The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers were in contact with members of former President Donald Trump’s inner circle, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, claimed after the panel held its first prime-time hearing on Thursday.
When pressed by CNN’s Jake Tapper, Thompson said the Jan. 6 panel has witnesses that can attest to conversations that took place between the members of the two right-wing groups and Trump’s allies, but he declined to elaborate further.
“Are there going to be witnesses that describe actual conversations between these extremist groups and anyone in Trump’s orbit?” Tapper asked.
“Yes. Obviously, you’ll have to go through the hearings, but we have a number of witnesses who come forward that people have not talked to before. It will document a lot of what was going on in Trump’s orbit while all of this occurring,” Thompson replied.
The Proud Boys describe themselves as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” The Oath Keepers is a loosely organized group largely composed of former law enforcement and military personnel, according to the Justice Department.
Prosecutors have hit members of both groups with seditious conspiracy and other charges for their actions surrounding the Capitol riot.
“Everything that the public heard tonight is factual. We can prove it,” Thompson further emphasized. He stressed that the committee made a conscious effort to only present facts.
Tapper pressed about whether the panel was working to build a criminal case for the Justice Department to use against Trump. He noted comments from vice chairwoman Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) about seditious conspiracy in which she insisted the “attack on the Capitol was not a spontaneous riot.”
“That’s not our job. We are there to look at the facts and circumstances and provide recommendations to Congress. The Justice Department has inquired [about] our sharing of our information,” Thompson responded. “We expect to make that available to them at some point.”
“We are building a case based on the facts and circumstances that our investigation determines,” Thompson said.