In the Jan. 6 House Select Committee’s seventh hearing on Tuesday, all eyes were on former President Donald Trump – or more precisely, his since-defunct Twitter account.
In an effort to pin the Jan. 6 insurrection squarely on Trump’s continued efforts to overturn the 2020 election, the Committee zeroed in on his tweet from Dec. 19, 2020: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” It’s argued that that message set in motion what would ultimately become the violent attack on the Capitol.
Helping lead Tuesday’s hearing, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) laid the groundwork for how the former president’s call to protest initially led to the conservative group Women for America First to reschedule their rally permit in Washington to Jan. 6 – opening the stage for Trump speak – before disseminating through more far-right media channels and pro-Trump websites.
Such commentators included radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who promoted Trump’s tweet as “the most important call to action on domestic soil since Paul Revere and his ride in 1776” and lesser-known entities like the alias Salty Cracker, who was more forthright in their call for violence. The latter alluded to an infamously gruesome bloodbath from “Game of Thrones,” as played for the Committee Tuesday.
“You better understand something, son. You better understand something. Red wave, b—. There’s gonna be a red wedding going down Jan. 6th,” Salty Cracker said.
Then, in a bombshell Committee interview with a former employee of Twitter’s moderation team, Raskin shifted attention back to September 2020 when the social media platform was first considering limiting the president’s use of the site after telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
“My concern was that the former president, for seemingly the first time, was speaking directly to extremist organizations and giving them directives,” the employee said in their recorded testimony. “We had not seen that sort of direct communication before, and that concerned me.”
In the aftermath of Trump’s Dec. 19 tweet, it’s well documented that many far-right accounts and devotees immediately assumed violence and claimed that the president was calling for “volunteers for the firing squad.” The Twitter employee saw it as yet another instance of the president directing extremist organizations via their platform. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Florida) said, “The Committee has learned that, on Jan. 5th, there were serious concerns at Twitter about the anticipated violence the next day.”
“I don’t know that I slept that night [Jan. 5] to be honest with you,” the Twitter employee continued in their testimony, noting that the calls for violence on Jan. 6 were foreboding and apparent. There were internal frustrations at the social media company that not enough was being done. “I was on pins and needles. Because, again, for months, I had been begging and anticipating and attempting to raise the reality that, if we made no intervention into what I saw occurring, people were going to die.”
Today, it’s known that at least seven people died as a direct result of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“I realized no intervention was coming, and even as hard as I had tried to create one or implement one, there was nothing,” the Committee interviewee reflected. “We were at the whims and the mercy of a violent crowd that was locked and loaded.”