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Jan. 6 hearings: Day 7 examined Proud Boys, Oath Keepers efforts

Here are the highlights and top takeaways from the House Jan. 6 committee hearing, including recorded testimony from Pat Cipollone, Trump's former White House counsel.

The House Jan. 6 select committee gathered today at 1 p.m. ET for Day 7 of its public hearings on the Capitol riot and then-President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The hearing examined the role the far-right extremist groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers may have played in organizing the attack.

Our contributors were “The Rachel Maddow Show” legal analyst Lisa Rubin, MSNBC Daily writer and editor Zeeshan Aleem and MSNBC Daily columnists Jessica Levinson, Frank Figliuzzi and Michael A. Cohen.

Top takeaways from today's hearing and what's next

  1. Trump knew there was no fraud in the election. Members of his administration told him, over and over again.   
  2. Trump knowingly pushed forward with his lies that the 2020 election was stolen.  
  3. Trump directed a mob to storm the Capitol. 
  4. The mob did in fact storm the Capitol. 
  5. Trump refused to tell the mob to leave the Capitol, even after violence broke out. Hours later, when Trump told the mob to go home, they listened. This shows Trump had control over at least some of their behavior.

Next week we will hear more about what Trump did, or more to the point, failed to do on Jan. 6 while the mob he sent to the Capitol tried to thwart the peaceful transfer of power. 

"Our hearing next week will be a profound moment of reckoning for America," Raskin said in his closing remarks.

The committee has not yet announced the date or time of the next hearing.

More potential witness tampering ... by Trump?

Lisa Rubin

At the last hearing, Cheney made waves by revealing that Trump World had been engaging in a suspect — and potentially criminal — practice: witness intimidation and/or tampering. One example she cited involved  reminding a witness that an unnamed person was “thinking about” them on the eve of their deposition and knew they would do what it took to stay within “the good graces” of Trump World.

And after we picked our jaws up from the floor, I and many other lawyers and legal journalists reflected that if true,  the examples Cheney provided could constitute a violation of 18 USC 1512(c), which can carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

There has also been recent reporting, including from “The Rachel Maddow Show” and our blog about the Trump campaign paying for the legal fees of various Jan. 6 committee witnesses and how those payments could themselves constitute potential wrongdoing by the former president and his allies.

But as unsubtle as those overtures — at least some of which were directed to Cassidy Hutchinson — were, they don’t hold a candle to Cheney’s announcement today:

"After our last hearing, President Trump tried to call a witness in our investigation, a witness you have not yet 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."

As Jessica Levinson and I have discussed, whether or not the committee having “supplied that information to the Department of Justice” constitutes an official criminal referral is unimportant. What matters is that Trump World’s campaign to influence witnesses only seems to be escalating — and now, the DOJ knows it. And if they have the will to further investigate these efforts, Merrick Garland and his deputy, Lisa Monaco, certainly know how.

Ayres said he had 'horse blinders' on while following Trump

One particularly powerful piece of testimony came from Stephen Ayres, who has pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for breaching the Capitol on Jan. 6. He described himself as a “family man” and was not a committed militant or professional activist. He expressed regret for joining the mob and entering the Capitol, which eventually resulted in him losing his job and having to sell his house.

“It definitely changed my life, not for the good,” he testified.

Ayres said he’s skeptical that the election was stolen, since it would be difficult to keep such a conspiracy a secret, and because all the lawsuits alleging fraud never panned out. But in the run-up to Jan. 6, he was convinced — and enraged — that the election had been stolen, in large part because of Trump’s disinformation campaign and the right-wing social media environment he was immersed in. 

“It makes me mad because I was hanging on every word he was saying,” he said.

Ayres said that he felt as if he had “horse blinders on” when he was following Trump, and that it’s important to “step back and see what’s going on, before it’s too late.”

In contrast to most the testimony we’ve seen, Ayres provided a kind of everyman perspective on the events of that day — someone who wasn’t necessarily deeply committed to Trump’s authoritarian bid for power as much as he was truly convinced that the elected had been rigged and was inspired to take spontaneous action to counteract that. While Ayres’ apparently spontaneous involvement doesn’t absolve him of responsibility for his misconduct, his reflections humanized and shed light on how Trump abused his own base. 

A former Oath Keeper's chilling warning for America

Former Oath Keeper Jason Van Tatenhove knows what he’s talking about. And he says he “fears for the next election cycle.” 

Van Tatenhove was on the ground in previous militia-involved stand-offs, like the one at the Bundy Ranch, where Oath Keepers supported groups in armed confrontations against federal agents. And he believes America was “exceedingly lucky” that there wasn’t even more violence on Jan. 6.

