September 23, 2021
This evening, the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas to four key figures in the Trump White House who either were working with or had communications with the White House in the days surrounding the January 6 insurrection: former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Daniel Scavino, former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel, and former Trump advisor Stephen Bannon.
The committee’s press release on the subpoenas explains that it is responding to reports that Meadows talked to state officials and people at the Department of Justice to try to overturn the 2020 election and that he talked to individuals organizing the January 6 rally.
The committee reports that Scavino, who managed the former president’s social media presence, was with Trump on January 5th to figure out how to convince lawmakers not to certify the election for the president-elect, Democrat Joe Biden. The committee continues: “Prior to the January 6th March for Trump, Mr. Scavino promoted the event on Twitter, encouraging people to ‘be a part of history.’ And records indicate that Mr. Scavino was tweeting messages from the White House on January 6, 2021.”
Kashyap Patel is the interesting name in these subpoenas because he was a Trump loyalist who worked in intelligence and on January 6 was working in the Pentagon. After the election, on November 9, Trump raised eyebrows by installing a new acting secretary of defense, Christopher Miller, and the next day he appointed Patel to be Miller’s chief of staff. There, Patel prevented Pentagon officials from talking to the Biden team during the transition, keeping it from receiving intelligence briefings for the weeks before January 6. Patel talked to senior Pentagon officials prior to and on January 6, 2021, about security at the Capitol, and Patel said he and Meadows talked “nonstop” on the day itself.
Stephen Bannon was a key Trump advisor, urging the former president to stop the count on January 6. On January 5, Bannon met with Trump loyalists at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., where he urged attendees to “kill the Biden presidency in the crib” and later said that “[a]ll Hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
The committee has demanded the four witnesses produce documents by October 7 and appear for testimony the following week.
A different House committee today subpoenaed documents from a different Trump advisor: the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis requires Dr. Steven Hatfill, an advisor to former White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy director Peter Navarro, to produce documents that he has not provided after the committee requested them in April. The committee has emails and documents indicating that the Trump administration ignored the pandemic in order to concentrate on challenging the election. Hatfill must meet the same October 7 deadline as the other White House officials.
All of these subpoenas focus on Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection. They are a significant ratcheting up of the investigation.
Trump announced tonight he would fight the subpoenas on the grounds of executive privilege, but that decision is Biden’s, and the White House has said it is not inclined to assert executive privilege over communications involving the insurrection.
Also tonight, the report from Cyber Ninjas, the company conducting the “audit” into the votes in Arizona’s Maricopa County, was released to news outlets. The report remains a mess and continues to insist that Arizona election processes are flawed, but it says that Biden did indeed win Maricopa County, and thus Arizona…by a higher margin than previously counted.
Immediately, the office of the Texas secretary of state announced that it has started to conduct a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 election in four Texas counties: Collin, Dallas, Harris, and Tarrant. This is interesting timing, especially since there has been no accusation about fraud in that election in those counties. Indeed, Trump loyalist Greg Abbott, Texas’s governor, has called the election in his state “smooth and secure.” But, earlier today, Trump had demanded in a public letter that Abbott must conduct an “audit” of the election because of “fraud” in the count, which Trump won.
The former president cannot permit the Big Lie to die, especially as the investigation into it heats up. And so Texas is obliging him, not because there is doubt about the election, but because he needs to keep his supporters convinced that our elections are fraudulent. That conviction will come in handy in 2022, but I wonder if the former president isn’t stoking it for a more immediate reason.
The memo released on Monday, in which Trump loyalist John Eastman laid out the steps the Trump administration was taking to overturn the 2020 election, was written proof that the former president and key members of his inner circle were trying to destroy American democracy.
If Trump holds true to form, as the damning evidence of that conspiracy mounts, he will egg on his loyalists to back his bid to regain power based on the Big Lie that he has convinced them to believe. According to a new poll by NORC at the University of Chicago, 26% of Americans now believe that “[t]he 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president,” and 8% believe that “[u]se of force is justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.”