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Analysis

Trump Knew

The latest Jan. 6 hearing laid bare Trump’s involvement in the attack.

July 13, 2022

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The Janu­ary 6 commit­tee’s latest hear­ing left no room for doubt: Janu­ary 6 was not a peace­ful protest that got out of hand. It was a planned insur­rec­tion from the very begin­ning, and Donald Trump knew it.

The timeline is clear. Trump’s efforts to over­turn the 2020 elec­tion hit an inflec­tion point on Decem­ber 18 follow­ing a meet­ing in which Team Crazy (attor­neys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani and former National Secur­ity Adviser Michael Flynn) urged the pres­id­ent to order the milit­ary to seize voting machines. The meet­ing became loud, heated, and profane. Ulti­mately, the plan collapsed under the objec­tions of White House legal advisers, who poin­ted out that there was abso­lutely no evid­ence of wide­spread voter fraud.

Stymied by the legal real­it­ies, Trump opened a new front in his war on our demo­cracy. At 1:42 a.m., Trump sent his now infam­ous tweet: “Big protest in D.C. on Janu­ary 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

We already knew that members of extrem­ist groups took this as a literal call to arms. Far-right comment­ator Matt Bracken told support­ers that the event would involve storm­ing the Capitol. Another extrem­ist YouTuber called “Salty Cracker” warned of a “red wedding,” code for a slaughter. One organ­izer confirmed in advance that Trump planned to call on his support­ers to march on the Capitol.

What we learned this week was that while the far right was gear­ing up for war, they were in close contact with Trump­world.

Indeed, many of those contacts pred­ate Trump’s tweet, show­ing that his advisers were cultiv­at­ing white suprem­acist groups. Michael Flynn can be seen in photos from Decem­ber 12 using Oath Keep­ers for personal secur­ity. Roger Stone, one of Trump’s closest polit­ical advisers, had been recor­ded recit­ing the initi­ation oath of the Proud Boys. 

Follow­ing Trump’s invit­a­tion to insur­rec­tion, those contacts intens­i­fied. Stone was on a group chat with Oath Keep­ers leader Stew­art Rhodes, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, and the right-wing provocateur Ali Alex­an­der discuss­ing Janu­ary 6.  

“These nona­ligned groups were align­ing,” said Donell Harvin, a former chief intel­li­gence offi­cial for the city of Wash­ing­ton, DC. The Proud Boys and the Oath Keep­ers had not histor­ic­ally worked together, but they proclaimed an alli­ance to keep Trump in power. (Whoever said Trump isn’t a uniter?)

The rank-and-file white suprem­acists and polit­ical extrem­ists issued a steady stream of viol­ent threats: “I’m ready to die for my beliefs, are you ready to die, police?” and “Cops don’t have ‘stand­ing’ if they’re on the ground lying in a pool of their own blood.” Others discussed bring­ing weapons, hand­cuffs, and body armor on Janu­ary 6. There were detailed discus­sions of the archi­tec­ture of federal build­ings.

While his advisers were in contact with known viol­ent extrem­ists arming them­selves for rebel­lion, Pres­id­ent Trump egged them on. He tweeted about the rally more than a dozen times before Janu­ary 6 and called the 2020 elec­tion “the biggest scam in our nation’s history.” The day before the insur­rec­tion, while Flynn, conspir­acy theor­ist Alex Jones, and “Stop the Steal” organ­izer Ali Alex­an­der whipped extrem­ists into a frenzy on a plaza near the White House, repeatedly refer­en­cing 1776, Trump asked an aide to open his Oval Office doors so he could hear. He tweeted that he was listen­ing to them from inside the White House.

Shortly after speak­ing to Trump on the phone, Steve Bannon went on right-wing radio. “All hell is going to break loose tomor­row,” he said.

And it did. Surprise, surprise.

Watch­ing the hear­ing, I got the distinct sense that we (the public) were not the target audi­ence. The commit­tee seemed to be speak­ing directly to the Depart­ment of Justice as the commit­tee members master­fully blocked off Trump’s poten­tial defenses to prosec­u­tion. “Pres­id­ent Trump is a 76-year-old man,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said. “He is not an impres­sion­able child. . . . He is respons­ible for his own actions.” Let’s hope Attor­ney General Merrick Garland is listen­ing.