Trump Sought to Contact Committee Witness, Cheney Reveals
Cheney blames Trump for fanning the flames of Jan. 6 riot: “He is not an impressionable child”
- Published In: Politics
- Last Updated: Jul 13, 2022
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) lambasts former President Donald Trump for his actions leading up to the Capitol violence: "Donald Trump cannot escape responsibility by being willfully blind.” (Courtesy photo from C-SPAN)
By Jacob Gardenswartz
Special to the Wyoming Truth
WASHINGTON —The most startling revelations from Tuesday’s hearing of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection arrived in its final moments: In recent days, the committee said, former President Donald Trump phoned a committee witness in what they believe was likely an attempt to influence the individual’s testimony.
“We will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously,” said committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), one of two Republicans serving on the panel, in her concluding remarks. Cheney said the committee informed the Justice Department about Trump’s attempted call to a witness whose name was not publicly disclosed. The unnamed witness did not answer Trump’s call, Cheney said.
During the seventh hearing, committee members detailed how top officials, including Cabinet secretaries, White House aides, campaign operatives and even the former president’s own family members, told Trump multiple times that he had lost the election and had no legitimate basis to remain in power.
As the committee has continued to disseminate its findings, some of Trump’s defenders appear to have shifted tactics, no longer claiming that his conduct was legitimate, but rather that he was under the influence of outside influences who deserve the blame for the Capitol violence, lawmakers said.
Cheney is having none of it.
“President Trump is a 76-year-old man,” she said sternly. “He is not an impressionable child. Just like everyone else in our country, he is responsible for his own actions and his own choices. Donald Trump cannot escape responsibility by being willfully blind.”
Tuesday’s hearing centered on the extent to which Trump inspired his supporters to march to the Capitol on Jan. 6, and the degree to which far-right extremist organizations planned for the violence which occurred there. While the majority of the committee’s findings were rendered via pre-taped videos of witness depositions, two individuals appeared in-person to speak to the committee: Jason Van Tatenhove, former spokesperson for the far-right extremist group Oath Keepers, and Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty to disorderly and disruptive conduct in connection to his actions entering the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Ayres said he participated because Trump “got everybody riled up,” adding that “we were just following what he said.” He said he left after Trump urged his supporters to vacate the premises in an afternoon tweet, and would have done so earlier if the president had asked. “If he had done that earlier in the day,” Ayres said, “maybe we wouldn’t be in this bad of a situation.”
Lawmakers said that during a December meeting, Trump asked for the military to seize all state voting machines. When such plans were scrapped in the face of pushback from his lawyers, lawmakers said the then president’s online rhetoric became more and more threatening, raising concern among some employees who worked in social media companies.
Trump’s Dec. 19 tweet urging supporters to come to Washington for a “wild” protest on Jan. 6 was of particular focus. Trump was “speaking directly” to extremist organizations, a Twitter employee testified to the committee, saying the tweet gave supporters “directives” of violence.
Following that tweet, the committee detailed how online extremists shifted plans to prepare for the Jan. 6 attack. Protests scheduled for late January were moved up to coincide with Jan. 6. Trump-supporting communities purchased online web domains like WildProtest.com, while far-right commentators predicted a “red wedding” — a reference to a particularly bloody ambush in the Game of Thrones television franchise, according to records and videos obtained by the select committee.
Dr. Donell Harvin, the former chief of homeland security for Washington, D.C., told the committee Trump’s tweet sparked the collaboration of fringe extremist groups, prompting them to begin tactical planning for the Capitol siege. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), one of Trump’s allies in Congress, privately worried some of his supporters were “going to go nuts” when the election wasn’t overturned and requested extra security, a recording revealed.
Officials examined the planning process for Trump’s remarks on Jan. 6, comparing multiple drafts of the speech with the version he ultimately delivered. After his heated conversation with then Vice President Mike Pence, when Pence told Trump he would certify President Joe Biden’s victory, Trump added in several more references to Pence for his lack of “courage” as Trump sought to retain power, according to testimony.
In his remarks on Jan. 6, Trump ad-libbed more attacks on Pence and called on his supporters to march to the Capitol. Documents and testimony obtained by the committee revealed that Trump had, for several days, been planning to march on the Capitol, and several top officials in those militia groups were aware of the plans. The committee is still investigating how exactly the groups learned of Trump’s plans.
Though initially conceived as six public hearings, the select committee presentations will continue as lawmakers note their investigation is ongoing. In the past few days, the committee deposed former White House Counsel Pat Cippollone and reached an agreement to meet with longtime Trump confidant Steve Bannon.
Next week’s hearing will detail Trump’s reaction to and conduct during the Capitol attacks, lawmakers said.
Cheney previewed: “We will walk through the events of January 6 minute by minute.”