Jan. 6 Panel Probes Trump’s ‘Siren Call’ To Extremists

By, LISA MASCARO

(AP) — The Jan. 6 committee is set to highlight the way violent far-right extremists answered Donald Trump’s “siren call” to come to Washington for a big rally, as some now face rare sedition charges over the deadly U.S. Capitol attack and effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol siege convenes Tuesday for a public hearing probing what it calls the final phase of Trump’s multi-pronged effort to halt Joe Biden’s victory. As dozens of lawsuits and false claims of voter fraud fizzled, Trump tweeted the rally invitation, a pivotal moment, the committee said. The far-right Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and others now facing criminal charges readily answered. 

“We will lay out the body of evidence that we have that talks about how the president’s tweet on the wee hours of December 19th of ‘Be there, be wild,’ was a siren call to these folks,” said one panel member, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., over the weekend on “Meet the Press.” In fact, Trump tweeted, “Be there, will be wild!”

Among those expected to testify is Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty last month to disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building. He admitted that on Jan. 2, 2021, he posted an image stating that Trump was “calling on us to come back to Washington on January 6th for a big protest.” Another witness is Jason Van Tatenhove, an ally of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes. The witnesses were confirmed by someone familiar with the testimony who spoke on condition of anonymity because the witnesses had not yet been announced.

This is the seventh hearing in a series that has presented numerous blockbuster revelations from the Jan. 6 committee. Over the past month, the panel has created a stark narrative of a defeated Trump “detached from reality,” clinging to his false claims of voter fraud and working feverishly to reverse his election defeat. It all culminated with the deadly attack on the Capitol, the committee said.

What the committee intends to probe Tuesday is whether the extremist groups, including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and QAnon adherents who had rallied for Trump before, coordinated with White House allies for Jan. 6. The Oath Keepers have denied there was any plan to storm the Capitol. 

The panel is also expected to highlight new testimony from Pat Cipollone, the former White House counsel, who “was aware of every major move” Trump was making, said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who will lead the session. 

It’s the only hearing set for this week, as new details emerge. An expected prime-time hearing Thursday has been shelved for now. 

This week’s session comes after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson provided stunning accounts under oath of an angry Trump who knowingly sent armed supporters to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and then refused to quickly call them off as violence erupted, siding with the rioters as they searched menacingly for Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump has said Cassidy’s account is not true. But Cipollone at Friday’s private session did not contradict earlier testimony. Raskin said the panel planned to use “a lot” of Cipollone’s testimony.

The panel is expected to highlight a meeting on Dec. 18, 2020, 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 ideas for overturning the election results, Raskin told CBS over the weekend.

This was days after the Electoral College had met on Dec. 14 to certify the results for Biden — a time time when other key Republicans were announcing that the election and its challenges were over. 

On Dec. 19, Trump would send the tweet beckoning supporters to Washington for the Jan. 6 rally, the day Congress was set to certify the Electoral College count: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, extremist far-right groups whose leaders and others are now facing rare sedition charges for their roles in the attack, prepared to come to Washington, according to court filings.

On Dec. 29, the Proud Boys chairman posted a message on social media that said members planned to “turn out in record numbers on Jan. 6th,” according to a federal indictment.

The group planned to meet at the Washington Monument, its members instructed not to wear its traditional black and yellow colors, but be “incognito.”

The Proud Boys have contended that membership grew after Trump, during his first debate with Biden, refused to outright condemn the group but instead told them to “stand back and stand by.”

The night before Jan. 6, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio met with Rhodes at an underground parking garage, according to court filings along with images a documentary filmmaker trailing the group provided to the panel.

The Oath Keepers had also been organizing for Jan. 6 and established a “quick response force” at a nearby hotel in Virginia, according to court filings.

After the Capitol siege, Rhodes called someone with an urgent message for Trump, another group member has said. Rhodes was denied an chance to speak to Trump, but urged the person on the phone to tell the Republican president to call upon militia groups to fight to keep the president in power.

An attorney for Rhodes recently told the committee that their client wants to testify publicly. Rhodes was already interviewed by the committee privately, and it’s unlikely the panel will agree. 

The panel also intends to discuss the way many of the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 appeared to be QAnon believers. Federal authorities have explicitly linked at least 38 rioters to the pro-Trump conspiracy theory, according to an Associated Press review of court records.

One of the most recognizable figures from the Jan. 6 attack was a shirtless Arizona man who called himself the “QAnon Shaman,” carried a spear and wore face paint and a Viking hat with fur and horns.

A core belief among QAnon followers is that Trump was secretly fighting a cabal of deep state operatives, prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites who worship Satan and engage in sex trafficking of children.

The panel has shown, over the course of fast-paced hearings and with eyewitness accounts from the former president’s inner circle, how Trump was told “over and over” again, as Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said, that he had lost the election and his false claims of voter fraud were just not true. Nevertheless, Trump summoned his supporters to Washington and then sent them to the Capitol in what Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., has called an “attempted coup.”

(Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, Farnoush Amiri and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington and Michael Kunzelman in College Park, Maryland, contributed to this report.)

Trump Says, He Will Leave White House If….

Donald Trump has said he will leave the White House if Joe Biden is formally confirmed as the next US president.  Answering reporters’ questions for the first time since losing the 3 November vote, Trump insisted, however, that “this race is far from over”. He has refused to concede, citing unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. Individual states are currently certifying their results, after Joe Biden was projected as the winner with an unassailable lead.

The Democrat leads Trump 306 votes to 232 under the electoral college system that is used to pick US presidents.  The tally is far more than the 270 needed to win, and Mr Biden also leads the popular vote by more than six million. Electors will meet to formalize the result on 14 December, with Mr Biden due to be sworn in as president on 20 January.

