US Capitol Riot Investigators Allege Trump Ignited the Mayhem 

The congressional panel investigating the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol last year alleged Tuesday that former President Donald Trump ignited the mayhem with an “explosive invitation” for supporters to come to Washington to try to block certification of his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

The committee said the tweet Trump issued in the early hours of Dec. 19, 2020, came after he ignored repeated advice from his White House advisers that he accept the reality that he had lost and that there was no evidence of fraud that was sufficient to upend the outcome.

Instead, after a lengthy, profane meeting at the White House with aides supporting his continued fight against the election outcome and those who advised acceptance of his loss, Trump tweeted, “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

The committee showed snippets of videos from some of Trump’s most ardent right-wing supporters urging fellow adherents to meet in Washington to try to block Congress from certifying that Biden had won the election.

In one clip, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones told his viewers, “He is now calling on the people. The time for games is over.”

Congressman Jamie Raskin, one of the committee members, said Trump’s tweet “reverberated pervasively online.”

The committee showed a clip from Steve Bannon, a one-time White House aide to Trump, saying the day before the January 6 insurrection, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. All I can say is, ‘Strap on.'”

The committee played a voice-altered clip from a Twitter employee, who said Trump’s tweet “was a mob being organized. The leader of their cause was asking them to join him.”

In videotaped testimony, Trump’s White House counsel Pat Cipollone said he agreed that Trump should concede defeat, as did Trump’s daughter Ivanka, a White House adviser.

Instead, Trump accepted the advice of two of his legal advisers, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, and business executive Patrick Byrne, whom he met with on the night of December 18, to continue to fight the result to remain in power for another four years.

Other testimony focused on the role played by the Proud Boys, a neofascist group, and the Oath Keepers, another right-wing group supporting Trump’s reelection. Five Proud Boys leaders have been charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the insurrection at the Capitol and are awaiting trial later this year. The same charge has been filed against 11 Oath Keepers, three of whom have already pleaded guilty.

Trump has derided the committee’s investigation, calling its nine members — seven Democrats and two vocal anti-Trump Republicans — “political thugs and hacks.”

The question facing the investigative panel is showing what link, if any, the extremist groups had specifically to Trump, while more broadly detailing contacts they had with his political associates as he sought to retain power by upending the official state-by-state vote counts showing that Biden had won.

The protesters who stormed into the Capitol ransacked congressional offices, scuffled with police and for hours blocked the certification of Biden’s victory. Eventually the Capitol building, a symbol of American democracy, was cleared of protesters, and Biden won the Electoral College vote by a 306-232 count.

In the United States, presidents are effectively chosen in separate elections in each of the 50 states, not through the national popular vote. Each state’s number of electoral votes is dependent on its population, with the biggest states holding the most sway.

More than 800 of the protesters have subsequently been charged with an array of offenses from trespassing to assaulting police officers, and more than 300 have pleaded guilty or been convicted in trials. Sentences have ranged from a few weeks in prison to more than four years. The sedition charges filed against the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers carry substantially longer terms.

At its most recent hearing, the panel heard testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, the top assistant to Mark Meadows, Trump’s last chief of staff, that Trump in the waning weeks of his presidency became increasingly angry and volatile regarding his reelection loss.

She testified that Trump knew some of his supporters at a rally near the White House were armed but still urged them to walk to the Capitol.

Hutchinson said Trump berated his Secret Service detail for not driving him to the Capitol, and in December 2020, threw his lunch against a wall of a White House dining room when he learned that then-Attorney General William Barr had concluded there was no election fraud.

After her dramatic testimony, Trump derided her as a “total phony” and “bad news.” But committee member Raskin on Tuesday told NBC News that “Cipollone has corroborated almost everything that we’ve learned from the prior hearings. I certainly did not hear him contradict Cassidy Hutchinson.”

Witnesses at earlier hearings told the investigative panel that there were minimal voting irregularities, not enough to overturn Biden’s Electoral College victory.

In addition, Trump was told it would be illegal for then-Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally block Biden’s victory as Pence presided over the congressional Electoral College vote count. Still, Trump privately and publicly demanded the vice president block certification of Biden’s win. To this day, Trump contends he was cheated out of another White House term.

Over the weekend, Trump said in a letter that he would allow Bannon to testify before the investigative panel. He also said the committee had “allowed no Due Process, no Cross-Examination, and no real Republican members or witnesses to be present or interviewed. It is a partisan Kangaroo Court.”

Republicans blocked a full-scale probe that would have been patterned after the investigation of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

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