Van Tatenhove had been previously asked by Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to create a deck of playing cards like those used by the U.S. military featuring wanted international terrorist group leaders. Van Tatenhove testified that if Trump is “elected again,” we’ll have “a president willing to whip up a civil war.” 

Listen to what this witness is saying: The Oath Keepers are a “dangerous” paramilitary militia. Listen, too, when he tells you what can happen if the former president becomes president again.

Could Trump be guilty of inciting an insurrection? 

Maybe. All evidence indicates that Trump fully knew and understood that there was no basis for his claims that the election was stolen and knew and understood that he was ginning up an angry mob of conspiracy theorists to storm the election and try to overturn the election.  

Trump explicitly and implicitly told far right militia groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, that they must do something to “stop the steal” of the election. 

The group of people who stormed the Capitol were sent there by Trump. Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers, testified that we were essentially on the brink of a civil war. Capitol rioter Stephen Ayers testified that if Trump had told them to leave, they would have. Meaning Trump sent them there and could have sent them away. 

Let’s look at one of the applicable federal criminal code provisions. The law provides that “Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.” 

The ball is now in Attorney General Merrick Garland’s court. 

Cipollone was apparently shut out from this Jan. 4 meeting. Why?

Lisa Rubin

Since last week, reporting on former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone’s closed-door testimony to the Jan. 6 committee has emphasized that no topics were per se off limits. Instead, Cipollone invoked privilege to protect his “direct conversations” with Trump.

In light of that context, Cipollone’s testimony about Trump’s Jan. 4 meeting with law professor and pro-Trump lawyer John Eastman; former Vice President Mike Pence; Pence’s counsel, Greg Jacob; and Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, is especially notable. Cipollone acknowledged he walked to that meeting and went “to the Oval Office with the idea of attending the meeting but ultimately did not attend.” But when pressed as to why, Cipollone said only, “The reasons are privileged.”

Had Cipollone simply decided on his own volition not to stay, there would be no basis to assert any privilege. Nor would he likely have any grounds to claim privilege based on conversations with other White House personnel, especially given that Jason Miller, who was not a White House aide at that time, has previously testified that Cipollone conveyed to Miller that he thought Eastman’s theories were wacky. 

Instead, it appears that Trump himself shut the White House counsel out of a meeting where most presidents would want the most qualified, thoughtful lawyers to advise them: a high-stakes debate over the constitutional duties of the vice president. Exactly why Trump did that is murky, but the optics of his removing Cipollone, elevating Eastman, and attempting to coerce Pence are clear — and terrible.

Trump’s secret ellipse plans left a paper trail

As Michael notes below, Trump’s officials and rally organizers knew that he was going to call for a march to the U.S. Capitol from the Ellipse — but decided to make it appear as a spontaneous decision to the public. And the committee has documented a remarkable paper trail proving it. A draft tweet from Trump himself — which was never sent — also indicated that this was the plan. But it wasn’t supposed to be a widely shared one. 

A Jan. 4 text message from a rally organizer to MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell told him confidentially that “POTUS is going to just call for it [the march] unexpectedly.” The organizer warned that if information got out about the march, “I will be in trouble with the National Park Service and all the agencies” and that they also wanted to keep the march secret because of an unspecified concern that “people” will “sabotage” the march plan. 

Trump’s decision to leave a public announcement until the last second is notable for a couple of reasons. It suggests a level of awareness or concern by Trump and his allies that the march might violate agreed-upon rules for demonstrating and/or change the way that security was arranged that day in and around the Capitol. Moreover, it’s possible that Trump and allies felt that that organizers could downplay culpability for a march that got out of hand by falsely claiming it was an entirely spontaneous enterprise.

Violence was always the plan

In the wake of Jan. 6, there was a recurrent notion that the violence that engulfed the Capitol that day was a spontaneous outpouring. But today’s Jan. 6 committee hearing tells a very different story — that Trump’s supporters not only expected violence but embraced it. More important, today’s testimony showed Trump and those around him not only expected violence to occur — and were actively encouraging it.

In particular, Trump backers like Steve Bannon (who is about to go on trial for refusing to testify before Congress) predicted violence on his podcast — and did so soon after speaking with the president. Ali Alexander, who had close contact with Roger Stone and others close to Trump, texted that Trump was supposed to order supporters to the Capitol, noting “We shall see.”  The night before, at a rally on the evening of Jan. 5 not far from the White House, Alexander told a crowd of Trump supporters, “1776 is always an option. These degenerates in the deep state are going to give us what we want or we are going to shut it down.” Similar violent rhetoric was voiced by Stone, Alex Jones, and Mike Flynn. Those around Trump, who could hear the rally from the White House, said he was in “a very good mood” listening to what those at the rally were saying.

