Columns

Trump distortions before Capitol riot are a focus of House probe

WASHINGTON — The House investigation into last year’s Capitol insurrection will move its work into the public eye as soon as April, laying out for voters evidence that they say shows former President Donald Trump and his allies stoked the violence.

The select committee of five Democrats and two Republicans doesn’t have a formal deadline and has largely kept its work behind closed doors. But with Washington’s focus turning to the November elections and polls showing diminishing public outrage over the Jan. 6, 2021 riot by Trump supporters, the panel is readying its first public hearings since holding an initial one in July featuring police officers who were on duty that day.

Recent subpoenas and public statements indicate investigators have concluded Trump and his allies organized and incited the mob that stormed the Capitol while Congress was certifying the Electoral College votes from the 2020 presidential election.

The former president claimed and continues to claim, falsely, that the election had been stolen.

“As the Select Committee will demonstrate in hearings later this year, no foreign power corrupted America’s voting machines, and no massive secret fraud changed the election outcome,” Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican and the panel’s vice chairman, wrote in a Wall Street Journal column on Thursday. Yet, she wrote, Trump unleashed a “massive campaign to mislead the public.”

“Our hearings will show that these falsehoods provoked the violence on Jan. 6,” Cheney said.

The committee’s work includes 500 interviews and at least 80 subpoenas. The panel still wants to talk to key lawmakers, like House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, and those in Trump’s inner circle, including his eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump.

In the last three weeks, committee investigators have started sifting through hundreds of White House documents obtained from the U.S. National Archives, after the Supreme Court in January rejected Trump’s legal efforts to shield them. And they must now determine whether some documents and telephone records pertinent to the investigation are missing.

Several boxes of documents were retrieved by the National Archives from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

The committee’s work continues as some polls, such as one released Feb. 8 by the Pew Research Center, show fewer Americans than last year say Trump bears a lot of responsibility for the insurrection.

On a separate track, the Justice Department has brought charges against more than 725 people accused of taking part in the breach of the Capitol. Eleven leaders of the far-right Oath Keepers group have been indicted on a count of seditious conspiracy to violently prevent certification of Joe Biden’s election as president.

A grand jury investigating the attack could be used to pursue charges against Trump and his allies, according to officials.

The political parties, at the same time, remain sharply divided. Trump has denounced the committee’s work as illegitimate, and Republicans in Congress are trying to put the events of Jan. 6 behind them. Yet the Republican National Committee generated even more attention for the inquiry when it voted to censure Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, the other GOP member of the panel, and castigated the investigation for persecuting “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

There have been varied levels of cooperation from Trump administration officials and others in the former president’s circle. His last chief of staff, Mark Meadows, turned over texts and documents but refused to testify, leading lawmakers to hold him in contempt, along with former Trump strategist Steve Bannon. Roger Stone, a longtime adviser, and others have invoked the Fifth Amendment’s protections against self-incrimination.

Still others have provided evidence and some key testimony.

A letter last month to Ivanka Trump from panel chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, disclosed that Keith Kellogg, a retired Army lieutenant general and aide to then-Vice President Mike Pence who was with Trump on Jan. 6, testified that White House staffers wanted Trump to take immediate action to quell the unrest. Kellogg also discussed a Trump telephone conversation with Pence, who was in the Capitol, about using his presiding officer status to reject some states’ results giving Biden the victory.

Thompson also has said former Attorney General William Barr is cooperating, and Pence’s former chief of staff, Marc Short, has sat for questions by the committee. But Thompson says there’s been no decision to try to bring in Pence.

“Obviously, to hear from the former vice president would be positive,” Thompson said last week.

Subpoenas recently have gone out to Rudy Giuliani, who spearheaded efforts to challenge Biden’s victory in several states, and Peter Navarro, a former White House trade adviser. The panel also wants to hear from Trump’s congressional allies, though they have not been subpoenaed.

The committee has obtained Trump administration documents laying out potential strategies to have the military or Department of Homeland Security or Justice Department officials audit or impound voting machines in key swing states.

Investigators also are examining the extent of Trump’s support of a plan Navarro has said he and Bannon worked on to have Republican members of Congress object to the results in several battleground states. The idea was that Pence — using his status on Jan. 6 as the presiding officer over Congress’s certification — would unilaterally reject some states’ results that gave Biden the victory.

Trump recently stated that Pence could have overturned the election but didn’t exercise that power, prompting Pence to contradict him. “President Trump is wrong,” Pence said.

Thompson says it’s too early to determine whether some White House records and other material that were possibly destroyed or not properly turned over to the National Archives might be important to investigators. Regarding gaps in Trump phone records on Jan. 6, another committee member, Democrat Jamie Raskin of Maryland, told MSNBC Thursday night, “everyone is very curious about it.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.