WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKBN) – A Trumbull County man categorized as a former supporter of former President Donald Trump testified during Tuesday’s Jan. 6th hearing that he believes Trump fueled the crowd’s actions at the Capitol and acknowledged that his actions have continued to have negative ramifications in his life.
Stephen Ayres, who faces sentencing on September 13 for his role in storming the Capitol, came forward to testify voluntarily, said Jan. 6 Committee Chair Bennie Thompson. The Champion man testified after a former spokesman for the Oath Keepers far-right extremist group.
Tuesday’s hearing focused on the role far-right extremists played in the Capitol attack.
By all accounts, Ayres described himself as a normal family man who had worked as a supervisor at a cabinet company for about 20 years. He said since January 6, he lost his job and sold his house.
“It changed my life, not for the good. Definitely not for the better,” he said.
Ayres said he was “pretty hardcore into the social media” and followed the former president. He believed that the election had been stolen from Trump.
“I was very upset, as were most of his supporters. It was what basically got me to come down here,” he testified.
He went to Washington, D.C. with friends but not with the intention of storming the Capitol building. He said he did not plan on going into the building until he said the president got everyone all riled up.
An affidavit in the case against Ayres said Ayres posted a video on Facebook on the day of the riot, describing what happened. In the almost eight-minute-long video, investigators say Ayres and two others claim ANTIFA breached the Capitol and started breaking windows and doors.
The other man in the video said he and Ayres then “walked right into the Capitol building,” the affidavit said. In the video, Ayres said police “basically let everyone walk in.”
Ayres was identified from surveillance footage among the crowd. A witness told investigators that Ayres had posted on Facebook that if President Trump was “robbed” of the election, “civil war would ensue.”
Tuesday, Ayres said he was hopeful that former Vice President Mike Pence was going to overturn the election. He also thought Trump would be marching with them.
He said he left the area after Trump sent out a tweet, calling his supporters off.
The tweet that came that night read, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” according to the American Presidency Project, which keeps records of presidential documents. Twitter has since deleted Trump’s account.
“To me, if he had done that earlier in the day… we maybe wouldn’t be here in this bad of a situation or something,” Ayres said of Trump’s tweet.
When asked if he still felt that the election was stolen from Trump, he said “not so much now.” He said he came to other conclusions after deleting social media and doing his own research.
“There’s no way you can keep something like that quiet, as big as something like that,” he said. “With all the lawsuits being shot down one after another, that was mainly what convinced me.”
“It makes me mad because I was hanging on every word he was saying,” he said of the former president.
He also had a message for his other supporters: “Take the blinders off, and make sure you step back and see what’s going on before it’s too late.”
This week’s session comes after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified under oath that Trump knowingly sent armed supporters to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and then refused to quickly call them off as violence erupted.
Trump has said Cassidy’s account is not true.
Tuesday is the only hearing set for this week. An expected prime-time hearing Thursday has been shelved for now.