Among the key revelations from Cassidy Hutchinson’s recent testimony was what the White House aide heard Donald Trump say ahead of his pre-riot rally on Jan. 6. Backstage at the Ellipse, Hutchinson heard the then-president fuming about the crowd size who’d hear his remarks.
Told that some of his followers were armed, and could therefore not get past metal detectors, Trump rejected the concerns.
“I don’t f’ing care that they have weapons,” Trump said, according to Hutchinson’s sworn testimony. “They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f’ing [magnetometers] away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the f’ing mags away.”
It was a striking revelation in large part because it meant the then-president deliberately dispatched his armed followers to Capitol Hill. Indeed, he desperately wanted to join them.
But it was also of interest to learn just how armed Trump’s followers were.
About a month after the attack, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson scoffed at the conventional wisdom about the riot. “This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me,” the Wisconsin senator said. “I mean ‘armed,’ when you hear ‘armed,’ don’t you think of firearms?”
Even at the time, it was a foolish comment — which was echoed at the time by many on the right — in light of what we knew about the weapons the Trump supporters brought with them to the Hill. But as the investigation into Jan. 6 continued, we’ve learned even more about just how armed these people were. The Washington Post reported today:
The full picture of how many among the crowd were armed before the riot occurred is unclear, but court records, trial testimony and accounts from police officers and rioters have supplied growing evidence that multiple people brought firearms to Washington for Jan. 6, 2021. Six men were arrested that day for having guns in the vicinity of the U.S. Capitol, and a seventh who arrived after the riot ended was arrested the following day. Despite some instances in which alerts about people with guns turned out to be false alarms, accounts from police officers and rioters indicate that many firearms were spotted on Jan. 6 but were not seized as law enforcement focused more on defending the Capitol than on arresting gun-law violators.
The same report noted one Jan. 6 defendant explaining at his trial that from his vantage point on the west side of the Capitol, he counted eight firearms carried by five people.
Other rioters have been charged with taking guns onto the Capitol grounds.
What’s more, we’re not just talking about assorted handguns. The Post’s report highlighted an Alabama man named Lonnie Leroy Coffman.
The police said they searched Coffman’s truck and found 11 Mason jars filled with gasoline and Styrofoam, allegedly to create a napalm-type effect for a Molotov cocktail. In addition to the gasoline-filled Mason jars, which had holes in the lids, with rags and lighters nearby, investigators reported finding a 9mm handgun, a rifle, a shotgun, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, large-capacity ammunition-feeding devices, a crossbow with bolts, machetes and camouflage smoke devices. Coffman also was carrying two handguns when he was arrested, authorities said. All the guns were loaded.
There have been related reports with information about Jan. 6 attendees carrying spears on flagpoles, stun guns, bear spray, and related weapons.
Despite all of this, Republican lawmakers such as Arizona’s Paul Gosar and Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene have, like Ron Johnson last year, questioned whether the insurrectionists had guns.
“What evidence do you have that a lot of people were armed that day?” Greene asked at a Rules Committee hearing last month.
“Oh, just wait for it,” Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, a member of the Jan. 6 panel, responded.
The House Jan. 6 committee is holding its seventh public hearing on Tuesday, July 12 at 1 p.m. ET. Get expert analysis in real time on our liveblog at msnbc.com/jan6hearings.