Katrina Pierson, a long-time Trump supporter and one of this most extreme and obstinate supporters, reached out to chief of staff Mark Meadows concerned that Jan. 6 would descend into violence. 

Even an anonymous Twitter employee testified to the committee that on Jan. 5 “when people are shooting each other tomorrow, I will try to rest in the knowledge that I tried.” 

The violence that took place was all part of the plan.

Capitol rioter says he was simply following Trump's orders

Stephen Ayres, who has pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, testified that he was simply following Trump's orders when he stormed the Capitol. He said he believed Trump when the president claimed the election was stolen, and that such claims made him "very upset."

Ayres' testimony showed the monumental influence Trump's social media presence has had on his supporters. He said he was "pretty hardcore" into Trump's online presence and that he hung "on every word" the president said and posted.

And the testimony highlighted the power of Trump's silence. The president didn't tweet that his supporters should leave the Capitol until hours after it was breached. Ayres testified that he would have left earlier if Trump had told them to do so.

When asked if he still believes the election was stolen, Ayres said, "not so much."

"I deleted social media," he added. "I started doing my own research."

Trump's potential claim of plausible deniability just got weaker

Wow. We’ve just heard that White House phone logs reveal that Trump had two calls with Steve Bannon on Jan. 5, the day before the Capitol attack. That’s the same Steve Bannon who’s been indicted for refusing to testify or provide evidence to the Jan 6 committee. 

Bannon described that call with Trump in a public interview by saying, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” With this, we see the committee moving from an approach of “Trump should have known” about what would happen on Jan. 6 to an implication that Trump did know what might happen. This makes it harder for Trump to claim plausible deniability.

Why we need to know more about Jan. 4

Lisa Rubin

On Jan. 4, Trump had a meeting with John Eastman, Pence, and two of Pence’s aides — Greg Jacob and Marc Short — at which Eastman asked Pence to delay the certification of the electoral college vote. But Trump had another meeting that day in his private dining room that might be equally significant — and which thus far has evaded similar scrutiny.

That meeting included Trump campaign aide Katrina Pierson, whose testimony has been shown in recent minutes of the hearing, as well as White House aides Max Miller and Bobby Peede and it focused on the Ellipse rally and who Trump wanted to speak. To date, we don’t know much about the details of that meeting.

Yet Rep. Stephanie Murphy just pointed to a text message sent on Jan. 4 from a rally organizer to Mike Lindell. The organizer confessed that there would be a “second stage” at the Supreme Court on Jan. 6 and that “POTUS will have us March there” and will “call for it, unexpectedly.” Was that among the aspects of the plan discussed during the meeting with Trump, Pierson and the White House aides? Murphy, for one, has called the seemingly spontaneous march to the Capitol “a deliberate strategy, decided on in advance by the president,” and conveyed, also in advance, to a small group of extremist leaders.

I, for one, would like to know more. Stay tuned.

The rule of law vs. the rule of Trump

The recorded testimony presented today from Pat Cipollone, Eric Herschmann, Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani present the stark contrast between the rule of law versus the rule of Trump. Legality vs lunacy. 

What’s the rule of Trump? Well, it appears it’s an intent to win at all costs — by any means necessary. When Trump was not hearing or getting what he wanted from his official government lawyers, he tried going outside the government to lawyers more willing to tell him what he wanted to hear — and to bend and even break the law. When the “real” lawyers pushed back, Trump turned to Powell and said, “Do you see what I’m up against?”

We saw evidence that connects the dots between Trump and his decision to move on to an appeal to the masses. Trump tweeted to his base to implore them to come to the Jan. 6 rally to contest the election results and that it would “be wild.” He was moving from legality to what would ultimately turn into lethality. 

Now, let’s watch for evidence linking Trump or his close associates to reasonable knowledge that their quest for victory by any means necessary was likely to include violence to get the job done. — Frank Figliuzzi

Two more witnesses are seated to testify

Next up to testify: Former Oath Keepers spokesperson Jason Van Tatenhove and Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty last month to disorderly and disruptive conduct in connection to the Capitol attack., who pleaded guilty last month to disorderly and disruptive conduct in connection to the Capitol attack.

In a Facebook post leading up to Jan. 6, Ayres referenced Trump's "be here, will be wild" tweet calling on his supporters to flock to Washington. He's expected to testify that Trump's remarks inspired his Jan. 6 actions.

