A man who joined the pro-Trump mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol apologized Tuesday to officers who protected the building after telling lawmakers that he regrets being duped by the former president’s lies of election fraud.
During a hearing before the U.S. House committee that’s investigating the insurrection, Stephen Ayres testified that he felt called by former President Donald Trump to come to Washington.
He described being swept up by Trump’s bogus claims, and believing as he marched to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 that Trump would join them there and that there was still a chance the election could be overturned.
“I felt like I had like horse blinders on. I was locked in the whole time,” said Ayres, who is scheduled to be sentenced in September after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in the riot.
The Jan. 6 committee also revealed Tuesday Trump had attempted to contact a person who was talking to the panel about its investigation of the former president and the 2021 attack on the Capitol.
“We will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. She said the committee had notified the Justice Department.
The person Trump tried to contact declined to answer or respond to his call, Cheney said. Instead the person alerted their lawyer who contacted the committee.
The hearing Tuesday was the seventh for the Jan. 6 committee.
Tuesday’s session revealed details of an “unhinged” late-night meeting at the White House with Trump’s outside lawyers suggesting the military seize state voting machines in a last-ditch effort to pursue his false claims of voter fraud before the defeated president summoned a mob to the U.S. Capitol.
The committee investigating last year’s attack at the Capitol is working to show how far-right extremists answered Trump’s call to come for a big rally in Washington. As dozens of lawsuits and his claims of voter fraud fizzled, Trump met late into the night of Dec. 18 with attorneys at the White House before tweeting the rally invitation — “Be there, will be wild!”
Members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers groups are now facing rare sedition charges over the siege.
The panel featured new video testimony from Pat Cipollone, Trump’s former White House counsel, recalling the explosive meeting at the White House when Trump’s outside legal team brought a draft executive order to seize states’ voting machines — a “terrible idea,” he said.
“That’s not how we do things in the United States,” Cipollone testified.
Another aide called the meeting “unhinged.”
Cipollone and other White House officials scrambled to intervene in the late-night meeting Trump was having with attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, retired national security aide Michael Flynn and the head of the online retail company Overstock. It erupted in shouting and screaming, another aide testified.
“Where is the evidence?” Cipollone demanded of the false claims of voter fraud.
“What they were proposing, I thought, was nuts,” testified another White House official, Eric Herschmann.
This was the only hearing this week, as new details emerge. An expected prime-time hearing Thursday has been shelved for now.
FILE – A image of former President Donald Trump talking to his chief of staff Mark Meadows is seen as Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testifies as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, June 28, 2022. (Sean Thew/Pool via AP, File) A video deposition from Rudy Giuliani is shown as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 12, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)