Capitol Rioter Explains Why He Participated At Jan. 6 Hearing

Stephen Ayres said he and other rioters believed former president Donald Trump would join them as they marched to the U.S. Capitol.

Capitol Rioter Explains Why He Participated At Jan. 6 Hearing
Jacquelyn Martin / AP

The Jan. 6 committee’s seventh public hearing this year brought new insight into the motivation of a convicted capitol rioter.

When asked why he decided to march to the Capitol, Stephen Ayres said, he was doing what the president said.

"Basically the president got everybody riled up, told everybody to head on down, so we were basically following what he said," Ayres said.

He also said he still felt there was a chance the election would be overturned as he marched there.

"At that time I did cause everybody was kinda like, in the hope that VP Pence was not going to certify the election," Ayres said. "Also the whole time we were on our way down there, we kept hearing about this big reveal that we thought maybe that was it. That hope was there."

Ayres also said everyone marching thought former President Trump would join them.

The committee’s witnesses were Ayres – who pled guilty last month to charges stemming from his illegal entry into the capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 – and Jason Van Tatenhove – a former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers.

'The Oath Keepers are a dangerous militia that is in large part fed by the ego and drive of Stuart Rhodes, who at times seemed to see himself as this para-military leader," Van Tatenhove said.

The committee shared more details into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election against the advice of his senior staff after the electoral college met in December 2020, cementing Joe Biden’s win. 

"I told him my personal viewpoint was that the electoral college had met... I believed at that point that the means for him to pursue litigation was probably close," Judd Deere, former White House deputy press secretary, said. "What was his response? He disagreed."

The committee detailed a contentious meeting less than a month before the riot. There, outside advisers, including Mike Flynn and Sidney Powell – pushed Trump to take steps to prevent the election from being certified.

The hearing relied on newly-taped testimony from former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipillone, including his reaction to Trump’s attempt in that December 2020 meeting to appoint Powell to the administration and put her in charge of investigating unsubstantiated allegations of fraud.

"I was vehemently opposed," Cipillone said. "I don’t think she should be appointed to anything."

After the meeting — during which Trump’s advisers prevented him from appointing Powell special counsel — the committee says a fired up Trump sent his first tweet urging his supporters to come to Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, prompting a flurry of activity and the planning of that infamous rally.

From then on out, Trump’s supporters kept their eyes glued to calls to action on his Twitter feed.

"Basically when President Trump put his tweet out, that’s when we decided to leave," Ayres said. "If he did it earlier, maybe we wouldn’t have been in this bad a situation."

Panel Outlines Trump Strategy In Run Up To Capitol Riot
Panel Outlines Trump Strategy In Run Up To Capitol Riot

Panel Outlines Trump Strategy In Run Up To Capitol Riot

The committee investigating the Jan 6. insurrection is working to show how far-right extremists answered Trump's call.