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Former Oath Keepers spokesman, Capitol rioter to testify at Jan. 6 hearing

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Bannon offers to testify before Jan. 6 panel
Trump ally Steve Bannon offers to testify before January 6th panel; lawmakers prepare for next hearing 06:22

Washington — Tuesday's hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol will feature testimony from a former spokesman for a far-right militia group and a rioter who pleaded guilty to illegally entering the Capitol building. The hearing will focus on the role of extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers in the Jan. 6 attack and the ties between former President Donald Trump's associates and the far right.

Two sources familiar with the House committee's plans told CBS News that Jason Van Tatenhove, the former media director for the Oath Keepers, will testify Tuesday. The former Colorado resident told The Denver Post that he moved to Montana to embed with the militia group to write a book, but he instead ended up writing for the group's website and running its social media presence for a year and a half. 

He ultimately cut ties with the group in 2016.

In his blog, The Colorado Switchblade, Van Tatenhove said he has "been asked to give a historical overview" of groups like the Oath Keepers in the hearing. He has previously spoken to the committee once over Zoom and then again in person on March 9.

The hearing will also feature testimony from Stephen Ayres, one source familiar with the committee's plans confirmed to CBS News. Ayres has acknowledged attending the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally and then converging on the Capitol building near the U.S. Senate doors. Ayres on June 8 pleaded guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct.

According to his signed plea agreement, Ayres, who is from the Youngstown, Ohio, area, posted about his plans for a Jan. 6 trip to Washington, D.C., on Facebook during the week prior to the attack. One of his Facebook posts quoted Trump's Dec. 19, 2020, tweet predicting a "wild" scene in the nation's capital on Jan. 6. The post included an image of a poster that read "January 6th Washington, DC, the president is calling on us to come back to Washington on January 6th for a big protest - 'Be there, will be wild.'"

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida, who will co-lead Tuesday's hearing, said the committee will attempt to show that Trump's tweet was a call to action to far-right groups and other alleged rioters.     

"You'll see the evidence that we have of how the president's tweet in the wee hours of December 19 activated the groups, and how the members of Congress amplified that tweet, and the tragic end result was Jan. 6," she said in an interview with CBS News ahead of the hearing.

The plea agreement states that Ayres entered the Capitol and stayed inside for about 10 minutes on Jan. 6. "The defendant joined with others in chanting and parading inside the Capitol," the agreement reads.

Ayres admitted to being one of three people seen discussing the Capitol breach in a hotel room in a video posted to YouTube on Jan. 7. According to the plea agreement, "Ayres stated [in the video] that the 'fake news' would not accurately report on what happened at the Capitol but that they had 'seen it all' and they 'got footage all over the place on the Capitol' and that they would 'probably share some of it here and there.'"

Prosecutors also accused Ayres of saying on social media prior to January 6 that "civil war would ensue" if Trump were denied the presidency.

The Jan. 6 committee has not publicly announced that Van Tatenhove and Ayres will testify, citing concerns for their security and potential harassment. In addition to the planned testimony, committee aides said the hearing will highlight links between Trump associates — specifically, Trump confidant Roger Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn — and violent extremists.

Nikole Killion contributed reporting.

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