January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, Wikipedia Commons
From the transcript of yesterday’s (July 12) hearing of the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack:
CONGRESSMAN JAMIE RASKIN:
Never before in American history had a president called for a crowd to come contest the counting of electoral votes by Congress or engaged in any effort designed to influence, delay, or obstruct the joint session of Congress in doing its work required by our Constitution and the Electoral Count Act. As we’ll see, Donald Trump’s 1:42 AM tweet electrified and galvanized his supporters, especially the dangerous extremists in the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, and other racist and white nationalist groups spoiling for a fight against the government.
Three rings of interwoven attack were now operating towards January 6th. On the inside ring, Trump continued trying to work to overturn the election by getting Mike Pence to abandon his oath of office as vice president and assert the unilateral power to reject electoral votes. This would have been a fundamental and unprecedented breach of the Constitution that would promise Trump multiple ways of staying in office.
Meanwhile, in the middle ring, members of domestic violent extremist groups created an alliance both online and in-person to coordinate a massive effort to storm, invade, and occupy the 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.
Finally, in the outer ring, on January 6th there assembled a large and angry crowd, the political force that Trump considered both the touchstone and the measure of his political power. Here were thousands of enraged Trump followers thoroughly convinced by the big lie, who traveled from across the country to join Trump’s wild rally to stop the steal.
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, confront the vice president and Congress, and try to overturn the 2020 election results. All of these efforts would converge and explode on January the 6th. Mr. Chairman, as you know better than any other member of this committee from the wrenching struggle for voting rights in your beloved Mississippi, the problem of politicians whipping up mob violence to destroy fair elections is the oldest domestic enemy of constitutional democracy in America.
Abraham Lincoln knew it too. In 1837, a racist mob in Alton, Illinois broke into the offices of an abolitionist newspaper and killed its editor, Elijah Lovejoy. Lincoln wrote a speech in which he said that no transatlantic military giant could ever crush us as a nation, even with all of the fortunes in the world.
But if downfall ever comes to America, he said, we ourselves would be its author and finisher. If racist mobs are encouraged by politicians to rampage and terrorize, Lincoln said, they will violate the rights of other citizens and quickly destroy the bonds of social trust necessary for democracy to work.
Mobs and demagogues will put us on a path to political tyranny, Lincoln said. As we’ll see today, this very old problem has returned with new ferocity today, as a president who lost an election deployed a mob, which included dangerous extremists, to attack the constitutional system of election and the peaceful transfer of power….
JASON VAN TATENHOVE (WITNESS TESTIMONY):
I spent a few years with the Oath Keepers and I can tell you that they may not like to call themselves a militia, but they are. They’re a violent militia…
… I think we need to quit mincing words and just talk about truths, and what it was going to be was an armed revolution. I mean, people died that day. Law enforcement officers died this day. There was a gallows set up in front of the Capitol. This could have been the spark that started a new civil war, and no one would have won there…
What did the Oath Keepers see in President Trump?
JASON VAN TATENHOVE:
They saw a path forward that would have legitimacy. They saw opportunity, I think, in my opinion, to become a paramilitary force…