Jan. 6 Committee: Trump’s Incendiary ‘Be There, Will Be Wild!’ Tweet Followed ‘Heated and Profane’ Fight at White House

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A “heated and profane” fight at the White House – including searing insults, threats of violence and a hot-zone that moved from the Oval Office to the presidential residence – raged for six hours between competing factions of Donald Trump and his most notorious advisers late one December night, according to multiple witnesses who testified Tuesday before the House’s Jan. 6 hearings.

The theme of Tuesday’s session was to point the finger at Trump, painting him as the sole engine of the Capitol attack and not the web of advisers on whom the former president is said to now be trying to distribute blame.

Those advisers were clearly not getting along behind the scenes on Dec. 19 – and the result, the committee said, was Trump’s now-infamous “Be there, will be wild!” tweet the next day. That tweet, the committee says, is the sole factor that got the Jan. 6 ball rolling.

The committee drew a direct line between the Jan. 6 attack, Trump’s now-infamous tweet and the fracas that went down at the White House the night before.

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Among Tuesday’s videotaped testimony was a Twitter employee whose voice was obscured. He said he implored his company to censor the president’s incendiary Dec. 19 tweets, telling his superiors: “When people are shooting each other tomorrow, I will try and rest in the knowledge that we tried.” The plea was unsuccessful.

Videotaped witnesses included former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Sydney Powell (sipping a can of Diet Dr. Pepper as she spoke) and Cassidy Hutchinson, who also testified last month. Each painted a picture of a White House meeting that quickly divided between “concede” and “fight at all costs” factions, went late into the night – and got extremely ugly.

Cipollone said he was summoned to the White House that night for the meeting, and got an ominous feeling from what, and whom, he saw in the Oval Office.

“I opened the door and I walked in … I saw General [Michael] Flynn, I saw Sydney Powell sitting there … I was not happy to see the people in the Oval Office,” he said. “I don’t think any of these people were providing the president with good advice.”

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Those people – including the former CEO of Overstock.com Patrick Byrne and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani – were firmly on the side of trying to stop the election from being certified. On the other side were Cipollone and Eric Herschmann, former Trump attorney and senior advisor whose testimony was included Tuesday. Everyone present characterized the six-hour fracas in the same way.

“It was not a casual meeting,” said Derek Lyons, former White House staff secretary. “At times there were people shouting at each other, throwing insults at each other. It wasn’t just people sitting around a couch chit-chatting.”

Cipollone said the level of rhetoric ratcheted up to personal attacks and accusations of disloyalty to the president and the United States. He said Powell, Giuliani and other Team White House members were “really sort of forcefully attacking me.”

“It got to the point where the screaming was completely … completely out there,” Herschmann said. “What they were proposing I thought was nuts.”

Later Tuesday, the committee called independent journalist and former Oath Keepers spokesman Jason Van Tatenhove, who left the group when he realized they were a “violent militia” made up of “straight-up racists” whose members denied the Holocaust. That, he said, was the last straw.

“They are a very dangerous organization,” he told the committee.

Stephen Ayres testifies during the seventh hearing of the House committee on Jan. 6. (Getty Images)
Stephen Ayres testifies during the seventh hearing of the House committee on Jan. 6. (Getty Images)

Van Tatenhove was followed by Stephen Ayres, a former right-wing militia member who said flatly that it was Trump’s tweet that inspired he and his group to travel to the Capitol that day. He said they were only planning to attend the rally on the Ellipse, but when Trump pointed them toward the Capitol building, it was on.

For his part in the riots, Ayres was arrested on Jan. 25, 2021, and entered into a plea agreement earlier this year in which he pleaded guilty to disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds.

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And perhaps to emphasize the amount of time it took for Trump to call off the battle, Ayres said he and his group chose to leave – in fact, much of the crowd began to disperse – immediately after Trump finally tweeted that they should all go home.

Before any witnesses took the stand, committee co-chairs Benny Thompson (D-Mississippi) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) laid out the committee’s intended task: to show that without Trump’s iron will to disrupt and delay the certification of the vote, the riots would not have happened.

“This new strategy is to try to blame only Eastman, Scott Perry or others and not Donald Trump,” Cheney said. “This is nonsense. President Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child.”

Highlights From Previous Hearings:

Day 6 on June 28 included the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top White House aide, described for the committee a “furious” Donald Trump who threw dishes against the wall, ordered that rallygoers with weapons be allowed into his speech and physically tussled with his own security who refused to drive him to the Capitol building as the riot was getting underway. Read about Day 6 highlights here.

Day 5 on June 23 included testimony showing that Trump pressured on his own attorney general’s office to overturn the 2020 election – an effort one dissenting Justice Department official called a “murder-suicide pact.” The committee was expected to hear from a documentary filmmaker Alex Holder, who chronicled the final six weeks of the Donald Trump presidency, but Holder’s appearance was delayed. Read about Day 5 highlights here.

Day 4 on June 21 included Republican state officials from around the country telling the committee how Trump tried to pressure them to overturn election results, including sending supporters to officials’ homes, waving weapons and shouting insults and threats of violence. Read about Day 4 highlights here.

Day 3 kicked off June 16 with testimony focusing on the intense pressure President Trump put on Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election. John Charles Eastman, an attorney and campaign advisor to Donald Trump and his election team, emerged as a key architect of the plan. Read about Day 3 highlights here.

Day 2 testimony on June 13 included new allegations of Trump campaign-donor fraud, former Attorney General Bill Barr saying Trump’s claims of a stolen election were “complete nonsense,” and tales of a drunken Rudy Giuliani offering election night advice, giving rise to “Team Rudy” and “Team Normal.” Read about Day 2 highlights here.

Day 1 on June 7 showed how Trump “summoned a violent mob” to pressure lawmakers to overturn the election results. The day included testimony from documentary maker Nick Quested, who filmed the Proud Boys storming the Capitol. Capitol police officer Caroline Edwards testified about how she tried to fight off violent protestors on Jan. 6. Read Day 1 highlights here.