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Donald Trump’s tampering, a rioter’s remorse, and other January 6 hearing takeaways

The latest hearing teed up what the committee members promise will be “a profound moment of reckoning” for America next week.

US Representatives Liz Cheney and Jamie Raskin sitting behind a judge’s desk at a hearing.
Reps. Liz Cheney, left, and Jamie Raskin during the seventh hearing by the House January 6 committee, on July 12, in Washington, DC. 
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The seventh hearing of the January 6 commission, unlike the ones that were held before it, didn’t stick to a theme. The prior hearings focused on specific prongs of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, like his pressure campaign against Vice President Mike Pence or his scheme for states to select alternate slates of electors.

Tuesday’s hearing was chronologically organized, focusing on the three weeks between the meeting of the Electoral College on December 14, 2020, and the certification of the electoral votes on January 6, 2021, and the avenues Trump kept pursuing to stay in power.

It still provided lots of new information and teed up what the committee members promise will be “a profound moment of reckoning” for America in their hearing next week. Here are five of the biggest takeaways from Tuesday’s wide-ranging hearing.

1) The committee referred Trump to the Justice Department for witness tampering

Perhaps the most stunning moment happened at the very end of the hearing. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said in her closing statement that the former president had tried to contact a committee witness.

“After our last hearing, President Trump tried to call a witness in one of our investigations,” she said. “A witness you have not seen in these hearings. That person declined to answer or respond to President Trump’s call and instead alerted their lawyer to the call. Their lawyer alerted us. And this committee has supplied that information to the Department of Justice.”

The call came after the June hearing where the committee said a prior witness had received calls from other Trump associates urging the witness “to be a team player” and “to do the right thing” before their deposition.

Cheney added Tuesday, “Let me say one more time: We will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously.”

The question of whether the committee would issue formal criminal referrals has occupied a considerable amount of cable news time, though these referrals have no legal significance. But this is the first time the committee has said in its public hearings that it has explicitly flagged evidence for prosecutors that Trump may have potentially committed a crime.

2) Brad Parscale blamed Trump for January 6

Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale held the former president responsible for the violence on January 6. In text messages that day to Katrina Pierson, another longtime Trump aide, he wrote that this was “a sitting president asking for civil war. This week I feel guilty for helping him win.” Parscale went on to add, “yes, it was” Trump’s rhetoric that caused the mayhem and death that day.

It represents a rare admission of Trump’s culpability that day from a hardcore loyalist to the former president and makes clear what some close allies thought at the time. However, like many Republicans, Parscale has seemingly changed his tune about January 6. He has continued to work for Trump and his PAC after the attack on the Capitol.

3) The march to the Capitol was planned in advance

The committee also established that Trump’s call on the crowd at the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6 to march to the Capitol was planned and not an ad-lib.

There had been a long-planned effort to get rally attendees to then march to the Capitol, as documented by texts from rally organizers and a draft tweet that Trump never sent.

As one organizer texted a conservative journalist on January 5, “Trump is supposed to order us to capitol at the end of his speech, but we will see.” Another organizer texted that the plans had been kept under wraps to keep it a surprise: “It can also not get out about the march because I will be in trouble with the national park service and all the agencies but POTUS is going to just call for it ‘unexpectedly.’”

This establishes that the convergence on the Capitol was planned and that the attack was not spontaneous, but the culmination of a coordinated effort to disrupt the certification of the 2020 election.

4) A rioter says he entered and left the Capitol because of Trump

Stephen Ayres, a rioter who pleaded guilty to breaching the Capitol on January 6, testified before the committee about how Trump influenced his actions that day.

Ayres said that he had come to Washington, DC, with the sincere belief that the election was stolen but only planned to attend the rally at a park near the Capitol. However, he decided to march on the Capitol after Trump urged the crowd to do so. He thought Trump would also go. Ayres said he only left the Capitol after Trump tweeted out the video message asking people to go home.

“As soon as that come out, everybody started talking about it and it seemed like it started to disperse,” Ayres said. It served to reinforce the committee’s argument that the mob that attacked the Capitol was there at Trump’s direction and that he had the ability to call them off at any time.

5) The “unhinged” Oval Office meeting

The committee also shared eyewitness testimony about the epic Oval Office meeting between White House lawyers and Trump’s outside advisers on December 18, 2020, the night before he sent the tweet urging people to come to Washington on January 6.

At the time, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson wrote in a text, “The west wing is UNHINGED.”

However, that perhaps understates the fiery showdown between top White House lawyers like Pat Cipollone and an assorted cast of characters including Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, which included insults, personal attacks, and even challenges to fistfights as they sparred over whether Trump should issue an unprecedented executive order to have the military seize voting machines.

The order was never formally issued, and it was left unclear whether Trump had assented to Powell’s appointment to be a special counsel. Early the next morning, Trump issued his now-infamous tweet calling for a “big protest” on January 6 and promising it “will be wild.”