The select committee investigating the riot at the U.S. Capitol is expected to begin laying out evidence Thursday night that former President Donald Trump helped lead a coordinated effort to sidestep his election loss that culminated in the historic insurrection.
The committee reportedly plans to detail the involvement of right-wing extremists, such as the Proud Boys, a national group that helped swarm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as Congress sought to certify President Joe Biden’s victory.
Men toting Arizona flags and wearing camouflage and distinctive blaze orange caps associated with the group were among the more prominent images of a day that shook the nation.
It is only one of the many Arizona threads running through an investigation seen by many as a critical warning about American democracy and dismissed as “partisan warfare” by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.
Biggs attended White House planning sessions to keep Trump in office and helped spread the false narrative of a stolen election. He is among the GOP members who have refused to cooperate with the probe.
Follow coverage of the Jan. 6 hearings in Congress by Republic and USA TODAY reporters here.
How to watch:Jan. 6 committee hearings
6 p.m.: Cheney outlines schedule for hearings
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., outlined the expected schedule for the committee’s seven hearings in coming days and suggests when some of the Arizona matters may come into play.
The second hearing, scheduled for Monday, will show that former President Donald Trump knew from his own campaign that he had lost the election before all of the votes were counted.
That could shed new light on what his team advised about Arizona, which proved to be the closest state Trump lost in 2020.
The fourth hearing is expected to focus on the pressure campaign on former Vice President Mike Pence to use the certification hearing on Jan. 6, 2021, to put into motion a plan to sidestep results in states that Trump lost.
The fifth hearing will cover the pressure campaign on state-level election officials and the use of “alternate electors” who would claim Trump won states certified for President Joe Biden.
That could bring up the efforts in Arizona that included calls from Trump to Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, and state Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott. Fann ultimately pursued a review of Maricopa County ballots. Bowers rejected the pressure because Trump’s team, including U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, never provided him with what he viewed as appropriate evidence of a stolen election.
The sixth and seventh hearings will include information about the violent mobs that showed up at the Capitol.
That could bring about information relating to the “Stop the Steal” effort headed by Ali Alexander, who credited Biggs and Gosar with helping bring together people in Washington that day.
— Ronald J. Hansen
4:45 p.m.: Lesko calls hearing ‘political theater’
Following up on reports that on the eve of the riot she expected supporters of then-President Donald Trump to “go nuts,” Rep. Debbie Lesko castigated Democrats for engaging in “political theater.”
Lesko, R-Ariz., told congressional leaders the day before the Jan. 6, 2021, riot that Trump’s eventual loss would create problems, according to audio released Wednesday by New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns.
In the tape, Lesko says:
“I’m actually very concerned about this because we have who knows how many hundreds of thousands of people coming here. We have Antifa. We also have, quite honestly, Trump supporters who actually believe that we are going to overturn the election. And when that doesn’t happen – most likely will not happen – they are going to go nuts.”
Lesko deflected from her comment in a written statement on Thursday ahead of the hearing, saying that the primary concern for everyone should be about security.
“As tonight’s hearing gets underway, the number one question the Committee should be seeking to answer is why was the U.S. Capitol not secure? Instead, the Committee will broadcast the Democrats’ latest exercise in political theater.
“In the days leading up to January 6, 2021, everyone knew the conditions were ripe for chaos. Thousands of people were converging on Washington, D.C. to make their voices heard and tensions were high throughout our nation. I shared my concerns about security with Congressional Leadership and even prepared my staff. I wrongly assumed that (House) Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi was doing the same to protect the U.S. Capitol.
“Had the Capitol been properly secured on January 6th there would be no hearing this evening, there would be nothing to investigate. But, due to a failure of leadership, lives were lost. January 6, 2021, was a troubling day for our nation that could have — and should have — been prevented.”
— Ronald J. Hansen
4 p.m.: Fake GOP electors part of plan to upend election
The group of Arizona Republicans who met Dec. 14, 2020, at state party headquarters made no secret that they were signing a document falsely declaring themselves the state’s official presidential electors. After the ceremony, the party sent out a news release. The meeting was posted on YouTube.
What was not clear at the time was that this was not an empty exercise.
The document creating a second set of declared presidential electors out of Arizona was part of a strategy intended to upend or delay the official certification of the 2020 election in Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, and possibly keep Donald Trump as president.
The meeting at which the Arizona Republicans falsely swore themselves the state’s official electors has drawn the interest of the Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. The committee has subpoenaed three of the 11 Republicans who signed the document, including Kelli Ward, the head of the Arizona Republican Party.
The falsely declared Arizona electors have not explained what led them to the hold the meeting or whose advice they followed on procedures. One elector, now a state lawmaker, Rep. Jake Hoffman, repeatedly refused to answer a Republic reporter’s question about how he knew where to go for the meeting.
Had Trump won Arizona, the 11 Republicans who met would have cast Arizona’s official votes in the Electoral College, the constitutionally mandated body that actually votes for the president.
Related:US Senate candidate Jim Lamon explains why he falsely claimed to be an Arizona elector
The fake Republican electors met at the same time Arizona’s official electors, as chosen by the state Democratic Party, met to cast their votes for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Among the notable fake alternate Republican electors from Arizona, besides Hoffman, were Jim Lamon, now a U.S. Senate candidate; Anthony Kern, a former state lawmaker running for a state Senate seat; and Ward.
Arizona creating an alternate elector slate was part of a plan to throw a wrench into the typically rote ceremony of the vice president counting each state’s Electoral College votes. That plan was outlined by John Eastman, a lawyer brought on to the Trump team in December 2020.
Eastman proposed having seven states submit competing slates of electors to be counted on Jan. 6, 2020. Vice President Mike Pence, the theory went, could say that with competing slates of electors, neither one could be counted.
Pence then could declare Trump the winner, since Trump would have won the majority of the electoral votes he was able to count.
If Congress protested, as Eastman’s memo theorized it might, Pence would throw the election to the House, where, following a procedure in the U.S. Constitution, each state’s delegation would get one vote. At the time, the memo pointed out, 26 out of the 50 states had Republican majority delegations. “President Trump is re-elected there as well,” the memo said.
Eastman’s memo predicted that, going alphabetically, the first disputed state Pence would encounter would be Arizona.
It is not clear exactly when this strategy was hatched.
Eastman wrote his first memo on Christmas Eve 2020. That was 10 days after the Arizona Republicans had met and sent its documents falsely declaring themselves the state’s “duly elected and qualified” presidential electors.
But, on Tuesday, a federal judge wrote in a ruling that the plan to disrupt the Jan. 6, 2021, joint session of Congress was “fully formed and actionable” as early as Dec. 7, 2020.
That would be one week before the alternate slate of Republican electors met at party headquarters.
The judge’s ruling Tuesday involved a dispute between Eastman and the select committee over what emails Eastman needed to turn over to the committee. The emails sought were sent between Nov. 3, 2020, which was Election Day, and Jan. 20, 2021, which was the day Biden was inaugurated.
Among the emails in question, according to the ruling, are invitations to state lawmakers to attend virtual meetings over Zoom. One listed as an agenda item for a Dec. 8, 2020, meeting, Eastman speaking about “State legislative actions that can reverse the media-called election for Joe Biden.”
Keep reading:Arizona Attorney General’s Office sought case against fake Republican presidential electors
During those December weeks, Eastman was contacting “sympathetic state legislators in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona, urging them to decertify Biden electors and certify alternate Trump electors,” the judge’s ruling says.
At the time, the ruling says, Eastman was convinced that the states didn’t just need to appoint alternate electors. Instead, he thought each state legislature needed to decertify its election and appoint its own slate.
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers was under pressure from attorneys for Trump to do just that. In a news release on Dec. 4, 2020, Bowers said that the Trump legal team made the “breathtaking” request that Arizona lawmakers disregard the election results and take it upon themselves to appoint the presidential electors.
In interviews with The Republic, Bowers described such pressure dating back to the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Bowers said that Rudy Giuliani, a Trump attorney, asked him to take advantage of a unique Arizona law that allowed the legislature to appoint electors rather than the voters.
Bowers refused to entertain the notion, neither in November nor following the in-person meeting in December.
Even though Arizona’s Legislature refused to throw out the election results, the Arizona electors met at party headquarters to declare themselves the state’s official electors. In six other states, all states carried by Biden, similar groups of Republicans met to make similar declarations.
Democracy in Doubt:‘Asked to do something huge’: An audacious pitch to reverse Arizona’s election results
The wordings on each state’s documents were nearly uniform. The font and design were identical.
Two states, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, inserted language that said the Republican electors would only be valid under certain future conditions. But Arizona, along with the other four states, flatly declared themselves the state’s official electors.
The meeting opened with a prayer, according to postings on Twitter from the Arizona Republican Party. The document they each were to sign was read out loud, according to video posted by the party. Then, the electors broke out in applause.
A copy of the document was sent by certified mail to the National Archives. It was preserved, but officially ignored. Another copy was sent to the U.S. Senate. It is not clear what happened to that document.
In his speech to supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, just before the crowd caused mayhem during its breach of the U.S. Capitol, Trump mentioned the plan for Pence to employ the alternate electors.
“If Pence does the right thing,” Trump said, “we win.”
— Richard Ruelas
3 p.m.: Ali Alexander cooperated and that affects Biggs, Gosar
Ali Alexander, the architect of the “Stop the Steal” movement, cooperated with the committee early on, and that could shed light on what more the panel has learned about Arizona Republican Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar.
It’s unclear when Alexander’s contributions may come up, but when they do, it could offer some of the most important information the committee gathered involving two of the more controversial members of Congress.
In a since-deleted social media post before the attack on the Capitol, Alexander singled out Biggs and Gosar, along with Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., for helping give his group’s effort success.
Alexander called Gosar the movement’s “spirit animal” and said he spoke “in person” to Biggs. A spokesman for Biggs insisted in the days after the riot that Biggs had no direct contact with Alexander, so their interaction remains a point of wide factual dispute.
Alexander also had ties to state Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, and former state Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, who spoke at “Stop the Steal” rallies and were at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Finchem and Kern were mingling with crowds amassed on the Capitol steps, photos, texts and social media accounts show.
— Robert Anglen
2 p.m.: The most memorable U.S. Capitol rioter was from Arizona
Arguably the highest-profile protester at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was a horn-hatted, bare-chested, heavily shamanistic tattooed man from Phoenix seen carrying a spear through hallways as he squared off with police.
Jake Angeli, 34, was recorded on video strutting into the U.S. Senate chamber and taking the dais. He left a note for Vice President Mike Pence — “It’s only a matter of time. Justice is coming!” — that prosecutors said was a threat.
Angeli, according to prosecutors citing security footage, was among the first people to breach the Capitol. A federal judge said that Angeli “quite literally spearheaded it.”
His attire — fur hat with horns, his face painted red, white and blue; intricate tattoos visible on his bare chest; holding a spear — made him one of the most-photographed and recognizable protesters.
He has since been mocked on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and by the Sirius XM radio host Howard Stern, among others. A play in London inspired by Trump’s presidency, “The 47th,” features a character dressed in Angeli’s getup.
Angeli told FBI agents that he went to Washington, D.C., because he was answering the call from President Donald Trump, who had asked supporters to amass on the day Congress would officially certify the 2020 election.
The thought, expressed by Trump himself in a speech just before the riot, was that enough public pressure would push Congress to delay or reject the election results.
Angeli, who was charged under his legal name Jacob Chansley, was sentenced to 41 months in prison in November.
He had expressed disappointment that Trump did not pardon Jan. 6 protesters before leaving office. “I am deeply disappointed in former President Trump,” Angeli said in a February 2021 statement. “He was not honorable. He let a lot of peaceful people down.”
At least 11 people with ties to Arizona were federally charged with crimes related to their conduct at or near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Some of them have said in interviews or court pleadings that they went to D.C. that day to express loyalty to Trump.
A gladiator, an Olympian and a shaman:Here are people with ties to Arizona who face charges in Capitol riot
Edward Vallejo, who was indicted on federal charges of seditious conspiracy, said in January that he travelled to the D.C. area at the president’s behest. “The president I elected asked me to go,” Vallejo, 63, said in a recorded phone conversation he had a friend release as his official statement. “That’s bottom line Number One.”
Former Olympic swimmer Klete Keller said as part of his guilty plea that he stormed the Capitol with the intent of “stopping or delaying” the certification of the vote. Keller wore his Team USA jacket in the Capitol, but later threw it away, along with his phone and memory card. Keller, 40, as part of his plea, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Nathan Entrekin, who took part in the melee dressed as a warrior character from the Book of Mormon, said he drove to D.C. from his northern Arizona home in Cottonwood in hopes of derailing Trump’s electoral loss.
“I and my fellow Americans felt the urge to make our presence known that day, in order to protest the November 3, 2020 election results and, somehow, someway, sway the minds of Congress,” Entrekin wrote in a letter to the judge ahead of his April sentencing.
Entrekin, 49, likened the storming of the U.S. Capitol to sports fans flooding a field after a victory.
Siblings Felica and Cory Konold, both in their 20s, merely meant to attend Trump’s speech, their attorney said in court filings, though prosecutors said they were photographed dismantling metal barriers set up by police outside the Capitol.
Ryan Zink, 32, of Lubbock, was at the Capitol with his father, Jeff, who is running for a congressional seat representing parts of Phoenix and Glendale. Prosecutors, in a complaint, said that he took video of himself breaching the Capitol while saying: “We’ve knocked down the gates! We’re storming the Capitol! You can’t stop us.”
James Burton McGrew, 39, attended the rally with his mother, serving as a travelling companion after the friend she planned to go with backed out, court records say. McGrew’s attorney said the man became trapped in the crowd and forced into a tunnel entrance.
However, a federal complaint said McGrew was captured on video saying, “We’re coming in here, whether you like it or not” and “Fight with us, not against us.”
At least two people from Arizona facing Jan. 6-related charges have claimed not to have been motivated by politics, but instead a desire to witness history.
Tim Gionet, 34, a man who gave himself the online persona of Baked Alaska, livestreamed himself walking through the halls of the U.S. Capitol cursing at law enforcement and shouting “Patriots are in control” and “1776 will commence again.”
Gionet’s attorney told the court in a filing that Gionet was only there to film what was taking place.
Micajah Joel Jackson, 26, who was photographed marching alongside members of the Proud Boys militia group, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of picketing at the Capitol. Jackson told he Republic in May 2021 that he was simply there to document the goings-on.
“I’m just a young man, trying to find my place,” he said. “It was a crazy day there.”
— Richard Ruelas
1 p.m.: Arizona connections to the probe
As the Democratic-led House committee begins showing its evidence, there are several major Arizona-related matters to clarify.
Here’s the longer version of arguably the top five.
What does the committee say about the roles of Arizona Republican Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs? The panel sought but failed to get Biggs’ testimony, but it didn’t make a similar request of Gosar. That seems odd because they were both involved in many of the same activities that the committee indicated knowing more about.
Both, for example, attended a December 2020 strategy meeting at the White House and both pressed Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, to help in their effort to question or replace the state’s certified election results.
White House phone calls, baseless fraud:The origins of the Arizona election review
Another big question is what to make of the Trump electors who submitted paperwork claiming a Trump victory in Arizona. Were those participants trying to preserve legal arguments for Trump, or were they aware it could be used to justify setting aside election results?
There were at least some people tied to extremist groups from Arizona at the Capitol on Jan. 6, and some have already been charged or convicted. But will the committee make clear how the national network of extremists interacted with locals in Arizona?
Finally, there are other people whom the committee has subpoenaed or otherwise shown an interest in interviewing. They range from Maricopa County officials who helped conduct the election that Trump cast into doubt to Kelli Ward, the chair of the Arizona Republican Party who tried to stop the ballot counting and organized the “alternate electors” to benefit Trump.
— Ronald J. Hansen
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism