Jan. 6 committee focuses on connections between the violent mob and Trump

Much of the evidence presented Tuesday during the Jan. 6 hearing was about what former President Trump did and didn't do surrounding the violent Capitol insurrection. Mary McCord, director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, and Jamil Jaffer, a law professor at George Mason University and former associate counsel to President George W. Bush, join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And for more analysis of today's hearing, I am here with Mary McCord, director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection and a former Justice Department official. And Jamil Jaffer, He's a law professor at George Mason University and former associate counsel to President George W. Bush.

    Hello to both of you. Thank you for being with us tonight and during our special coverage today.

    Jamil Jaffer, I want to come to you first because, again, so much of this evidence, as we have just been hearing from our own correspondents today, was around President — former President Trump, his role, what he heard, what he did, and what he didn't do. He remains at the center of everything we are hearing.

  • Jamil Jaffer, Former Senior Counsel, House Intelligence Committee:

    Yes, that's exactly right, Judy.

    What's clear is, the president understood what was likely to happen. He was clearly talking to folks outside the White House in the lead-up to the events that happened on January 6, including, ostensibly, either he or people around him were telling the organizers that there would be a call that they weren't supposed to talk about, but there would be a call to march on the Capitol.

    That was something that they tweeted about internally, we now know, was disclosed to them early on. It's the president — what appeared to have originally been a sort of moment that would have happened spontaneously turns out to have been a planned moment. The president, or at least the people around the president, knew that was going to happen.

    And there were other really interesting and revealing points in today's testimony.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes, there was so much to look at.

    And, Mary McCord, I mean, as you look at this, you see, again, just a cascading set of pieces of evidence of information that add up to a president who was looking for affirmation for what he believed and what he wanted to do.

  • Mary McCord, Former Justice Department Official:

    That's right.

    And I think one of the other really revealing things was, and the excerpts you played earlier at the top of the hour focused on, this December 18 really heated meeting where his own White House advisers basically said, we're not going to support you doing any of these things that Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn and Rudy Giuliani were suggesting that he could do — he should do.

    They just went to the mat, and it resulted in yelling and shouting, and they refused. And it seems like then he reached a decision point, which was, OK, I'm not going to get any help from my White House advisers. I'm going to go to the people. And he tweeted that early morning, be there, be wild.

    And that was the calling card for extremist groups such as the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, the 3 Percenters, and individuals like Stephen Ayres and so many people who had been just — and Stephen Ayres said this — who had been addicted to his social media, reading everything that President Trump had ever said about a fraudulent election, and what others were saying, all of which were lies, and which he now knows were lies.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And as we were watching this unfold in real time, Jamil Jaffer, we had no idea what was going on, or very — I should say, very little idea what was going on inside the White House.

    I know there were certainly reporting at the same time, but we're now learning that there were a number of people around the president who were saying to him and talking to each other about what was happening was wrong, it was illegal.

  • Jamil Jaffer:

    Right. No, that's exactly right.

    I mean, Pat Cipollone, now it's clear made clear to the president that he didn't think he was getting good advice, that these folks around the president, Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, this Overstock.com CEO, who Cipollone didn't even know him, and asked him who he was in this meeting in the White House, in the Oval Office.

    I mean, by the way, it's worth noting that, when I was in the Bush administration, there was no chance that you would have had three random people in the Oval with the president with no supervision, no White House staff. I mean, it's completely crazy.

    And the idea that the president's getting legal advice from these folks is catastrophic, as Pat Cipollone rightly pointed out. And, look, he made clear to the president that he did not agree with this advice, that that was bad advice.

    And then you go further, you look at what he told Mark Meadows and said, look, people are going to get hurt, and I'm not going to allow this to go forward, if you recall Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony.

    And so it's clear that the president was aware that there were concerns at the White House. John Ratcliffe, as DNI, said the same thing. And so nobody can doubt today, no Republican, no Democrat can doubt today the president knew what the potential was to happen, and he acted and went forward nonetheless knowing all that.

    And that's the really troubling thing about what we have learned over the last few weeks about Donald Trump and the January 6 events.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And an additional point I think that emerged today, Mayor McCord — and this is something you follow — is the role that these extremist groups played, the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys.

    You were saying to us earlier, that when you look at the bigger picture of what happened, the president, former president, was using them to achieve an end.

  • Mary McCord:

    He was. And they were very willingly being used too, the Oath Keepers.

    Now, some of the people, I think, unaffiliated with extremist organizations really did get used and lied to and then left hung out to dry. I mean, they're facing the consequences, criminal charges, loss of their jobs, loss of their reputations.

    But groups like the Oath Keepers, this is the kind of thing that Stewart Rhodes and other leaders of extremist organizations have wanted for years. They're anti-government organizations. They're willing to lose — use violence against the U.S. government. They have done it in the past.

    As Jason Van Tatenhove explained today, a former propagandist for the Oath Keepers, they faced off against federal agents back in Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014, and federal agents backed away, because they had firearms. They were in the sights of snipers on overpasses.

    But here was a chance to actually bring these groups together, coalesce together, and coalesce with people in President Trump's orbit who wanted to use that, who were willing and Trump himself willing to use these types of means to maintain his illegitimate power.

    And I think those of us who study some of these organizations have been really trying to point out for years their potential — their dangerousness. And it was really there in living color. And hearing from a former spokesperson, I think, gives us an insight that we don't normally get. And I hope people will really understand that these are threats, and they need to be addressed.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And certainly need to be taken very, very seriously.

    Jamil Jaffer, just quickly, another data point today which adds to the evidence we have already seen that former President Trump in that tweet that he drafted about, after the rally, you will be going to the Capitol, it wasn't sent, but it does signal what was in the former president's mind at that time.

  • Jamil Jaffer:

    Well, that's exactly right, Judy.

    It was clear. Now we know that the president was thinking about sending a tweet like that. We know that the people around him told the rally organizers the president is going to send people to the Capitol. Don't tell anyone. Keep it on the down low. But that's what's going to happen.

    So that whole thing that looked spontaneous clearly was planned ahead of time. And then you add on what the president said to Cassidy Hutchinson: I know they have weapons. I don't care. Send them through the mags. They're not here to attack me. They're going into the Capitol.

    We now know what the president knew before he called on those people to go to the Capitol. And we know the aftermath of what happened, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just quickly, Mary McCord, I mean, it adds up to what you have just been saying, that when you think about the potential lethality of these groups and the former president knowing that, and then he still was engaging them and urging them to move ahead.

  • Mary McCord:

    That's right.

    And it goes back to the famous "Stand back and stand by," the comment he made during a presidential debate directed to the Proud Boys, who immediately recruited based on that and merchandised and made money based on that.

    And so I think we really have to look to the future too and we have to look abroad. In other countries, it was the willingness of politicians to ally with dangerous private militias that has caused real collapses in democracies or the inability to develop into democracies and authoritarianism.

    And so the prospect in the future, Representative Raskin mentioned and Jason, it's real.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Sobering lessons from all of this.

    Mary McCord, Jamil Jaffer, thank you both.

  • Mary McCord:

    Thank you.

  • Editor’s note:

    The Overstock.com CEO mentioned in this discussion is no longer the CEO of the company.

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