“I didn’t think he or anyone was going to come near the Capitol. I thought it was impossible,” Hardie said. “I never took it seriously.”
“I didn’t think it was something anyone was going to act on,” continued Hardie, who testified under an immunity that prevents his testimony from being used to indict him. “I had no idea before going to DC that there would be anything other than people standing around listening to the president and going and standing around the capitol building. It looks like we were joking. I considered that to be hyperbole.
It is less clear that Reffitt viewed the talk of targeting “corrupt” politicians as mere chatter. He became one of the first members of the pro-Trump crowd to cross police lines and approach the foot of the Capitol, where he clashed with police seeking to halt his advance.
Police pelted Reffitt repeatedly with pepper balls and other projectiles, eventually pepper spraying him. He never entered the Capitol, but can be seen on video appearing to urge President Donald Trump’s horde of supporters to storm the Capitol gates.
Reffitt is charged with five felonies, including attempting to obstruct the Jan. 6 meeting of Congress to finalize the 2020 presidential election, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. He is also accused of transporting a firearm to DC and bringing it to the Capitol grounds. Jurors this week saw video of Reffitt confronting Capitol Police officers on the steps of the Capitol next to the stage that was set up for Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Hardie said the two men agreed to bring their handguns and semi-automatic rifles to Washington, even though they knew they were breaking the law because they didn’t have permits for them.
“We agreed on this concept,” he said. “We said, ‘OK, we’re willing to take that risk.’ We felt like no one would ever know, no one would get hurt, we would be in. We would be out and everyone would go on with their lives.
Hardie’s testimony was the exclamation point for prosecutors on their third day of testimony against Reffitt, a day after Reffitt’s son, Jackson, testified about his own concerns about his father’s radicalization. Jackson Reffitt informed jurors of his decision to report his father to the FBI two weeks before Jan. 6 and surreptitiously tape record him after his return.
Upon returning home, according to tapes made by Jackson Reffitt, his father bragged about his encounter with the police, calling one of them – Capitol Police officer Shauni Kerkhoff “cute” for trying to stop her advance and saying he was “proud of her”. .” Kerkhoff testified Wednesday to his fear as Reffitt led a large crowd at the foot of the Capitol. Kerkhoff’s video and testimony indicated that Reffitt refused multiple orders to leave the area and advanced even amid a barrage of pepperballs, only stopping after being pepper sprayed in the face.
Prosecutors are nearing the end of their case, an important and crucial test as they prepare for dozens of subsequent trials against many of the approximately 800 people charged with breaching the Capitol. Those charged face crimes ranging from seditious conspiracy, obstruction and police assaults to trespassing and picketing a restricted area, and the Justice Department has called the investigation the most complex in history. history of the United States.
Prosecutors will likely wrap up their case on Monday, giving Reffitt a chance to present a defense beyond the rather cursory cross-examination his attorney has conducted so far on prosecution witnesses.
Jurors received a crash course in the importance of the Jan. 6 session, a meeting of Congress required by the Constitution and law to count electoral votes — the final step in the presidential election process. Daniel Schwager, a senior Senate official on Jan. 6, 2021, explained the intricacies of the session to the jury, part of prosecutors’ efforts to show that Reffitt’s actions contributed to the disruption of a solemn — and constitutionally — event. mandatory.
But the most salient and searing part of Schwager’s testimony was the description of the alarm that swept through the Senate as Capitol police and the Secret Service began to evacuate Senators and Vice President Mike Pence from bedroom.
“From the moment I was told protesters had stormed into the Capitol, I was on high alert. We were in a serious situation at that time,” Schwager said, adding that he observed a policeman with “an orange belt and a long gun” positioned in the middle of the Senate Chamber.
Schwager was tracked by Secret Service Special Agent Paul Wade, who was part of Pence’s protection group on January 6, 2021, specifically detailed for his wife Karen and daughter Charlotte.
Wade presented jurors with a detailed timeline of Pence’s departure from the Senate chamber, along with surveillance video of officers escorting Pence to a safe location in the middle of the building’s breach.
“Information received led us to believe there was an imminent threat as people were entering the building at the time. So the decision was made to move the vice president,” Wade said.
Wade also noted that the agency decided to move Pence’s motorcade away from the Capitol’s eastern front, a decision he said was prompted by the growing crowds approaching the Capitol.
“People were breaking the bike racks and entering the square,” he said. “Our first thought was to move the motorcade.”
Jurors then viewed surveillance footage of Pence’s motorcade moving.