Jul 12, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Capitol rioter testifies about sway Trump had over mob

Stephen Ayres, who entered the U.S. Capitol illegally on January 6, 2021, testifies during the seventh hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol in the Cannon House Office Building on July 12, 2022 in Washington, DC. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

A Capitol rioter on Tuesday testified to the Jan. 6 select committee that President Trump's words incited supporters who later marched on the Capitol on Jan. 6 and that a tweet by the former president caused them to disperse.

Why it matters: The testimony offers a rare perspective on a case the committee has made throughout the hearings: That Trump's unparalleled sway over his supporters makes him directly complicit in the violence.

Driving the news: Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty in June to disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building for entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, testified that he and his associates hadn’t planned to go to the Capitol until Trump’s speech at the Ellipse “got everyone riled up.”

  • “We basically were just following what he said,” Ayres told the panel, adding, “I was hanging on every word he was saying.”
  • A video Trump put out telling supporters to go home, after hours of rioting, “dispersed a lot of the crowd,” he said.

The committee unveiled evidence that even Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale believed Trump’s rhetoric was responsible for deaths at the Capitol.

  • He texted rally organizer and Trump campaign aide Katrina Pierson on the evening of Jan. 6: "A sitting president asking for civil war … I feel guilty for helping him win.”
  • When Pierson pushed back on Parscale’s sentiment that the rhetoric was the direct cause of the violence, he replied, “Katrina. Yes it was.”

What they’re saying: “For multiple hours [on Jan. 6], Donald Trump refused to intervene to stop [the violence]. He would not instruct the mob to leave or condemn the violence,” Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said.

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