July 11, 2022
Tomorrow’s public hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET, will be managed by Representatives Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Stephanie Murphy (D-FL). It will focus on domestic violent extremists, members of Congress who joined Trump’s pressure campaign on legislators to overturn the election, and Trump’s activity focusing on January 6 itself.
That activity includes the infamous tweet of December 19, 2020, in which Trump announced: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” According to The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell, investigators will demonstrate that the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, as well as other activists, interpreted Trump’s tweet as a signal to come to Washington for the counting of the certified ballots on January 6.
The tweet came the day after a White House meeting in which Trump allies, including former national security advisor Michael Flynn and Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, urged then-president Trump to seize voting machines and make Powell a special counsel to look into alleged voter fraud. Instead, Trump focused on January 6 and called supporters to the city. By December 20, Proud Boys leaders and Oath Keepers made plans for military training and stockpiling weapons. Activists applied for a permit in Washington to protest.
As we gear up for tomorrow’s public hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, there are more stories about the days surrounding that event.
Last Friday, July 8, Trump’s White House counsel Pat Cipollone testified before the committee for more than 8 hours under oath, privately but on video. According to Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who is a member of the committee, Cipollone did not contradict anything that Cassidy Hutchinson, aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, said in her explosive testimony. Those who have suggested they disagree with that testimony have not, so far, testified under oath. Lofgren also suggested that Cipollone had given the committee new information that it would produce for the public later in a later hearing.
Also on Friday, a Justice Department court filing revealed that the Oath Keepers had extensive plans for violence in the days surrounding January 6. Prosecutors say that at least three chapters of the gang held military training camps focusing on “military-style basic” training, “unconventional warfare,” and “hasty ambushes.” At least one of the Oath Keepers brought explosives, including grenades, to the quick reaction force (QRF) site outside Washington, D.C. One of the gang, Thomas Caldwell, had a “DEATH LIST” that included the name of a Georgia election official and that person’s family member, both of whom had been falsely targeted as part of alleged voter fraud. (Caldwell told CNN that it was a “100% false and disgusting lie” that he “sought to assassinate election workers.”)
Nine of the Oath Keepers have been charged with seditious conspiracy. At least seven of the gang’s members, three of whom pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and who were close to those under indictment, are cooperating with the government.
On Saturday, Trump confidant Steve Bannon, who is facing a trial for contempt of Congress on July 18, says he is now willing to testify before the committee. To add drama to that statement, former president Trump made a statement waiving the executive privilege Bannon has cited in his refusal to cooperate. This was pure theater: Trump no longer exercises executive privilege—President Joe Biden does—and since Bannon wasn’t an employee, he couldn’t have been covered anyway. Nonetheless, some media outlets fell for it and repeated it breathlessly, as if we might now hear honest testimony from Bannon.
Bannon’s “offer” to testify seemed clearly to be an attempt to muddy the increasingly clear waters of the committee’s hearings. In the first impeachment hearings, Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH) and John Ratcliffe (R-TX) used their positions to shout and badger witnesses and to create sound bites for right-wing media that put forward a completely misleading narrative of what the hearings were actually showing. As Josh Kovensky of Talking Points Memo pointed out today, Trump has complained bitterly that his people are unable to get their own narrative out, even as evidence against the president and his allies coming from his own inner circle is painting a damning picture of an attempt to overturn our democracy.
Public “testimony” would enable loyalists like Bannon to “flood the zone with sh*t,” as he has called his method of disinformation. Not only Bannon, but also the leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, has offered to “testify.” So, too, has Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL). In each case, though, the men have tried to put limits on what they will talk about and the conditions under which they will talk, revealing both an attempt to demonstrate that they still have power to make demands (they don’t) and that they are not making good faith offers. Rhodes’s lawyer told Politico: “He wants to confront them.”
As CBS News congressional correspondent Scott MacFarlane tweeted, their determination to skew the narrative also undermines the argument that no one is paying attention to the hearings.
Today, the Department of Justice pulled the rug out from under the whole scene when it filed a document revealing that Trump’s attorney, Justin Clark, had confirmed to the department on June 29 that Trump had never made an attempt to invoke executive privilege over Bannon’s testimony or documents. After a long litany of Bannon’s antics, the department said that “[a]ll of the above-described circumstances suggest the Defendant’s sudden wish to testify is not a genuine effort to meet his obligations but a last-ditch attempt to avoid accountability.”
Bannon’s moves lately were almost certainly designed to delay his trial for contempt of Congress, due to start next Monday. He vowed to make the case the “misdemeanor from hell,” for the Justice Department, and he tried to subpoena House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of the January 6 committee. Bannon’s lawyers were in court today to try to postpone his trial for three months. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, who was appointed by Trump, ruled against Bannon across the board. “It seems clear that Mr. Bannon’s trying to turn this into a circus that cannot be allowed,” House counsel Douglas Letter said, and the judge apparently agreed. Bannon’s trial will begin as scheduled.
Bannon is not the only one who has wanted to avoid legal procedures. A grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, has subpoenaed Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and seven other witnesses to testify about the attempt to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. Graham allegedly made at least two phone calls to Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger asking him to find votes for Trump. Graham vowed to fight the subpoena. Today, Fulton County Superior Judge Robert McBurney ordered him to testify, saying he was a “necessary witness” to the investigation. He is supposed to testify on August 2 but will continue to battle the order.
And today, news broke that Cushman & Wakefield, the company that appraised some of Trump’s New York properties, has struck a deal with New York attorney general Letitia James, who has subpoenaed documents in her investigation of the Trump organization. The company will hand over “priority” overdue documents by midnight Monday and has until July 20 to deliver more of the documents James wants. If they do so, both sides will ask the judge to get rid of the $10,000-a-day fine the company incurred by missing past deadlines.