The January 6 committee proves that Trump planned the march to the Capitol days before | International
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The competition is, without a doubt, very tough, but that meeting on the night of December 18, 2020 in the Oval Office takes the award for “the most insane of Donald Trump’s presidency.” It was clear after hearing the conclusions presented in Washington on Tuesday, during the seventh session of the Congressional commission investigating the attack on Capitol Hill, perhaps the most substantial to date. That meeting, convened urgently, was attended by people from the close circle of the still president, such as the sinister lawyer Sidney Powell; the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani; or General Michael Flynn, then National Security Advisor. Several of his closest collaborators within the White House joined on the fly. It lasted six hours. There were shouts, insults, and the group moved through the presidential residence from one wing, the West, to the other, in the heat of a discussion that pitted two sides against each other: those who defended that the election of the previous November had been stolen by the Democrats with the help of Iran, China or Venezuela, and those officials who tried to convince Trump of the “nonsense” of such theories. Among the latter was Pat Cipollone, whose testimony, which he refused to grant and which was finally taken from him behind closed doors last Friday, has provided new and crucial data to the investigation.
Once the acrimonious meeting ended past midnight, Trump was upset with opposition from his most righteous allies. “You see what I have to put up with; I have to deal with these people every day,” he lamented to Powell, who replied that if it were up to her, “I would immediately fire them and escort them to the exit.” So the tycoon calmed his frustration by doing what he knew best: tweeting at dawn. He sent a message “that changed the course of history,” as defined by Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin, one of the most prominent members of the committee. Written in the unmistakable and nervous Trumpian literary style, it concluded with these words: “Great protest in [Washington] DC on January 6. Be there. It will be wild.” And the rest, in effect, is part of the darkest history of the United States. That frigid winter day, Trump gave a rally in the capital and harangued the mob, despite the fact that, as another witness, the young collaborator Cassidy Hutchinson, revealed two weeks ago in this same forum, she knew that some of her supporters were armed. She encouraged them to go to the Capitol, which they took by force in an act of extreme violence, and even wanted to accompany them. The secret service members in charge of his security managed to convince him otherwise.
That tweet was well known, but this Tuesday the American people discovered another one, which, strangely enough for its author, he thought better of it and did not send it. He said: “I am going to give a big speech at 10 o’clock in the morning on January 6 at the Ellipse [situada al Sur de la Casa Blanca]. Please arrive early, huge crowds are expected. We will march to the Capitol. Let’s stop the robbery!!!” That hint of a message, kept in the National Archives and obtained by the investigators, goes to show that Trump had planned days before to lead a demonstration of his supporters, but that he wanted the decision to pass as spontaneous, as corroborated by several testimonies and evidence collected by the Commission. Among them, a message from one of its spokespersons, who, after speaking on January 2 with the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, sent an email to other organizers of the rally in which she told them she hoped that the president “call everyone to march to the Capitol.” Two days later, another organizer added that it was important to keep the plan “secret” so as not to alert the National Park Service, which grants permits to demonstrate on the Washington Mall.
This Tuesday’s hearing has also served to establish links between the former president and his circle with groups such as the Oath Keepers (Guardians of the oath) or the Proud Boys (Proud Boys). And to show again that the people closest to the tycoon, including his daughter Ivanka or members of Giuliani’s legal team, repeatedly told him that the electoral theft theories were baseless. Above all, after on December 15 even the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, admitted the defeat of his own.
Members of the two extremist organizations have been prosecuted for their participation in the assault on the seat of American democracy, as part of the parallel investigation being carried out by the Department of Justice into the events of January 6. One of them, Stephen Ayres, who faces a sentence for seditious conspiracy, testified in person before the committee Tuesday that he regrets being misled by Trump’s lies. He went to Washington and stormed the Capitol. “He believed whatever he saw on the internet, that was basically it. Now not anymore, now I have removed myself from all social networks, and I draw my own conclusions, ”he declared. And do you still believe in the idea of electoral theft?, they asked him. “Not so much,” he replied. “I don’t think it’s so easy to hide something so big.”
