It was Day 7 of public hearings for the bipartisan U.S. House Select Committee probe of Donald Trump's January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and his multiple failed attempts to steal the 2020 Presidential Election. We've got full Special Coverage once again on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
If you've been turning away over the past week or so, we've got a quick recap of "our story so far" at the top of today's show, summing up the key elements of the six previous public hearings by the Committee. In short, to sum up that summary, Donald Trump knew everything and was personally involved in everything. He knew there was no fraud of note in the 2020 election, as all of his top advisers and legal experts told him as much, but he continued to lie about it anyway. He knew that his efforts to reverse election results to steal the election from Joe Biden in various swing-states and at the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021 were unlawful and/or Constitutional. Again, we've been shown that all his top advisers told him as much. He relentlessly pushed for it anyway. And he knew that calling his supporters to D.C. on January 6 and directing them to march on the Capitol would result in violence led by armed extremist groups. He was advised against it, but he did it anyway.
Today's hearing picked up on Trump's "call to arms" to his supporters. It came in the middle of the night in his now-infamous "Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!" tweet, issued just hours after an insane, "unhinged", hours-long December 18, 2020 White House meeting with his personal crackpot attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, his felonious former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne (for some reason) and a bunch of White House attorneys. The latter angrily tried to derail the MAGA coup plotters plans to have the President issue an Executive Order to seize the nation's voting machines and install Powell as a Special Counsel to investigate fraud and issue arrests. Even Trump loyalist and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone --- who finally testified to the Committee last Friday --- said he "vehemently opposed" the "terrible idea." That, after repeatedly asking for any evidence of fraud and being shown none at all.
That bonkers meeting, and its fallout --- resulting in the tweet that "electrified and galvanized" his supporters immediately thereafter --- was detailed in the first part of today's hearing, with mountains of evidence and video-taped testimony. The second part covered what happened next, as the extremist groups which supported Trump, including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers (the leaders of which have already been indicted for seditious conspiracy), descended on D.C., planning for the violence --- and much worse --- that eventually occurred.
The Committee shared video of Trump's media supporters, immediately after his "will be wild!" tweet, calling on their own followers to join them in D.C., including rightwing conspiracy radio host Alex Jones and others. One called for "storming right into the Capitol," noting "the rules of engagement: If you have enough people, you can push down any fence or wall." Another vowed "There are gonna be a million, geeked-up armed Americans" coming to occupy D.C. in response to Trump's call.
All of that, weeks before Trump eventually directed them to march to the Capitol on Jan. 6 in what, the Committee showed through several draft tweets and speeches, was absolutely not a spontaneous ad-lib made by Trump during his remarks on the Ellipse. The armed march on the Capitol was the plan all along.
On the night before the attack, according to White House call logs obtained and revealed by the Committee today, Trump's disgraced former aide Steve Bannon took to his "War Room" podcast just after a conversation with the then President to declare: "All hell is going to break lose tomorrow. It's all converging and now we're on the point of attack. It's not gonna happen how you think it's going to happen. It's gonna be quite extraordinarily different and all I can say is strap in."
One witness at the end of today's hearing were Jason Van Tatenhove, an independent journalist turned self-described Oath Keepers propagandist, who says he left the group 5 years ago after seeing them become more and more racist and violent. The other was Stephen Ayers, a January 6 rioter and Trump believer. He was not tied to any of the extremist groups. He was just a guy, "a family man" who answered Trump's call to come to D.C. and "fight like hell" to "save the country" as he believed Trump needed him to do. He was arrested and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct at the Capitol and now regrets every part of it, believes it was all a con, but has since lost his job and much more after having fallen for Trump's Big --- violent, deadly --- Lie.
Today's hearing came to a close with another Liz Cheney cliff-hanger. This time she revealed that Trump had attempted to contact one of the Committee's witnesses following their last hearing. "We will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously," vowed the Committee's Republican Vice Chair, adding that the Justice Department had been notified about the apparent witness tampering by the disgraced former President.
Joining us to make sense of all of this today are, once again, HEATHER DIGBY PARTON of Salon and Hullaballoo, joined this time by DAVID FARIS, Associate Professor of Political Science at Roosevelt University and a contributor to both Newsweek and The Week.
"They've been setting up the various strands," Parton explains, describing today's hearing focused on Trump's directives to his violent supporters, as she cited Andrew Weissman's recent "'hub and spoke' conspiracy" op-ed at NYTimes. "There were a number of different spokes going out from the Oval Office, which included the 'voter fraud,' the fake electors, the DOJ, Mike Pence. This was one of the spokes, and it's a huge one, because it is the spoke that leads from the White House and the Oval Office to the insurrection on January 6th. That part of the whole coup plot, the conspiracy to keep Trump in office come what may, that was a huge one."
"Big picture, I think these hearings have a number of different purposes. One is to provide concrete evidence of a systematic and sustained effort to extra-constitutionally overturn the results of the 2020 election," Faris observes. "Stealing the election. That's a coup. We've learned a lot more during these hearings about the mechanics of the coup. The bottom line is that the people who were putting these plans into motion knew perfectly well that they were illegal."
He also notes that he believes these hearings are likely to spur the DoJ into action. "There are a lot of little Trump lieutenants running for office who are planning to do things like manipulate the vote in 2024, or use extra-constitutional procedures to install a Republican candidate for President into office," Faris tells us. "There are a lot of people who are contemplating committing crimes in another conspiracy against the United States, and if you do not show them there are consequences to the people who did it the first time, I don't see how those people can draw any other conclusion then that they'll get away with it. I wish that we were not in this position where we have to talk about indicting a former President. It's not great. But I don't think he can be allowed to skate without really jeopardizing our democracy."
Lots more on today's show, of course, from the hearing itself and via smart analysis from Parton and Faris as, yes, the walls continue to close in on Donald J. Trump...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)