Stephen Ayres, left, and Jason Van Tatenhove, right, arrive to testify as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol on July 12.
Stephen Ayres, left, and Jason Van Tatenhove, right, arrive to testify as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol on July 12.Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Exposing the truth about Oath Keepers like Stewart Rhodes

Today’s hearing is now shifting to focus on the role of violent domestic extremist groups. We should hear from a former member of the Oath Keepers about the history of that group and its use of propaganda. To the extent that members of those groups were radicalized to violence, I hope we will hear about who and what groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers really are. 

Oath Keepers was founded immediately after Barack Obama, our first Black president, was elected. That’s when its founder — Stewart Rhodes, now indicted for seditious conspiracy — traveled to Lexington, Mass., planted a flag and declared Oath Keepers an organization. Its members, mostly former military and police, think they are joining a group that defends the Constitution, but really it’s a group founded on racism. 

I interviewed Rhode’s wife, Tasha Adams, for my podcast. She recounted the troubling allegations she made in her divorce filing, which included her husband’s alleged mental and physical abuse of her and their children. She also alleged he regularly pointed his gun at the family, forced family members up against walls, and threatened to kill the family dog. Rhodes isn’t a man of virtue — he’s a man of vile conduct and hate.

Too dangerous for Twitter? You shouldn't be able to run for president.

One of the clear takeaways from today’s hearings is that Trump’s tweets and, in particular, his call for supporters to join him in Washington on Jan. 6 inflamed and energized his most extreme backers. His infamous tweet telling supporters that Jan. 6 would be “wild” was met with adulation from Alex Jones and other right-wing extremists. 

“Why don’t we just kill them, every last Democrat, down to the women & children?” 

“Cops don’t have standing if they’re lying on the ground in a pool of their own blood.” 

“Join your local Proud Boys chapter.” 

Those were just some of the online responses to Trump’s call to action.

In short, Trump’s is simply too dangerous to have a regular presence on social media — a fact that Twitter grasped only after it was far too late. The megaphone that it provided for Trump stoked violence, fed extremism and gave aid and comfort to his most violent and unhinged supporters. 

And yet, remarkably Trump is also a frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024 and enjoys the support of roughly half of Republican voters. Call me crazy but a man who is literally too noxious and too dangerous to have a Twitter feed probably shouldn’t be allowed to serve as president. In fact, that might make for a good constitutional amendment.

Eric Herschmann is straight out of Trump central casting. That’s why he seems credible.

Lisa Rubin

I’ve been fascinated by the Jan. 6 testimony of a White House lawyer named Eric Herschmann, previously a partner at one of Trump’s favorite law firms, Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, and a member of Trump’s first impeachment defense team. Herschmann was a relatively late arrival to the White House Counsel’s office in 2020, but has popped up repeatedly throughout these hearings.

Herschmann — unlike, for example, former White House counsels Pat Cipollone and Don McGahn — seems like someone from Trump’s New York heyday: brash, foul-mouthed, and slick, with a flashy modern art collection to match. It was Herschmann who, on Jan. 7, famously barked at Trump attorney John Eastman, “I don’t want to hear any other effing words coming out of your mouth, no matter what, other than ‘orderly transition.’” He also infamously warned Eastman to get a “great f—-ing criminal defense attorney.”

Yet even Herschmann’s prior testimony could not have prepared me for the reappearance of his taped testimony at today’s hearing. Herschmann testified that he, Cipollone and White House staff secretary Derek Lyons pushed back against Sidney Powell’s baseless allegations of judicial corruption on Dec. 18. They also resisted Powell and Mike Flynn’s efforts to have Trump seize voting machines and/or appoint Sidney Powell to a “special counsel” role. The two sides dug in until “it got to the point where the screaming was completely, completely out there.” Flynn, in particular kept screaming at Herschmann and calling him a “quitter,” at which point Herschmann said he’d finally “had it” and “yelled back, ‘Either come over or sit your effing ass back down.’” 

Herschmann’s penchant for hyperbole contrasts with Cassidy Hutchinson’s restraint. Still, that marathon meeting stunned her as well; as it continued late into the night, she texted then-Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato, “The West Wing is UNHINGED.”


2 key things the committee has demonstrated so far today

Thus far, this hearing has effectively shown two things:

  • Trump was told there was no basis for claiming the election was stolen. He was told that by many of his advisers. There was no way he could have believed otherwise. 
  • Trump took to social media to claim the election was stolen. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he started speaking to right-wing organizations and inciting an uprise based on the lie that the election was stolen.

Giuliani’s team had no proof of fraud, either

Raskin pointed out today that it wasn’t just Department of Justice lawyers telling Trump that there was no evidence of fraud sufficient to overturn the election results — it was lawyers in his inner circle and among adviser Rudy Giuliani’s own legal team.