The president and his supporters have lodged a number of legal challenges over the election, but most have been dismissed. Earlier this week, Mr Trump finally agreed to allow the formal transition to President-elect Biden’s team to begin, following several weeks of uncertainty. The decision means Mr Biden is able to receive top security briefings and access key government officials and millions of dollars in funds as he prepares to take over.

Why is Trump refusing to admit defeat?

Following a video call with military personnel on the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, Mr Trump faced questions from reporters at the White House. He was asked whether he would agree to leave the White House if he lost the electoral college vote. “Certainly I will, certainly I will and you know that,” he said.

However, the president went on to say that “if they do [elect Joe Biden], they made a mistake”, and suggested he may never accept defeat. “It’s going to be a very hard thing to concede because we know there was massive fraud,” he said, an allegation he has stood by without offering proof.

It is not a requirement for Mr Trump to concede in order for Mr Biden to be sworn in as the 46th US president. Trump did not say whether he would run for president again in 2024, or whether he would attend Mr Biden’s inauguration.

The normally routine process of transitioning from one president to another and confirming the result has been derailed by President Trump’s refusal to concede.  Under the US electoral system, voters do not directly choose the next president. Instead, they vote for 538 officials, who are allocated to American states based on their population size.

Explaining the Electoral College and which voters will decide who wins

The electors almost always vote for the candidate who won the most votes in their states, and although it is possible for some to disregard the voters’ pick, no result has ever been changed this way.

Trump also said that he was planning to hold a rally in Georgia on Saturday in support of two Republicans in key runoff elections that will decide which party controls the Senate. The elections in Georgia are due to be held on 5 January.

What’s the latest from Biden?

The president-elect celebrated a quiet Thanksgiving on Thursday, as coronavirus cases in the US continue to rise. “This year, our turkey will be smaller and the clatter of cooking a little quieter,” Mr Biden and his wife Jill said in an op-ed published by CNN. “Like millions of Americans, we are temporarily letting go of the traditions we can’t do safely.

“It is not a small sacrifice. These moments with our loved ones – time that’s lost – can’t be returned. Yet, we know it’s the price of protecting each other and one we don’t pay alone.”

“We’re at war with a virus, not with one another”: President-elect Biden calls on Americans to unite against Covid-19

Earlier this week, Mr Biden urged Americans to hold smaller celebrations, saying: “I know that we can and will beat this virus.” He has said that tackling the pandemic will be his main priority when he takes office.

Biden has already nominated a number of top officials for when he takes over and said that co-operation from the White House over the transition had been “sincere”.

Speaking in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday, he said that the US “won’t stand” for any attempt to derail the election. Americans “have full and fair and free elections, and then we honor the results,” he said.

President Trump said on Thursday that he would leave the White House if the Electoral College formalized Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s election as president, even as he reiterated baseless claims of fraud that he said would make it “very hard” to concede.

Taking questions from reporters for the first time since Election Day, Mr. Trump also threw himself into the battle for Senate control, saying he would soon travel to Georgia to support Republican candidates in two runoff elections scheduled there on Jan. 5. When asked whether he would leave office in January after the Electoral College cast its votes for Mr. Biden on Dec. 14 as expected, Mr. Trump replied: “Certainly I will. Certainly I will.”

A day later, Mr. Trump appeared to backtrack somewhat, falsely asserting on Twitter that Mr. Biden “can only enter the White House as President if he can prove that his ridiculous ‘80,000,000 votes’ were not fraudulently or illegally obtained.” Mr. Trump added that Mr. Biden has got “a big unsolvable problem!” But as courts shoot down Mr. Trump’s legal challenges, that statement would seem to more aptly describe his own plight.

Speaking in the Diplomatic Room of the White House after a Thanksgiving video conference with members of the American military, the president insisted that “shocking” new evidence about voting problems would surface before Inauguration Day. “It’s going to be a very hard thing to concede,” he said, “because we know that there was massive fraud.”

But even as he continued to deny the reality of his defeat, Mr. Trump also seemed to acknowledge that his days as president were numbered. “Time is not on our side,” he said, in a rare admission of weakness. He also complained that what he referred to, prematurely, as “the Biden administration” had declared its intention to scrap his “America First” foreign policy vision.

Asked whether he would attend Mr. Biden’s inauguration, as is customary for a departing president, Mr. Trump was coy. “I don’t want to say that yet,” the president said, adding, “I know the answer, but I just don’t want to say.”

Trump’s Attorney General Barr Denies Voter Fraud In Us 2020 Election

Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

His comments come despite President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the election was stolen, and his refusal to concede his loss to President-Elect Joe Biden.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Barr said U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but they’ve uncovered no evidence that would change the outcome of the election. “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told the AP.

The comments are especially direct coming from Barr, who has been one of the president’s most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voter fraud could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.

Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities, if they existed, before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud. That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified. Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.

The Trump campaign team led by Rudy Giuliani has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence. They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence. Local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making similar unsupported claims.

Trump has railed against the election in tweets and in interviews though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. Trump recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but has still refused to admit he lost.

The issues Trump’s campaign and its allies have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.

But they’ve also requested federal probes into the claims. Attorney Sidney Powell has spun fictional tales of election systems flipping votes, German servers storing U.S. voting information and election software created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” – the late Venezuelan president who died in 2013. Powell has since been removed from the legal team after an interview she gave where she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.

Barr didn’t name Powell specifically but said: “There’s been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that,” Barr said.

He said people were confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. He said such a remedy for those complaints would be a top-down audit conducted by state or local officials, not the U.S. Justice Department.

“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all, and people don’t like something they want the Department of Justice to come in and ‘investigate,’” Barr said. He said first of all there must be a basis to believe there is a crime to investigate.

“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. They are not systemic allegations and. And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on.”

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