January 6 panel investigates Trump’s ‘siren call’ to extremists

WASHINGTON (AP) – The January 6 committee is set to shine a light on how violent far-right extremists responded to Donald Trump’s ‘siren call’ to come to Washington for a big rally, as some now face rare charges of sedition following the deadly attack on the US Capitol and efforts to cancel the 2020 presidential election.

The panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol siege is meeting Tuesday for a public hearing probing what it calls the endgame of Trump’s multi-pronged effort to stop Joe Biden’s victory. While dozens of lawsuits and false claims of voter fraud fizzled, Trump tweeted the invitation to the rally, a pivotal moment, the committee said. Far-right Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and others face criminal charges willingly answered.

“We’re going to present all of the evidence we have that explains how the President’s tweet in the early hours of December 19 of ‘Be There, Be Wild’ was a siren call to these people,” a panel member said, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., over the weekend on “Meet the Press.” In fact, Trump tweeted, “Be there, it’ll be wild!”

Among those expected to testify is Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty last month to disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted-access building. He admitted that on Jan. 2, 2021, he posted an image that said Trump was “calling on us to come back to Washington on Jan. 6 for a big protest.” Another witness is Jason Van Tatenhove, an ally of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes. The witnesses were confirmed by a person familiar with the testimony who spoke on condition of anonymity as the witnesses had not yet been announced.

This is the seventh hearing in a series that has featured many blockbuster revelations from the January 6 panel. Over the past month, the panel has created a stark narrative of a defeated Trump “detached from reality”, clinging to his bogus claims of voter fraud and working feverishly to reverse his election defeat. It all culminated in the deadly attack on the Capitol, the committee said.

What the committee intends to investigate on Tuesday is whether extremist groups, including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and QAnon adherents who previously sided with Trump, coordinated with allies from the White House for January 6. The Oath Keepers denied there was a plan to storm the Capitol.

The panel is also expected to highlight new testimony from Pat Cipollonethe former White House attorney, who “knew about every major move” Trump was making, said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who will lead the session.

It’s the only hearing scheduled for this week, as new details emerge. An expected prime-time hearing on Thursday has been suspended for the time being.

This week’s session comes after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson provided stunning accounts under the oath of an angry Trump who knowingly sent armed supporters to the Capitol on Jan. 6, then refused to quickly call them back as violence erupted, siding with the rioters as they threateningly sought the Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump said Cassidy’s account was not true. But Cipollone in Friday’s private session did not contradict earlier testimony. Raskin said the panel plans to use “a lot” of Cipollone’s testimony.

The panel is expected to highlight a Dec. 18, 2020 meeting at the White House where former Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and others floated ideas for void election results, Raskin told CBS over the weekend.

It was days after the Electoral College met Dec. 14 to certify Biden’s results — a time when other key Republicans were announcing the election and its challenges were over.

On Dec. 19, Trump would send the tweet inviting supporters to Washington for the Jan. 6 rally, the day Congress was to certify the Electoral College count: “Big protest in DC on Jan. 6. Be there, it’s going to be wild!

The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, far-right extremist groups whose leaders and others now face rare sedition charges for their role in the attack, prepared to come to Washington, documents show. judicial.

On Dec. 29, the president of the Proud Boys posted a message on social media stating that the members planned to “show up in record numbers on Jan. 6,” according to a federal indictment.

The group planned to meet at the Washington Monument, with its members instructed not to wear their traditional black and yellow colors, but to be “incognito”.

The Proud Boys claimed membership grew after Trump, in his first debate with Biden, declined to condemn the group outright, but instead told them to “step back and be ready.”

The day before Jan. 6, Proud Boys frontman Enrique Tarrio met Rhodes in an underground parking lot, according to court documents as well as footage a documentary filmmaker was following the group provided to the panel.

The Oath Keepers had also organized for Jan. 6 and established a “rapid response force” at a nearby hotel in Virginia, according to court documents.

After the Capitol siege, Rhodes called someone with an urgent message for Trump, another member of the group said. Rhodes was denied the chance to speak to Trump, but urged the person on the phone to tell the Republican president to call on the militias to fight to keep the president in power.

A Rhodes lawyer recently told the committee that his client wanted to testify publicly. Rhodes has already been interviewed by the committee privately, and the panel is unlikely to agree.

The panel also intends to discuss how many of the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on January 6 appeared to be QAnon believers. Federal authorities have explicitly linked at least 38 rioters to the pro-Trump conspiracy theory, according to a review of court records by The Associated Press.

One of the most recognizable figures in the Jan. 6 attack was a shirtless Arizona man who called himself the “QAnon Shaman,” carried a spear and wore face paint and a Viking hat with fur and horns.

A core belief among QAnon followers is that Trump was covertly battling a cabal of Deep State operatives, prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites who worship Satan and engage in child sex trafficking.

The panel showed, in fast-paced hearings and with eyewitness testimony from the former president’s inner circle, how Trump was told “again and again,” as Vice President Liz put it. Cheney, R-Wyo. had lost the election and his bogus allegations of voter fraud were simply untrue. Nonetheless, Trump summoned his supporters to Washington and then sent them to Capitol Hill in what President Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., called an “attempted coup.”

___ Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, Farnoush Amiri and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington and Michael Kunzelman in College Park, Maryland, contributed to this report.

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For full coverage of the January 6 hearings, visit https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege.

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