Regretful Capitol Rioter Says Trump's Election Lies Had Him Hooked, Warns Believers to 'Take Blinders Off'

Stephen Ayres testified that he was "hanging onto every word" Trump said before Jan. 6, crediting social media with pushing him further down the conspiracy rabbit hole

Less than two years ago, Stephen Ayres felt a duty to honor President Donald Trump.

"I was hanging on every word he was saying. Every word he was putting out, I was following it," Ayres said. Now, the self-described family man wishes he hadn't.

Ayres pleaded guilty to a federal charge last month for illegally entering the U.S. Capitol with a mob of fellow Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021. On Tuesday, he stood before the House committee investigating the Capitol riots and expressed remorse for letting one man's rhetoric get in the way of his love of country and family.

When the committee asked Ayres how he found himself marching up the steps of the Capitol on what is now considered one of the darkest days in modern American history, he replied under oath, "For me personally, I was pretty hardcore into the social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I followed President Trump on all the websites. He basically put out, 'Come to Stop the Steal rally,' and I felt like I needed to come down here."

At the time, Ayres testified, he wholeheartedly believed that the election had been stolen — because Trump told him it was. As he moved from the rally toward the Capitol, he and others were under the impression that a big announcement was happening and that then-Vice President Mike Pence might refuse to count the votes for Joe Biden.

"We didn't actually plan to go down [to the Capitol]," he testified. But when Trump riled up the crowd, apparently giving them the impression that he would march to the Capitol alongside them, their plans changed. "We basically were just following what he said."

Looking back, Ayres believes that his participation in the Jan. 6 riot was misguided.

In previous public hearings about the events of that day, members of Trump's inner circle have repeatedly testified before the House committee that there was no evidence of widespread fraud found in the 2020 presidential election — and that Trump pushed forward with the fraud claims fully aware of it.

After Jan. 6, Ayres stepped away from social media and quickly realized he had gotten sucked into Trump's conspiracy. "I started doing my own research and everything," he testified. "For something like that to actually take place, it's too big. There's no way you can keep something like that quiet."

Ayres said that if he had known Trump was being told by advisors that there was no election fraud, he may not have attended the D.C. rally and subsequent riot in the first place.

"It changed my life," Ayres said of his participation. "Definitely not for the better."

Ayres told the committee that he's "mad" Trump continues to claim the 2020 election was stolen, when all evidence points against it.

Speaking to people who still believe Trump's election lies: "The biggest thing to me is, take the blinders off. Make sure you step back and see what's going on. Before it's too late."

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