US lawmakers on Tuesday accused former President Donald Trump of inciting a mob of followers to attack the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in a last-ditch bid to remain in power, Reuters reported.
The House of Representatives committee probing the Capitol riot also produced evidence that aides and outside agitators knew before the riot that Trump would urge thousands of his supporters to march on the Capitol that day.
In video testimony shown during the committee’s latest hearing, witnesses described a loud late-night six-hour meeting on Dec. 18, 2020, where Trump disregarded White House staffers who urged him to concede the November 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden.
Instead, the testimony said, Trump sided with outside advisers who urged him to keep pressing his claims of election fraud.
As the three-hour hearing ended, Republican Representative Liz Cheney said Trump had tried to phone a potential committee witness, raising the possibility he might have illegally tried to influence witness testimony.
"President Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child. ... He is responsible for his own actions and his own choices," she said.
Committee members said Trump incited the riot through his refusal to admit he lost the election and through comments like his Dec. 19, 2020, Twitter post, shortly after the meeting, for supporters to flock to Washington for a "big protest," saying, "Be there, will be wild."
The committee played recorded testimony from White House aides describing the angry Dec. 18 meeting where a handful of Trump's outside advisers, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, attorney Sidney Powell and Patrick Byrne, former chief executive of Overstock.com, encouraged him to fight the election result.
"I don't think any of these people were providing the president with good advice. I didn't understand how they had gotten in," Pat Cipollone, Trump's former White House counsel, said in video testimony.
Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democratic committee member, displayed a text from White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who gave explosive testimony last month, saying of the meeting, "The West Wing is unhinged."
Giuliani said in video testimony his argument had been: "You guys are not tough enough. Or maybe I put it another way: You're a bunch of pussies, excuse the expression. I'm almost certain the word was used."
The committee presented evidence that it said showed Trump's call for his supporters to march on the Capitol was not spontaneous but had been planned in advance, according to Reuters.
The panel showed an unsent Twitter message about the rally, with a stamp showing Trump had seen it: "Please arrive early, massive crowds expected. March to the Capitol after. Stop the Steal!"
The US House of Representatives passed a bill last May to form a commission to probe the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. The bill was approved in a 252-175 vote, with 35 Republicans joining all Democrats in support.
Two days later, however, Senate Republicans blocked the legislation. Senators voted 54-35 on the House-passed bill, falling short of the 10 GOP votes needed to get it over an initial hurdle.
Without any pathway forward in the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she would use her power to pursue a select committee in the House that will be controlled by Democrats, leading to the formation of the current panel.
Trump denies wrongdoing and has rejected the legitimacy of the committee.