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At his side was Jason van Tatenhove, who was a member of the Oath Keepers until 2018. He defined the organization as “dangerous.” “It’s a violent militia, basically at the service of the ego and determination of its leader, Stewart Rhodes. It is not easy to describe its rawness with words. The best illustration of what they are capable of is in what we saw on January 6”, he clarified. At the end of the session, Ayres shook hands with the police present in Congress, who are among the 140 who suffered injuries as a result of the violence of guys like him.
The nine congressmen also tried to link the assault with the frustration that arose from the December 18 meeting, vividly recreated in a seven-minute montage of recorded interviews, during which the still president was about to issue a decree that would have given power a special adviser, at the time, Sidney Powell, to seize voting machines to recount the ballots. Common sense prevailed and in the end a decision was not made that would have been without precedent. “This is not how we do things in the United States,” Cipollone, who has already joined the young Hutchinson, told the committee during an eight-hour confession on the list of “explosive witnesses” in this complex process. Cipollone was, to paraphrase the famous song from the musical hamilton, about one of the founding fathers, the man who was “always in the room” in those chaotic weeks at the end of the Trump presidency. Hence the importance that he has finally agreed to collaborate. (Raskin also turned, incidentally, to Hamilton, when he made use of a famous dictum linking demagogues with tyrants.)
At the end of the first part of the session, the commission shared with those present in the solemn Cannon room a string of terrifying videos taken from the darkest corners of the Internet, in which the extremists who picked up the gauntlet of Trump’s famous tweet they openly talked about killing Democrats and going to the capital armed and in bulletproof vests. “It became an openly homicidal invitation. One of them even talked about celebrating a ‘red wedding’, which in popular culture is used to talk about a massacre”, explained Raskin, who gave a brilliant closing speech and has been one of the most active members of the committee, partly for tragically personal reasons. His son Tommy, 25, committed suicide on the morning of New Year’s Eve 2020. A few days later he had to make an effort to attend the certification process for the new president at the Capitol on January 6 with his wife and one of his his other two daughters. The three, with the still fresh trauma of seeing a loved one leave, experienced a few hours in first person in which it seemed that the mass was going to end their lives. “I lost a son and I was about to lose a democracy,” he explained in February in an interview with EL PAÍS.
The other protagonist has been the Democratic representative of Florida Stephanie Murphy, who is among the nine congressmen (seven Democrats and two Republicans) who have spent more than a year collecting evidence and interviewing hundreds of witnesses. She defined Trump’s tweet “as a call to action” that for some was also a “call to arms”, and then this Vietnamese immigrant declared her love for the United States.
In its initial speech, one of the two Republicans on the commission, Liz Cheney, explained that they had noticed a “change in attitude” among those summoned by Congress. “They have gone from trying to deny and delay our work to adopting the argument that the president was manipulated by people outside his Administration, who persuaded him to ignore his most trusted advisers to the point of rendering him incapable of knowing right from wrong. ”, said Cheney, who added that this strategy seeks to exculpate Trump and hang the owl “on people like John Eastman, Sidney Powell or Congressman Scott Perry”. She defined them as the “crazy group”.
“This, of course, makes no sense,” added the representative from Wyoming, a Republican who is playing it all or nothing by becoming the face of friendly fire against Trumpism in a party that seems hijacked by its ghosts. “He is a 76-year-old man, he is not an impressionable child. He is responsible for his own actions and his own choices. As our investigation has shown, he had access to more details and information and knew with more certainty that the election was not actually stolen than almost any other American. They told him over and over again. No rational or sane man in his position could ignore that information and come to the opposite conclusion.” Cheney later revealed that the tycoon had called one of his witnesses in recent days to apparently put pressure on him. He reported it to his lawyer, who alerted the commission, which, in turn, brought it to the attention of the Department of Justice. “Let me say it one more time: We will take any attempt to influence our sources very seriously,” Cheney warned.
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