January 20, 2022
In the year that it has been in office, the Biden administration has had to deal with something unprecedented in our history: a former president who refused to admit he lost the election and who has worked ever since, alongside allies, to undermine the administration of his successor.
Trump’s plot to overturn the election and undermine our democracy continues to become clearer. This morning, The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell revealed that former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who was Melania Trump’s chief of staff before resigning on January 6, had news for the House Select Committee Investigating the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. She told the committee that in the days before the insurrection, then-president Trump held secret meetings in the White House residence. Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, arranged the meetings, and the former chief usher, a Trump loyalist named Timothy Harleth, would send the participants upstairs.
The committee wants to know whether Trump actually planned to walk to the Capitol with the rally attendees as he promised. If he told the crowd he was going but did not actually intend to go, it would offer evidence that he was hoping to incite an insurrection. Grisham told them the president was deeply involved in the plans for the rally and that any plan to walk to the Capitol would be outlined in the presidential line-by-line, a document sent to the Secret Service.
The January 6 committee is also focusing on who originated and executed the plan to create seven fraudulent slates of electors on December 14, 2020. At the time, that effort seemed frivolous, but the events of January 6, when Trump and his allies tried to make Vice President Mike Pence reject the real electors on the grounds there were competing slates, made it clear that the false documents were part of the plot to overturn the election.
Both CNN and the Washington Post reported today that the Trump campaign was behind the effort to create the fake electoral slates. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, helped on at least one occasion by Christina Bobb, an anchor from the right-wing network One America News, distributed language for the drafts, found people to replace real electors who refused to participate in the forgeries, and helped electors get into state capitols to craft the false documents.
The co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, Meshawn Maddock, was recorded speaking to a group about the election, attributing the push for the fake documents to the Trump campaign. Another one of the 16 Republicans who signed Michigan’s fake document, Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot, told the Detroit News that he had gotten a call asking him to go to Lansing and sign the document; he believed the call came from a lawyer working for the Trump campaign.
Today the January 6 committee asked Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the former president, to testify voluntarily about the events surrounding January 6. The committee’s 8-page letter laid out more information about those days, demonstrating that it has heard quite a bit about her presence in the White House on January 6 and that Trump’s loyalists that day thought that she alone had the influence to get her father to call the rioters off.
The letter from the committee explained how, exactly, electors are certified. Then, it laid out the White House plan to overturn that legal system, a plan that has led lawyer John Eastman, who outlined it, to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination rather than testify about it because he fears criminal prosecution.
The committee said it knew that “in the days before January 6th, a member of the House Freedom Caucus with knowledge of the President’s planning for that day sent a message to the White House Chief of Staff with this explicit warning: ‘If POTUS [meaning President Trump] allows this to occur…we’re driving a stake in the heart of the federal republic….’”
The committee called attention to Trump’s 2:24 p.m. tweet saying, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!” It listed statements from rioters describing how that tweet set them off: “Once we found out Pence turned on us and that they had stolen the election, like officially, the crowd went crazy….” “Then we heard the news on pence… And lost it… So we stormed.”
The committee asked Ivanka about discussions in the White House after that tweet, as she allegedly tried to get her father to tell the rioters to stop. Why, the committee asked, “didn’t White House staff simply ask the President to walk to the briefing room and appear on live television—to ask the crowd to leave the Capitol?” An interview with someone who had been there suggested, the committee wrote, “certain White House staff believed that a live unscripted press appearance by the President in the midst of the Capitol Hill violence could have made the situation worse.”
The committee noted that when Trump did speak in a video from the Rose Garden, released at 4:17, he told the rioters “We love you, you’re very special….” The committee wants to know what Ivanka has to say about the process of getting Trump to deliver that message.
Committee members also want to know more about Trump’s lack of effort to deploy the National Guard to protect the lawmakers in the Capitol. “Acting Secretary Chris Miller, who was in the chain of command and reported directly to the President, has testified under oath that the President never contacted him at any time on January 6th, and never, at any time, issued him any order to deploy the National Guard,” it wrote. Apparently, Miller did speak with Pence that day, but not with Trump.
Finally, the committee provided more information about the degree to which Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity participated in White House planning. The information it revealed emphasized the gulf between the support Trump loyalists have shown for the former president in public and their deep concerns in private.
Hannity texted both White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany describing his conversations with Trump, warning: “No more stolen election talk,” and “impeachment and 25th amendment are real, and many people will quit….” (The 25th Amendment provides for the emergency removal of an incapacitated president.) McEnany responded: “Love that. Thank you. That is the playbook. I will help reinforce….”
When Hannity texted to McEnany, “Key now. No more crazy people,” McEnany answered: “Yes 100%.”
On January 10, Hannity wrote to Meadows and Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH): “Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days. He can’t mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I’m not sure what is left to do or say, and I don’t like knowing if it’s truly understood. Ideas?”
The committee has proposed February 3 or 4 as the date for Ivanka’s testimony.
The January 6 committee is only one of the investigations into Trump’s attempt to steal the election. Today, Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani T. Willis asked the chief judge of Fulton County’s Superior Court to convene a special grand jury to help in her investigation of whether former president Trump and his loyalists committed crimes when they pressured Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the 11,780 votes Trump needed to win the state. Burned when South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham denied having made a similar phone call, Raffensperger recorded the call with Trump and his allies, creating a damning piece of evidence.
Willis asked for the special grand jury because a “significant number of witnesses and prospective witnesses have refused to cooperate with the investigation absent a subpoena requiring their testimony,” including Raffensperger.
Legal analyst and former U.S. attorney Joyce White Vance noted that one of the advantages of a special grand jury is that it has an assigned judge who knows the case and “can be available to make prompt rulings if any witnesses defy subpoenas.”
After news of Willis’s request broke, Trump issued a statement calling the investigation a witch hunt and continuing to insist—despite all the recounts—that the vote in Georgia in 2020 was characterized by “massive voter fraud.” He said: “my phone call to the Secretary of State of Georgia was perfect, perhaps even more so than my call with the Ukrainian President, if that’s possible.”