July 12 (UPI) — The chairman of the House Jan. 6 committee opened the panel’s seventh public hearing Tuesday by saying former President Donald Trump “seized” on the anger of his supporters to form a mob.
In his open statement, committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., asserted Trump was unlike any other American president in that he did not accept the will of the voters that Joe Biden had been fairly elected president in November 2020.
Rather, he encouraged his supporters to believe the election had been stolen from him.
“What Donald Trump was required to do in that moment — what would have been required of any American leader — was to say we did our best and we came up short,” Thompson said. “He went the opposite way. He seized on the anger he had already stoked among his most loyal supporters. And as they approached the line, he didn’t wave them off. He urged them on.”
The panel’s latest public hearing is expected to focus on how extremist groups came together and attacked the U.S. Capitol and their ties to Trump.
Committee members said one of the primary focuses will be on a tweet from Trump in December 2020. It read, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” and may have been a catalyst for extremist groups to plan the attack.
The hearing got underway at 1 p.m. EDT and is being streamed live.
Committee vice chairwoman Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., in her own opening statement, rejected the assertions of some Trump supporters that the former president was “manipulated” by outside advisers into believing there was widespread election fraud.
Trump, she said, had access to “more detailed and specific information showing that the election was not actually stolen” than almost any other American, adding, “No rational or sane man in his position could disregard that information and reach the opposite conclusion.”
In November, the committee subpoenaed leaders of far-right extremist groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesman for the Oath Keepers, is expected to testify at Tuesday’s hearing.
The committee has said members of the Oath Keepers were involved with planning and participating in the violence at the U.S. Capitol — and 18 members of the group have been indicted by a federal grand jury after traveling to Washington with paramilitary gear and supplies.
In papers filed Friday, the Justice Department listed evidence showing that a member of the Oath Keepers carried explosives to the Washington area, and another kept a “death list” before the attack.
Enrique Tarrio, former chairman of the Proud Boys, was arrested on Jan. 4, 2021, on charges of burning a Black Lives Matter banner that was taken from Asbury United Methodist Church during a previous protest in D.C.
Tarrio and four others were indicted last month on seditious conspiracy charges, but a judge delayed a trial scheduled for August, citing the ongoing work of the Jan. 6 committee.
During the committee’s first public hearing in June, documentary filmmaker Nick Quested, who followed some members of the Proud Boys on the day of the attack, said they made their way to the Capitol before Trump even began his address on the Ellipse on Jan. 6.
“There was a large contingent, more than I would expect, and I was confused to a certain extent why we were walking away from the president’s speech because that’s what I felt we were there to cover,” he testified.
The committee’s last public hearing two weeks ago featured explosive testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson about Trump’s behavior on the day of the attack. On Friday, the panel heard from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone during a closed-door meeting — during which he corroborated previous testimony about misconduct involving Trump on Jan. 6.
Former White House adviser Steve Bannon, who faces a criminal trial for contempt of Congress this week for denying a committee subpoena to testify, has indicated that he’s now willing to testify. However, it’s unclear if or when that will happen or if his trial will be put on hold.