Raskin then showed some damning emails to back up that point. A December email from Giuliani’s lead investigator, Bernard Kerik, to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, reads, “We can do all the investigations we want later, but if the president plans on winning, it’s the legislators that have to be moved, and this will do just that.” The missive openly admits that the strategy was to convince or provide cover for lawmakers to object to the election, and that investigations of purported fraud were an afterthought. Raskin also drew attention to an admission from Kerik’s lawyer to the House select committee that it was “impossible” for Kerik to know whether there was actual fraud. 

On top of all that, Trump campaign official Jason Miller testified that the Giuliani team’s evidence of fraud was virtually nonexistent. 

What this testimony does is illustrate, yet again, just how much Trump was consciously deceiving and manipulating his extremist supporters and his political base by calling for them to contest the election. They knew there was no respectable evidence of fraud, but that was never motivating them in the first place. It was always about clinging to power. 

Pro-Trump YouTuber called for Jan. 6 to be a 'Red Wedding'

The committee played a series of clips of pro-Trump media personalities today calling on supporters to descend upon Washington on Jan. 6 and keep Trump in power.

In one clip, Infowars host Alex Jones says, "The time for action is now. Where were you when history called?”

In another, Salty Cracker, a prominent MAGA YouTuber, called for Jan. 6 to be a "Red Wedding" — an apparent reference to a mass murder scene in the third season of HBO's "Game of Thrones."

Cheney says Trump 'is not an impressionable child.' Not everyone agrees.

Committee vice chair Liz Cheney beat back claims from Trump defenders who say Trump was manipulated by fringe extremists to push election fraud lies.

"Donald Trump is a 76-year-old man," Cheney said. "He is not an impressionable child.”

Watch Cheney's remarks below.

Barr and Cipollone only spoke up when they were legally forced to

We now know what it takes for former Attorney General Bill Barr and former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone to tell the true story of the apparent conspiracy to overturn the election. It takes being put under oath. Don’t let anyone tell you that the Jan 6 committee’s work has made no difference. 

Barr and Cipollone had every opportunity to grab a microphone and tell people there is zero evidence of election fraud and the president is talking about using the military to seize election machines. They didn’t take those opportunities. They didn’t try to protect us. They waited until they were legally forced to tell the full story.

'The president made me do it!' defense doesn't work

Lisa Rubin

At the beginning of today’s hearing, Cheney rejected Trump World’s efforts to blame folks like John Eastman, Sidney Powell, and Rep. Scott Perry for “manipulating” Trump into multiple, persistent efforts to resist a peaceful transfer of power. Cheney noted Trump “cannot escape responsibility by being willfully blind.” By contrast, she reasoned, millions of Americans “did not have access to the truth like Donald Trump did;” instead, “want[ing] to fight for their country,” they trusted him — “and he deceived them.”

That Trump deceived his followers is both irrefutable and tragic. And it is also, at least in the eyes of judges and juries overseeing the Jan. 6 criminal cases, legally irrelevant. Numerous defendants have tried variations on “The president made me do it!” defense, as Politico documented earlier this year, but to the best of my knowledge, none has succeeded in dismissing the charges against them or reducing their sentences on this basis.

'Three rings of interwoven attack': Raskin lays out Jan. 6 plot

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a member of the committee, made the case that there were “three rings of interwoven attack” that converged on Jan. 6 and fueled the insurrection. 

The inside ring: Trump pressuring Pence to “abandon his oath of office” and assert unilateral power to reject electoral votes. 

The middle ring: Domestic extremist groups coordinated a massive effort to storm the U.S. Capitol. “By placing a target on the joint session of Congress, Trump had mobilized these groups around a common goal, emboldening them, strengthening their working relationships and helping build their numbers,” Raskin said.

Outer ring: the angry crowd. Thousands of enraged Trump followers converged in Washington, persuaded by Trump’s “big lie” that Trump was about to be removed from office illegitimately. “With the proper incitement by political leaders, and the proper instigation from the extremists, many members of this crowd could be led to storm the capitol,” Raskin said.

Raskin’s breakdown is clarifying and helpful: It lays the primary blame on the political leaders and extremists who sought to disrupt a peaceful transfer of power, and took advantage of enraged citizens who were not necessarily planning to storm the Capitol but got caught up in the organized efforts of others. Nonetheless, they constituted a critical element of an event that caused a rupture in democratic norms in our country.  

Trump is a loser — and he can't ever acknowledge it

“No sane or rational person would believe that the election was stolen,” or so said Liz Cheney moments ago.  While no one would ever accuse Trump of being even remotely rational, the impulse for Trump’s constant lies about 2020 election are far simpler to explain: He didn’t want to admit that he lost.

