January 6 hearing: Lawmakers say focus will be on the role extremist groups played in Capitol riot

·5 min read

The House January 6 committee upcoming hearing is expected to present evidence about far-right extremist groups and their potential ties to the former US president and the final phase of his multi-pronged effort to halt Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

Panel members have disclosed that they are investigating ties between aides and figures in Donald Trump’s orbit and members of extremist groups – such as the Proud Boy and the Oath Keepers – some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy in the most serious cases the Justice Department has brought so far in the Jan 6 attack.

“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 panel member Rep Stephanie Murphy on Meet the Press over the weekend.

The Florida lawmaker’s colleague, Rep Jamie Raskin, who also sits on the special committee investigating the Capitol riot, echoed the same goal to CBS on Sunday, explaining how a meeting leading up to the “unprecedented” 19 December tweet, during which the one-term president called for protesters to “be there, be wild”, will “continue the story of Donald Trump’s attempt to overthrow the 2020 presidential election”.

“One of the things that people are going to learn is the fundamental importance of a meeting that took place in the White House” the day before, on 18 December, Mr Raskin said during an interview on Meet the Press.

“Donald Trump sent out the tweet that would be heard around the world, the first time in American history when a president of the United States called a protest against his own government, in fact, to try to stop the counting of electoral college votes in a presidential election he had lost,” Mr Raskin said. “Nothing like that had ever happened before. So people are going to hear the story of that tweet, and then the explosive effect it had in Trump World and specifically among the domestic violent extremist groups, the most dangerous political extremists in the country.”

Tuesday’s hearing, held at 1pm EST, will be the seventh in a series of public events that have presented bombshell revelations from the House committee investigating the role of Mr Trump, his close aides, advisers and even family members in the days and weeks leading up to the Jan 6 riot as they tried to reverse his election defeat.

The seventh broadcast was announced just one week after Cassidy Hutchinson, a former high-ranking White House staffer in the Trump administration, provided an explosive testimony that revealed some of the inner workings of Mr Trump’s circle during the hours leading up to and during the deadly assault on the Capitol.

While the committee had initially stated that the public portion of their probe would consist of six televised hearings, they have since added more hearings, including Ms Hutchinson’s last month, to allow for new witnesses to come forward with information.

One of the witnesses who is reportedly expected to provide testimony on Tuesday about the role militia groups played in “marshalling of the mob” to the Capitol on that violent day in January is a former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers, one of the far-right extremist organisations linked to the Capitol attack.

Jason Van Tatenhove, who served as the Oath Keepers’ national media director in 2014 but reportedly severed ties with the group in 2017, is expected to testify before the panel during Tuesday’s televised event. He will reportedly provide details about the far-right group’s propaganda efforts over the years, and will specifically zero-in on how the leader, Stewart Rhodes, used conspiracy theories to seek out funding and new membership, a source familiar with the hearing told NBC News.

Mr Rhodes, who is currently being held in jail as he awaits trial on seditious conspiracy charges for his alleged role in the attack on the US Capitol, reportedly also wants to “confront” the panel, his attorney James Bright told Politico.

Last week, the Justice Department provided new evidence they had on Mr Rhodes and eight other members of the Oath Keepers, which alleges to show the extensive planning the group put in place ahead of the Jan 6 riot.

The court filing, released on Friday, included a reported “death list” of Georgia election officials, alongside information that the DOJ had said it seized “military ordinance grenades” from the vehicle of Oath Keeper Jeremy Brown.

Over the course of the year-long investigation, the panel has collected hundreds of hours’ worth of testimony from more than 1,000 people, including top White House aides during the Trump administration and his own family – Ivanka Trump and Jared Kusher.

Most recently, the panel issued a subpoena for Pat Cipollone after it was revealed during Ms Hutchinson’s interview that she’d heard him express concerns over the former US president making a trip from the Ellipse to the Capitol following his speech on Jan 6.

And over the weekend, it was revealed that former White House adviser and far-right antagonist Steve Bannon would agree to testify publicly before the House committee. This arrived after months of Mr Bannon’s legal team striving to claim the one-time Trump insider had executive privilege as he repeatedly refused to comply with the subpoena, a decision that later landed him being formally charged by the Justice Department.

Those claims of executive privilege have been denied by the Biden administration, which was later upheld by the US Supreme Court.

Tuesday’s public hearing is scheduled to begin at 1pm EST, while the final prime time hearing – which was set to be held on Thursday evening – has since been reshuffled after receiving new information, according to NBC News’s Ali Vitali and Haley Talbot.