WASHINGTON — A former Donald Trump supporter who admitted participating in the attack on the U.S. Capitol told the Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday that the trust he placed in the former president had derailed his life and ruined his reputation.
Stephen Ayres testified Tuesday that he had a family and a job at a cabinet company when he entered the Capitol on Jan. 6. Ayres, who shared a poster featuring a quote from Trump's December 2020 "will be wild" tweet before Jan. 6, said he came to D.C. because the president called him to do so.
Ayres said he believed the president's false claims about the 2020 election. Being told the election was stolen made him feel "very upset," he said.
"I felt like I needed to be down here," Ayres said.
After his arrest, Ayres said, he got off of social media and looked into the lawsuits that had been filed, which showed that Trump's claims about a stolen election were baseless. He said he now realizes that claims about a massive criminal conspiracy didn't make any sense.
"It's too big," Ayres said. "There'd be no way to keep something like that quiet."
Ayres said he was not expecting to go to the Capitol when he showed up to Trump's rally on the morning of Jan. 6. He said he felt fired up after Trump's speech and that Trump's comments about then-Vice President Mike Pence made everyone angry.
He said he went to the Capitol because Trump got everyone riled up and told them to go to there. “We basically were just following what he said," he said.
He thought that Trump would be marching with them to the Capitol and held out hope that the election might be overturned.
Ayres said that he decided to leave the Capitol when Trump tweeted that they should do so and that a lot of other people in the crowd did as well.
Ayres is not a member of the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers, the extremist groups at the center of Tuesday's hearing. But he said on Jan. 6 he felt like both groups were fighting for the same cause as he was in support of Trump.
Ayres said that he regretted listening to Trump and that going to the Capitol on Jan. 6 had derailed his life. He said he lost his job and had to sell his house.
"It definitely changed my life, not for the good," Ayres said. "Definitely not for the better."
Trump’s promotion of the “big lie” about the 2020 election makes Ayres angry, he said, because his life has been so negatively affected. “It makes me mad because I was hanging on every word he was saying,” he said.
Ayres testified that he “felt like I had, like, horse blinders on” when he was following Trump.
“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,” he said.
Ayres is one of more than 840 people who have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. His sentencing is set for September.