It’s hard to remember now but back in 2016 Trump played a similar game. In the third presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, he refused to say that he would concede the election if he lost. He told a campaign rally that he would only accept the results “if I win.”  Before the 2020 election, he regularly claimed that the election could be stolen, in effect, laying the groundwork for him never having to concede defeat. If he won, it was the will of the voters. If he lost, it was stolen. Heads he wins, tails you lose.

For Trump there is no worse and more damning epithet than ”loser” and for him to acknowledge that Biden had defeated him would mean, in effect, conceding that he is a loser too. Trump’s child-like refusal to concede defeat to Biden — and to hold onto the oft-disproven claim that he lost the 2020 election — seems neither rational nor sane. And it’s not. But for Trump he’d much rather appear insane or irrational than ever be called a “loser.”

3 things to watch for during today's hearing

Here are three things we should be watching for in today’s hearing. 

First, how close did we really come to an even more deadly disaster on Jan. 6? It’s been reported through DOJ filings in their cases against Oath Keepers, that military ordnance, grenades, weapons and bomb-making materials or instructions were found in FBI searches of residences following Jan. 6. Cooperating witnesses have told investigators that such material were stored in places around Washington, D.C., on that day. 

Second, let’s look for evidence that there was planning and coordination across violent domestic extremism groups like Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. We already know that the leaders of those two groups met in a parking garage in D.C. on Jan. 5 — but were there other meetings or planning sessions? That’s important not only because it shows that the Capitol violence wasn’t just a rally that turned into a riot, but a coordinated effort to interfere with our democracy. 

Third, let’s look for the dots to be connected into a more solid line between violent extremists and close associates to Trump. We know, for example, that Oath Keepers served as security for Trump adviser Roger Stone that day. Why? Let’s watch and find out.

Team Trump attempts a new defense strategy

Trump World is taking a new tact in response to the effectiveness of the Jan. 6 hearings, committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney tells us. The committee has effectively demonstrated that. many of Trump’s senior advisors repeatedly told him the election was not stolen, and thus the defense strategy has shifted. Now, Team Trump is attempting to blame those outside of the administration for “poorly advising” the former president. 

But Cheney also made clear that Trump cannot use poor advice as an excuse. And she reminded us that Trump, perhaps more than any other American, had more access to detailed information showing that the election was not in fact stolen. 

Cheney explicitly leaves us with two options. Trump is either irrational and insane or knew exactly what he was doing. “No rational or sane man in his position could disregard the evidence,” she notes. So which is it? 

What we need to know about Trump World's link to extremists

Lisa Rubin

In the lead-up to today’s hearing, Rep. Jamie Raskin has pledged to show America the “convergence” of “two streams of activity”: the “political coup” that Trump and his enablers efforted and the “insurrectionary mob violence” orchestrated by groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers in support of that coup attempt.

Thanks to Raskin, we know that one focus today will be the connection between two mid-December 2020 events. The first is an infamous White House meeting on Dec. 18, 2020. And the other is Trump’s middle-of-the-night tweet the next day: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

But as your resident recovering litigator, I’m watching to see if the committee can deliver on two other, potential connections.

That Trump allies Mike Flynn and Roger Stone associated with the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys respectively is well documented. What’s less understood, however, is whether Trump’s instruction to Meadows to call Flynn and Stone on the evening of Jan. 5 — as Cassidy Hutchinson testified — has anything to do with those men’s militia ties. Indeed, Hutchinson did not know why Trump pressed Meadows to make that call nor what was discussed.

I’m also curious what the committee knows about Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes’ attempts to reach Trump and his inner circle and who his intermediaries were. 

As NBC News reported yesterday, the Oath Keepers’ general counsel, Kellye SoRelle, has told the Jan. 6 committee that as a volunteer for Lawyers for Trump, she was in contact with Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell’s teams, and Rhodes pressed her to put him in touch with the White House. More ominously, when William Wilson, another Oath Keeper charged in the Jan. 6 criminal investigation, pleaded guilty in May, he revealed that he heard Rhodes talk by speakerphone with an unnamed individual.

Wilson said he heard Rhodes repeatedly implore the individual to tell President Trump to call upon groups like the Oath Keepers to forcibly oppose the transfer of power,” according to court records.

Although that unnamed person reportedly “denied Rhodes’s request to speak directly with President Trump,” was he or she capable of making that connection? And does the committee know who that person is?

