January 6th Hearings: Former Oathkeepers Testify Against Trump

Jul 12, 2022
4:27 PM

Jason Van Tatenhove, an ally of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, listens as he testifies as the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, July 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol held its seventh hearing on Tuesday.

“As our committee has shown in prior hearings, following the election, President Trump relentlessly pursued multiple interlocking lines of effort, all with a single goal: to remain in power, despite having lost,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) in her opening remarks.

In his remarks, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) recalled the mob that killed abolitionist newspaper editor Elijah Lovejoy in 1837.

“The problem of politicians whipping up mob violence to destroy fair elections is the oldest domestic enemy of constitutional democracy in America,” said Raskin, who likened the mob violence of Abraham Lincoln’s lifetime with the attack on the Capitol in January 2021.

Central to Tuesday’s hearing was evidence from an eight-hour interview with former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, conducted by the committee last week and the video of which was first shown today. Cipollone, a key figure in former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony at the last committee hearing, testified that by December 1, 2020 —over a month before the attack— both he and then-Attorney General Bob Barr were convinced that Trump had lost the election and communicated their assessment to the former president.

At that point, according to Cipollone’s testimony, Trump convened an impromptu meeting with disgraced former U.S. Army General Michael Flynn and attorney Sidney Powell. The result of the meeting, according to Cipollone, was a draft executive order, never implemented, which would have ordered the Department of Defense to seize voting machines under Powell’s supervision and empower her with broad authority to punish political opponents who got in her way.

“I don’t understand why we even have to tell you that’s a bad idea,” Cipollone said of the proposed order. “It’s a bad idea.”

What followed was an eruption of shouting and threats in the West Wing as Trump’s personal advisors like Powell and Flynn clashed with staffers like Cipollone and others who said they were ready to concede the election.

“It was not a casual meeting,” said former White House staff secretary Derek Lyons. “At times, there were people shouting at each other, throwing insults at each other.”

“I don’t think any of these people were providing the president with good advice,” Cipollone said of Powell, Flynn, and their allies at the meeting. “I don’t know how they’d gotten in.”

Powell testified that Trump ordered Cipollone to name her special counsel. Cipollone, according to Powell, said that he had the authority to appoint her but that no one would take such an appointment seriously.

“As you listen to these clips, remember that this power of the person who President Trump tried to make special counsel was ultimately sanctioned by the federal court and sued by Dominion Voting Systems for defamation,” Raskin said of Powell.

Raskin also said that after the fracas at the White House, Trump tweeted a call to his supporters to march on Washington on January 6.

Far-right media personalities like Alex Jones and the person known as “Salty Cracker” echoed Trump’s call on social media and in web videos, in some cases calling for the seizure of the Capitol by “armed citizens.”

“If President Trump were any other user on Twitter, he would have been suspended a long time ago,” testified an anonymous Twitter employee.

After a short break, Rep. Murphy led the second half of Tuesday’s hearing which included in-person testimony by two former members of the far-right paramilitary group, the Oathkeepers.

“I probably should have broke with them much earlier than I did,” said Jason Van Tatenhove, a former Oathkeepers spokesperson.

Stephen Ayres, a former Oathkeeper charged with disorderly conduct for breaching the Capitol on January 6th, testified that he did not intend to go to the Capitol until President Trump called on “Stop the Steal” rallygoers to march there.

Murphy asked Ayers if he believed that Trump would be marching to the Capitol with the rallygoers. “I think everybody thought he’d be coming down. He said in his speech that he’d be there with us. I know I believed it,” Ayres replied.

“This could have been the spark that started a civil war, and no one would have won there,” said Van Tatenhove, who testified that the Oathkeepers were “intrigued” by the idea of a deck of cards depicting political targets, similar to those used by U.S. servicemembers in the Middle East to identify insurgents.

“President Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child. Just like everyone else in our country, he is responsible for his own actions and his own choices,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY).

It remains unclear if the Department of Justice will indict the former president for his role in the insurrection.


Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports