The House committee investigating Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election and the deadly January 6 insurrection at the Capitol holds its first public hearing Thursday night in primetime, as five members of the far-right Proud Boys are indicted for seditious conspiracy. “These hearings will provide voters with a choice between those who will want to continue to defend free and fair elections and those who want to take away the will of the people,” says Kristen Doerer, managing editor of Right Wing Watch, who previews what to expect.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
After 10 months of meeting in private, the House committee investigating Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election and the deadly January 6th insurrection at the Capitol will hold its first public hearing tonight in primetime at 8 p.m. Eastern. Democracy Now! will live-stream the hearings at democracynow.org. The next hearing is Monday. But tonight’s will be the first of eight congressional hearings, modeled in part on the 1973 Watergate hearings. Democracy Now! will be streaming the hearing at democracynow.org.
In a moment, we’ll be joined by a researcher at Right Wing Watch, which is a project of People for the American Way. But first let’s turn to a video the group just released looking at one figure at the center of the coordinated effort to overturn the 2020 election. The video is narrated by Kristen Doerer, managing editor of Right Wing Watch.
KRISTEN DOERER: Public hearings begin June 9th for the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Among those who are likely to figure prominently in their findings, Ali Alexander, the Republican political operative behind the so-called Stop the Steal campaign.
ALI ALEXANDER: Trump won! Trump won! Trump won! Trump won! Let’s terrify this town!
KRISTEN DOERER: Right Wing Watch extensively investigated the Stop to Steal campaign ahead of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Here’s what you need to know.
So, who is Ali Alexander, and what is Stop the Steal?
On November 4th, 2020, Donald Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots were being used to steal the election, and he declared himself the victor. Waiting in the wings was Ali Alexander. He publicly launched Stop the Steal, a campaign to get right-wing activists to discredit mail-in voting, disrupt vote counting and falsely accuse local officials of stealing the election.
Ali Alexander served as the lead organizer. He called on his deep network of Republican legislators, political strategists and far-right activists to join the effort. These were people he knew through his years in Republican politics and from his time as a member of the highly secretive Council for National Policy, whose influential members include the likes of Ginni Thomas.
The campaign targeted Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia, battleground states won by Joe Biden and whose cities are home to large Black and Brown populations. Ali Alexander and his cohort held rallies and spread disinformation. Along with Trump, Stop the Steal falsely claimed voter fraud was widespread, even after Trump’s own DOJ found no such evidence.
So, how did Ali Alexander and Stop the Steal contribute to January 6th?
In mid-November, far-right members of Congress, conspiracy theorists, Christian nationalists, extremist groups and Trump diehards came together under the Stop the Steal banner in Washington, D.C. Newly elected Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert and Madison Cawthorn addressed the crowd alongside organizers. Radical conspiracy theorist Alex Jones brought an InfoWars caravan. Members of the neofascist Proud Boys roamed the streets looking for fights, and found them late in the evening. White nationalist Nick Fuentes and his America First group commanded the crowd’s attention. Violent rhetoric became a key feature of these events.
During a December Stop the Steal rally, Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the anti-government extremist group Oath Keepers, called on Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act and declare martial law.
STEWART RHODES: If he does not do it now while he is commander-in-chief, we’re going to have to do it ourselves later in a much more desperate, much more bloody war.
KRISTEN DOERER: In late December, Ali Alexander claimed credit for organizing the event that would take place on January 6th, along with three congressmen.
ALI ALEXANDER: I was the person who came up with the January 6th idea with Congressman Gosar, Congressman Mo Brooks and then Congressman Andy Biggs.
KRISTEN DOERER: Alexander spent weeks leading up to the attack calling for rebellion. He even appeared to call for physical attacks on members of Congress.
ALI ALEXANDER: To all these weak-kneed Republicans, I say: What would you do if somebody broke into your house and stole something, and they were — well, I don’t want to say still in your front yard, because I know what we’d do. Let’s say they made it out to the road. I don’t want to be accused of anything yet. Yet. Let them hear that: Yet.
KRISTEN DOERER: On January 5th, Alexander held a rally by the White House. He said that the Stop to Steal activists were starting a rebellion against the deep state. And he began chants of “Victory or death.”
ALI ALEXANDER: Victory or death! Victory or death!
