The Jan. 6 committee Tuesday shone a damning spotlight on former President Trump’s effort to rally violent far-right-wing extremists to help him stay in power after losing the 2020 election.
And lawmakers started making ample use of the recent blockbuster testimony from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, whom the panel considers perhaps their most crucial witness.
“Cipollone has corroborated almost everything that we’ve learned from the prior hearings,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), told CNN just hours before the next hearing.
In the first minutes of the hearing, Cipollone was shown saying he thought there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
“I don’t know why I should have to tell you that seizing voting machines is a bad idea,” said Cipollone in his videotaped deposition that was recorded during eight hours of testimony last Friday. “It’s a terrible idea
The snippets of Cipillone’s testimony will likely only deepen the anxiety of Trump and his supporters as the panel is likely preparing to drop more bombshells at future hearings.
On Tuesday, the committee painted a portrait of Trump as a man desperate to cling to power after his election challenges flopped in court in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6.
He turned to the idea of inviting a hodge-podge of radical groups like the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, white nationalists and adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory groups to join his cause.
The hearing delved into a Dec. 18, 2020 meeting at the White House in which former Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, one-time Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and others floated extremist ideas for overturning the election results.
Hours after the meeting, Trump sent a tweet summoning radical supporters to Washington for the Jan. 6 rally, on the day Congress was set to certify President Biden’s election win.
The tweet proved to be a potent mobilizing tool for the extremists, who prepared for a violent effort to block Congress from taking what is normally a purely ceremonial action.
Among those expected to testify on Tuesday are Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty last month to Jan. 6-related charges and Jason Van Tatenhove, a one-time spokesman for the Oath Keepers.
The men are expected to shed new light on the involvement of Trump insiders in directing the planning for the attack. They will also offer a shocking inside look at the riot itself, where armed rioters overwhelmed cops and sought to hunt down the perceived enemies of Trump for hours.
The Tuesday hearing came a week after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson delivered a bombshell account of Trump inciting the attackers and refusing to call off the mob as they marauded through the Capitol. He even reacted approvingly to the mob’s chanted threats to hang Vice President Mike Pence, Hutchinson said.
Trump lashed out against Hutchinson, saying he hardly knew her and accused her of lying about him.
But there is no reason to think she concocted the tale and Cipollone did not contradict her testimony.
An expected prime-time hearing Thursday has been shelved for now, an ominous sign for Trump and his supporters as the committee continues to unearth damaging information about his scheme.