger revolt against the government.
He testified that while the group serves as a sort of vanity project for Rhodes, its founder and leader, it should still be treated as dangerous because of its ability to spread misinformation and radicalize otherwise normal people.
"I think we've gotten exceedingly lucky that more bloodshed did not happen because the potential has been there from the start," he said.
Ayres is one such "normal" person, though he is not and has not been affiliated with either the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys.
Ayres told the committee that before Jan. 6, he frequented right-wing accounts and platforms on social media, including the former president, and it drove his belief in the misinformation spread about the 2020 election. He said he went to DC with a group of friends who were driving there, where he attended the rally near the White House in which Trump called on the crowd to march to the Capitol.
Ayres said he was not originally planning to go to the Capitol, only going after Trump told the crowd to do so. Ayres entered the building and ultimately left after a few hours. In June, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building.
A video showing Alex Jones is shown as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 12, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
"I was hanging on every word he was saying," Ayres told the committee. "Everything he was putting out I was following it."
The hearing also featured evidence of the involvement of some members of Congress in the effort to pressure former vice president Mike Pence into going along with a scheme to unilaterally reject electoral votes from certain states during the electoral count.
A private schedule the committee obtained showed a Dec. 21 meeting with Republican members of Congress concerning Jan. 6. In attendance were:
Reps. Brian Babin (Texas 36th District), Andy Biggs (Ariz. 5th District), Matt Gaetz (Fla. 1st District), Louie Gohmert (Texas 1st District), Paul Gosar (Ariz. 4th District), Andy Harris (Md. 1st District), Jody Hice (Ga. 10th District), Jim Jordan (Ohio 4th District) and Scott Perry (Pa. 10th District), as well as the-Representative-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga. 14th District)
The meeting focused on the "Eastman theory" concocted by attorney John Eastman that was discussed in detail in a prior hearing.
Previous hearings have featured evidence of Trump-aligned Republicans attempting to subvert the 2020 election by making false claims about the result and asking the White House for pardons for their role in that attempted subversion.
The committee originally envisioned two hearings for this week. Select committee aides said on Monday to expect the second hearing to occur sometime next week but did not provide any further detail.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the committee's vice chair, said the panel saved for the next hearing evidence regarding former President Trump's conduct during the violence on Jan. 6. She said the hearing will walk through, minute-by-minute, his actions during the attack.
She also closed the hearing by teasing one last major piece of information. After the committee's last hearing on June 28, President Trump allegedly attempted to call a Jan. 6 committee witness himself. According to Cheney, the witness declined the call and alerted their lawyer, who then told the committee.
Cheney said the committee supplied this information to the Department of Justice.
The June 28 hearing featured testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, the former principal aide to Mark Meadows, Trump's final Chief of Staff.
"Let me say one more time: We will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously," Cheney said.
Updated on July 12, 2022, at 5:33 p.m. ET with full original writethrough.