KRISTEN DOERER: Ahead of January 6th, Trump had called for a wild protest at the U.S. Capitol. Alexander had used that to promote his own wild Stop the Steal rally at the Capitol. On January 6th, Ali Alexander was a VIP attendee at the “Save America” rally on the Ellipse.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We will stop the steal.
KRISTEN DOERER: When Trump told the crowd to march on the Capitol, Alexander joined Alex Jones, walking past barricades onto the Capitol grounds and up the Capitol steps, where Trump loyalists were fighting their way inside. The two retreated to a terrace overlooking the Capitol. Despite what he had seen up close, Alexander claimed that it was peaceful.
ALI ALEXANDER: I don’t disavow this. I do not denounce this. This is completely peaceful.
KRISTEN DOERER: But he didn’t stop there.
ALI ALEXANDER: StopTheSteal.US is going to be the home of the rebellion against an illegitimate government.
KRISTEN DOERER: So, you’re wondering: What’s happened since?
Ali Alexander went underground following the attack on the U.S. Capitol. He got kicked off mainstream social media platforms and lost access to Venmo, PayPal, Cash App, claiming Twitter trolls had taken everything from him.
Last fall, the House select committee issued three subpoenas: one to Alexander, another to the Stop the Steal organization and a third to Nathan Martin, an associate of Alexander’s. In December, he testified for eight hours behind closed doors. This spring, his lawyer said he would cooperate with the Department of Justice. But the next day, Alexander joined Alex Jones on his InfoWars show to suggest he wouldn’t.
Alexander has denied wrongdoing and has called Stop the Steal “beautiful.” January 6th, he said, was a government psyop, a conspiracy to prevent Trump from winning in 2024.
His violent rhetoric hasn’t stopped, either. He mused to Alex Jones that there is time for legitimate violence when there is legitimate tyranny. We’re likely to see and hear more about Alexander and his coordination with members of Congress at the House select committee hearings.
AMY GOODMAN: That was the voice of Kristen Doerer, the managing editor of Right Wing Watch, which produced that video. Kristen is joining us now to talk about tonight’s historic hearings.
The hearings come as Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and four other leaders of the far-right Proud Boys have been charged with seditious conspiracy over their roles in the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. Also, one of the people who will be testifying tonight — we don’t know everything that’s going to happen at this first public hearing of the January 6th committee, but Nick Quested, who is a journalist embedded with the Proud Boys, will be testifying tonight.
Kristen Doerer, welcome to Democracy Now! You really laid a portion of this insurrection out right there. Can you talk about what you expect to see tonight, what you feel needs to be raised, and the coming together of this very serious charge of seditious conspiracy against the leaders of Proud Boys?
KRISTEN DOERER: Yes. Thank you for having me.
I think what needs to be immediately addressed is that this attack was not a spur-of-a-moment event. I know the select committee will be looking at not just the events that happened on January 6th, but also the step-by-step efforts by Trump Republicans, Trump himself and far-right activists to overturn the will of the people and to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Now, what I think we’ll see today is that, as you mentioned, we have the documentary filmmaker who was embedded with the Proud Boys. He will be testifying, and he will be looking at the video and footage that he took while he was embedded with the Proud Boys during 2020.
Now, the Proud Boys, five — five members of the Proud Boys have been charged with seditious conspiracy. And the indictment by the federal government reads much like the indictment for the Oath Keepers, in the sense that there was organized planning, they reached out to the leaders of state chapters, and they were willing to use — there was discussion of willing to use violence.
So, what we’ll see today is particularly one moment, and that is the documentary filmmaker caught a moment when Joe Biggs, one of the leaders of the Proud Boys who is facing seditious conspiracy charges now, he was speaking with an individual on January 6th in front of the barricades on the Capitol. After that moment, that individual went and confronted a police officer and knocked over a barricade. So that moment is seen as the turning point for the events that happened on January 6th.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Kristen, could you elaborate on what you think the public, what Americans are — the committee hopes that Americans will learn about the events of January 6th, and whether those — that opinions will be swayed by the information, new information, that’s reportedly going to be disclosed during the course of these hearings?
KRISTEN DOERER: Right. So, I think what the committee is hoping Americans realize is that this was not a spur-of-the-moment event. And as much as some Trump Republicans will claim that this was just a minor riot, this was a very violent attack. Five police officers died as a result of that day. About 150 were injured. This was a very violent attack in which people were — these Trump loyalists were calling for the hanging of Mike Pence. They were trying to hunt down Nancy Pelosi. They built gallows on the Capitol grounds. This was a very violent event. But I think what they’ll also try to be making clear is that this was not just a spur-of-the-moment event. This was organized. The efforts to overturn the election was organized in the months ahead of time.
You know, there’s going to be — they’re going to focus on Trump’s own personal culpability, what some members of Congress have done, along with those connections that Trump Republicans have with these extremist groups who carried out the attack on the Capitol.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, this is an incredible moment, Kristen Doerer. This all has been happening basically secretly, this investigation, privately. I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to the American public. So, what are the key points? Apparently, you know, they interviewed like a thousand people and videotaped most of those interviews, if not all. Ivanka Trump, apparently, they will be perhaps playing clips of her. She was alone with her father for much of that day, President Trump, when everyone was texting in, saying, “You’ve got to stop this,” and he refused for hours. What do you think are the critical points that must come through tonight? I mean, it’s being produced by a former head of ABC News.
KRISTEN DOERER: So, I think the critical points that will be coming through is the violent events, the fact that this was planned. You know, that is what we see in these indictments, was that this was a conspiracy and that this was a planned attack.
I think we’ll see that this — that Trump and congressional Republicans and extremists like Ali Alexander, Republican political operatives like Roger Stone, the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, that all of these groups worked to overturn the election by spreading disinformation and by truly wanting to overturn the will of the people, and they were willing to use violence to do so, and that they also had connections to some Trump Republicans.
And I think what will happen is that these hearings will provide voters with a choice between those who will want to continue to defend free and fair elections and those who want to take away the will of the people.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Kristen, finally, The Wall Street Journal has reported — and you suggested this earlier, too — that the Trump supporters are planning a countercampaign, which will begin tonight, to dismiss the hearing as politically motivated, as an attempt to distract from the failures of the Biden administration, inflation, rising gas prices, etc. Could you say a little whether you know what exactly they’re planning to do or say, this campaign, which is allegedly, reportedly, going to begin tonight? And also, if the Republicans, as many say they will, take the House in the midterms, they’re saying that they will absolutely end this investigation, the January 6th investigation.
KRISTEN DOERER: Yeah. So, immediately after the attack on the Capitol, we saw this about-face by those Republicans who were aligned with Trump. They have been trying to downplay the event, because it does not serve them well during elections. They have been trying to just sweep it under the rug, move on, forget about it, and critique Democrats.
But the fact of the matter is that this was a serious assault on our country and on our democracy. And I think what we’ll see from Republicans is, again, another effort to downplay it, deflect. They’ve claimed that this is a partisan committee, even though you have two Republicans on the committee, including Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. And so, they’re going to claim that it’s partisan and it’s a witch hunt — all things that we’ve seen. And they will try to focus on, you know, left — they’ll say it’s a left-wing conspiracy of some sort. We’ve seen all this language before. This is nothing new. Immediately after the attack on the Capitol, a lot of Republicans started to claim that it was actually antifa. This was carried out by Trump supporters, who were fired up by Trump himself and by other extremist groups.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, apparently, Fox News will not be running this live but may be doing it as, quote, “news warrants.” And the significance of that, that some in the population will see this, others will not? And that this is just the beginning of eight? And who the audience is? I mean, the American public, Merrick Garland, the question of whether the attorney general will move further and criminally, perhaps, indict President Trump? You have 20 seconds.
KRISTEN DOERER: Well, first, I will just say that, yes, Fox is running counterprogramming and that it will be held by Tucker Carlson. And we know what type of news commentator Tucker Carlson is. So he will deflect and claim that this is a witch hunt.
But I just want to go back and say the bottom line to these hearings —
AMY GOODMAN: Ten seconds.
KRISTEN DOERER: — is that it will provide voters with a choice between those who want to continue to defend free and fair elections and those who want to take away the will of the people.
AMY GOODMAN: Kristen Doerer, we want to thank you for being with us, managing editor of Right Wing Watch. Tomorrow we will bring you excerpts of the hearing tonight. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.