Why Congress is closely examining the January 6 rally


WASHINGTON (AP) – The House panel investigating the Jan.6 Capitol uprising focused some of its early work on planning for the rally in which President Donald Trump told his supporters to “fight like a hell “. The rally, organized that morning and planned by former White House and campaign aides, became a staging ground for hundreds of supporters who marched to Capitol Hill, passed police and made burst inside.

What the committee still does not know – or at least did not publicly disclose – is whether Trump and the rally organizers, as well as Republican members of Congress, had contact with protesters who have by the way. following violated the Capitol or were aware of plans for violence. About 800 people eventually walked through windows and doors and interrupted President Joe Biden’s certification of victory, repeating Trump’s false claims that he won the election.

But there were strong signals of what was to come, starting with Trump’s December tweet promising the January 6 event would be “wild” and encouraging supporters to come. In the weeks and days leading up to that, some people – including those from far-right militant groups – openly planned online violence. And when they arrived, some were wearing tactical gear as if they were ready for battle.

“Why would you bring bear spray, Kevlar vests and other items to a peaceful rally?” Asked Mississippi Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the committee, in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. Thompson says there were people who came to Washington just for the rally, and others who came “to do exactly what happened here on Capitol Hill.”

As part of the investigation, the committee is examining what members of Congress knew about the event. Some lawmakers spoke at the rally, while others helped plan it. Thompson said “we’re not there yet” to draw any conclusions, but added that there is “a school of thought that some people misinformed what was happening on January 6” while they encouraged Trump supporters. to participate.

A look at what we know, and what we don’t know, about rally planning as the committee investigates:

WHAT WE KNOW

The committee assigned 13 people associated with the rally on the National Mall that morning and a smaller one that had been scheduled next to the Capitol. Almost everyone subpoenaed was on the permit for the Mall event, where Trump told his supporters that “if you don’t fight like hell, you won’t have a country.”

Republican members of Congress, including Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks and North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn, also spoke at the rally. Brooks told the crowd to “stop by the Capitol” before heading home and that “today is the day that American patriots start taking names and kicking each other’s ass.”

Most of the rally’s organizers had worked on Trump’s presidential campaign or in his administration, and the White House coordinated with them from mid-December, according to two people familiar with the planning who requested anonymity. to talk about it. Permission for the rally was issued to Women for America First, a pro-Trump group rooted in the Tea Party movement.

As the event was underway and Trump was speaking, a large group of people made their way to Capitol Hill, including members of far-right groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers who broke in. Some wore tactical vests and helmets and marched out the door in a military style formation.

One of the organizers who was summoned to appear, Ali Alexander, said after the riot that the intention was to order participants of the larger rally to march to the Capitol. In its subpoena, the panel cited media reports that Alexander had referred to “the possible use of violence to achieve organizational goals” and had been in contact with the White House and members of Congress.

In the months that followed, many Republicans who spoke out against the violence began to downplay it and even defended the rioters. Arizona Representative Paul Gosar, for example, has repeatedly said that a woman who was shot and killed by police while attempting to break into the House bedroom was “executed. “. The committee asked the National Archives for records of communications between Gosar’s chief of staff and the Trump administration.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

There are still a lot of unknowns as to how the rally was planned. Were the organizers planning an insurrection? Who paid for the rally and what was their goal? What did Trump know? And were members of Congress communicating with the protesters who broke in?

In the days following the attack, some Democrats questioned whether their fellow Republicans had helped the rioters. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said if members “aided and abetted the crimes” they may need to be prosecuted.

There was no direct evidence that members of Congress aided the rioters. But the committee says it is investigating all aspects of the attack, including whether lawmakers assisted the attackers and to what extent they were involved in planning the rally and others beforehand.

Thompson says if any members appear to be involved in the attack, “I don’t think there is any reluctance” to call them to testify.

WHAT THE INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE

The committee is questioning some of the rally organizers it has summoned to appear behind closed doors and negotiating with others. So far, all 13 have at least communicated with the panel regarding their testimony. The committee is also researching a wide range of presidential documents from the National Archives on communications between officials in the run-up to the rally and insurgency.

In August, the committee asked social media and telecommunications companies to keep phone or computer records of hundreds of people potentially involved in efforts to “challenge, delay or interfere” with certification or attempt to overturn the results. of the 2020 elections.

Among the hundreds of names they sent to the companies were several of Trump’s staunchest Republican allies in Congress, including Brooks, Cawthorn and GOP officials. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Jody Hice of Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Lauren Boebert from Colorado.

Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat on the Jan. 6 panel, said the committee was looking at how the origins of the rally, or its planning, might be linked to the violence.

“We want to know what the connection is,” Raskin said, and if the insurgency was part of the original design, or a “detour” for the people who were there.

“We have been tasked with investigating the events of January 6, the causes of January 6, and what America needs to do to prevent further political insurgencies and coups against the government,” Raskin said. “So we want to talk to anyone who has information related to all of these things. And so that includes the elect, that includes anyone who has information to give us. “

___

Smith reported from Providence, Rhode Island.

Mary Clare Jalonick and Michelle R. Smith, Associated Press

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