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Jan. 6 committee begins to connect the dots between former President Trump and far-right militia groups

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Alex Jones of Infowars arrives to speak to participants in the MAGA Million March For Trump rally outside the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., on November 14, 2020. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

By Shane Madden 

Day seven of the Jan. 6 select committee hearings presented evidence in the form of a series of texts and emails, establishing former President Trump’s intention to send protestors to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, despite the Trump campaign’s insistence this was a “spur of the moment” event.  

The committee took time to highlight a meeting that took place on Dec. 21, 2020, citing White House visitor logs, during which Trump discussed the possibility of objecting to the election with 10 members and members elect. Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-Florida), noted that this meeting took place just days before Trump told top officials at the Department of Justice to publicly denounce the election as illegitimate and “leave the rest to me and the Republican congressman.” 

In an effort to establish the widespread concern throughout the Capitol in the days leading up to the riot, the committee then played newly obtained audio from a meeting on Jan. 5, 2020, of Arizona GOP Rep. Debbie Lesko.

“I’m actually very concerned about this, because we have who knows how many hundreds of thousands of people coming here… We have, quite honestly, Trump supporters, who actually believe we are going to overturn the election. And when that doesn’t happen–most likely does not happen–they are going to go nuts,” Lesko said.  

Cipollone finally comes forward

Following a string of former Trump aides coming forward to testify, and a congressional subpoena, former White House Chief Counsel Pat Cipollone sat for an eight-hour video deposition, corroborating prior witness testimony.  

The committee played 14 clips from that interview, highlighting the growing divide between the former president and his chief legal counsel in the weeks leading up to Jan 6. 

On numerous occasions Cipollone talked Trump back from the ledge, including a particularly contentious meeting with MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani, and the lawyer undertaking (and losing) election fraud cases, Sydney Powell.

“I don’t think they were providing the president with good advice,” Cipollone noted before almost sighing and adding “I didn’t understand how they had even gotten in (the oval office).”

Over and over, source after source testified that when Trump didn’t hear the responses he wanted from his legal team, he sought yes-men who would toe the line, even if it meant lying or breaking the law to do so.  

The Oathkeepers return to the Capitol 

The committee then called on two former Trump supporters to share their point of view in regard to the events of Jan 6.

Sporting face tattoos and a tattered jean jacket, former Oathkeeper Jason Van Tatenhove, who spent years as a senior spokesperson and at one point allowed founder Steward Rhodes (awaiting trial on seditious conspiracy charges related to Jan. 6) to live in his home, left the Oathkeepers in 2018 citing Holocaust denial as “too far,” but testified to the state-of-mind and worldview of these far-right militant groups.

“I can tell you that they may not like to call themselves a militia, but they are. They’re a violent militia,” Van Tatenhove said, noting the groups shift toward militarism during his tenure. “I think the best illustration for what the Oathkeepers are is what happened Jan. 6, when we saw that stacked military formation going up the steps of our Capitol.” 

Van Tatenhove finished his testimony by expressing his concern for political violence in the future.  

“Who knows what that might bring if a president is willing to instill, encourage and whip up a civil war amongst his followers using lies and deceit and snake oil… What else might he do if he’s elected again? All bets are off at that point,” Van Tatenhove said.   

More Tampering?

During the last hearing, Committee Co-Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) detailed several statements from witnesses stating they had been contacted by associates of the former president.  

In closing, she again made it clear to the American people, and to the Department of Justice – who has been notably silent throughout these hearings – that since the last hearing, Trump personally called a witness we have yet to hear from. The witness refused to answer the call, stating that Trump wasn’t someone they typically spoke with, and informed their legal counsel who then alerted the committee. 

The next and possibly final Jan. 6 committee hearing is scheduled for July 21, during primetime like the first. This hearing will feature Pat Cipollone’s testimony more heavily and will focus on the ties between allies of Trump and extremist groups involved in the attack on the Capitol.  

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