How Oath Keepers, Proud Boys 'prepared for battle' 

A Dec. 18, 2020, meeting is grabbing the committee's attention — for good reason

The committee is expected to focus in part today on a White House meeting of Trump allies that took place on Dec. 18, 2020. Attendees included pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former CEO Patrick Byrne. (NBC News reported today that Byrne will meet with congressional investigators on Friday.)

The gathering reportedly focused on strategies for overturning the election, including potentially seizing voting machines or having Trump appoint Powell as a special counsel to investigate so-called election fraud.

A day later, Trump tweeted to his millions of followers: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. ... Be there, will be wild!”

Ex-Oath Keepers aide Jason Van Tatenhove expected to testify

A former spokesman for the Oath Keepers, Jason Van Tatenhove, is expected to testify at today’s hearing. The Oath Keepers are a far-right paramilitary group whose members have been accused by federal prosecutors of, among other things, crafting a “death list,” conducting tactical trainings and transporting explosives in preparation for the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Van Tatenhove was a national media director for the Oath Keepers for roughly two years beginning in 2014, but he has not been actively involved with the militant group since 2017, and he has since cut off ties with them. He told Denver’s Fox 31 earlier in July that he’s been asked to testify “to give a historical precedence to this group and how they have radicalized.” He’s spoken with the committee twice in the past, but this will be his first time testifying publicly. 

Van Tatenhove will be crucial for providing insight into the inner workings of far-right militant groups — how they think, how they organize, what kind of cues they take from politicians like Donald Trump, and how seriously they should be taken. The Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes has been charged with seditious conspiracy. 

Cipollone corroborated 'almost everything' since last hearing

A lot has happened since the last Jan. 6 hearing on June 28 when Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, provided explosive live testimony before the committee.

For one, Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone's closed door testimony last week confirmed "almost everything that we've learned from the prior hearings," committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin told NBC News on Tuesday.

"I certainly did not hear him contradict Cassidy Hutchinson," Raskin added. "He had the opportunity to say whatever he wanted to say, so I didn’t see any contradiction there.”

Hutchinson testified that Cipollone had warned Meadows against allowing Trump and other White House officials to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen," Cipollone said, according to Hutchinson.

Video clips of Cipollone's recorded testimony are expected to be shared during today's hearings.

How Bannon’s ‘misdemeanor from hell’ backfired

Lisa Rubin

Last November, after Steve Bannon was indicted on two counts of contempt of Congress — one for failing to show up for a deposition, the other for his refusal to produce any documents — he announced to reporters assembled outside a D.C. federal courthouse, “[T]his is going to be the misdemeanor from hell, for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.”

But roughly eight months later, Bannon is seemingly desperate to cooperate with the Jan. 6 investigation. Over the weekend, his lawyer revealed to the Jan. 6 committee that former Trump had decided “it would be in the best interests of the American people to waive executive privilege” for Bannon and “to allow Bannon to comply with [your] subpoena.”

Yet his “remarkable about-face” cannot moot the criminal charges against him as a legal matter. Nor has it done anything to lessen the Justice Department’s willingness to proceed. And therefore, Bannon is now barreling toward trial with jury selection beginning Monday — and even worse, with nearly all of his planned defenses in tatters, thanks to a federal district court judge nominated by Trump.

At a pretrial hearing yesterday, that judge, Carl Nichols, resolved several outstanding motions about what evidence and arguments Bannon can present to the jury and what standard of proof the government has to meet in order to sustain a conviction. And none of those battles went Bannon’s way.

Ultimately, as Politico reported, “the only clear defense remaining was whether Bannon simply misunderstood the due date of Congress’s subpoena, or was misinformed by his attorney about the deadline.” Indeed, Nichols so narrowed Bannon’s legal exit route that his lawyer, David Schoen, wondered aloud, “What’s the point of going to trial here if there are no defenses?

Things aren’t looking good for the King of the War Room. And this time, unlike the last time he was charged with federal crimes, Trump is not around to pardon him

In the meantime, today’s hearing could reveal at least some of what Bannon — who pledged “all hell” would break loose on Jan. 6 — himself has not about his role in the Capitol attacks and efforts to overturn the election. Increasingly, the hell Bannon has promised to invoke on others seems to be landing at his own feet.

There sure were a lot of film crews documenting Jan. 6

It's amazing just how many filmmakers were given access to top Trump World officials and Trump-aligned extremists leading up to and during the Capitol riot. And the list continues to grow, with a Guardian report from last week detailing yet another film crew that documented the "Stop the Steal" movement.

As Steve Benen wrote for MaddowBlog yesterday:

"One of the amazing things about the attack on our system of government early last year was the sheer number of the documentarians involved in capturing the events on camera. ... As a Washington Post analysis joked last month, 'Never before has a criminal event been so thoroughly recorded.'"

Read Steve's full story below.

Former Overstock CEO joins the Jan. 6 committee witness club

Stand by: The Oath Keepers and Proud Boys to take center stage

Meredith Bennett-Smith

Today's hearing will focus in large part on the actual Capitol riot violence — who participated in it, who organized it and what top officials knew about it. Armed, far-right extremist groups like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys appeared to have played an outsized role in the riot, and we can expect to hear a lot about their planning this afternoon.

But we already know a great deal about what these groups are, and what they might have done on Jan. 6 due to witness statements and court documents. Video appearing to show Oath Keepers moving in military-looking formations has come to symbolize the Jan. 6 threat. The group was founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, and includes between 1,000 and 3,000 official members, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Like other extremist militias, the group fears the federal government has been corrupted and is preparing to strip Americans of their rights.

According to the ADL, the Proud Boys are a smaller organization, with numbers estimated in the dozens or low hundreds. Founded by Gavin McInnes in 2016, they are an easily recognizable presence at alt-right rallies, and known for a nationalisticIslamophobictransphobic and misogynistic ideology.

So far, close to a dozen Oath Keepers have been charged with seditious conspiracy, including leader Rhodes. Meanwhile Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and four other members of his group have also been indicted on seditious conspiracy charges.

Trump infamously urged the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by" during a presidential debate in September 2020. Was Jan. 6 the moment they were waiting for?

The DOJ's Trump paralysis may be cracking

Meredith Bennett-Smith

Many pundits, politicians and activists have spent the past year and change begging Attorney General Merrick Garland to seriously consider whether Trump committed crimes during the Capitol riot. But so far, Americans have just had to trust Garland and the DOJ are doing their jobs soberly and fairly and strategically.

That trust is clearly wearing thin, and perhaps for good reason. According to a new report this week from New York Times reporters Katie Brenner and Glenn Thrush, "the Justice Department has approached former President Donald J. Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election results with a follow-the-evidence strategy that to critics appeared to border on paralysis — and that limited discussions of his role, even inside the department."

But, Brenner and Thrush continue, Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony last week may have finally changed something within the department. "Ms. Hutchinson’s disclosures seemed to have opened a path to broaching the most sensitive topic of all: Mr. Trump’s own actions ahead of the attack," the pair wrote.

Scary Kinzinger death threats set the stage for today's hearing

Meredith Bennett-Smith

One of the ongoing themes of the Jan. 6 committee hearings has been MAGA backlash — against witnesses and lawmakers alike. On July 5, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of only two Republicans serving on the committee, released a compilation of the threats he’s received, including those directed at his wife and newborn child. It's pretty harrowing stuff.

But the messages "are an appropriate prelude to Tuesday’s hearing, which is expected to focus on the extremist violence supporters of former President Donald Trump waged at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021," wrote MSNBC Columnist Dean Obeidallah.

He continued:

"Despite multiple examples of GOP leaders’ decrying threats to conservatives presumed to be loyal to Trump, they’ve been silent in response to threats against Kinzinger, who is also one of only 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 attack. Given that these threats appear to be coming from the GOP base, that silence from Republican leadership is, at best, a tolerance of threatened violence. At worst, it’s an approval of such."

Read Dean's full story below.

Bannon’s testimony offer is designed to provide chaos, not clarity

Former White House adviser and former Breitbart executive chairman Steve Bannon raised eyebrows over the weekend when he finally — finally — offered to testify before the House Jan. 6 committee. This after his total lack of cooperation led to a contempt of Congress indictment. Not coincidentally, Bannon's trial is starting in a few days.

Trump made a big show of "waiving Executive Privilege" ostensibly so that Bannon could testify and, perhaps, help himself in the eyes of the jury. But the more you dig around, the more this stunt smells. It appears the president never even invoked privilege to begin with. In other words, this whole thing feels like a transparent scam, and an attempt to pull a fast one on the Jan. 6 committee, the Justice Department or both.

You'd need a grain of salt big enough to coat a lifetime supply of pretzels to buy what Bannon is selling these days. And Bannon's trial is still scheduled for Monday.

The big question the committee will try to answer today

The House Jan. 6 committee hearings have been all about connecting the dots between who knew what and when. We will hear more today about possible connections between the Trump White House, its allies and far-right extremist groups like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Some of these groups' members have been charged in connection to the Capitol riot.

We all know what happened on Jan. 6, 2021. But the big legal question is what Trump and his top aides knew and expected, or even wanted, to happen. Did people from Trump World specifically coordinate and facilitate the actions taken by the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers? If so, the Department of Justice may like a word…