Yesterday was a busy news day and a very bad day for Donald Trump. The Justice Department has ordered the IRS to hand over his taxes to the House Ways and Means Committee and new evidence was revealed about his efforts to get Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to help overturn the 2020 election.
The New York Times: Treasury must turn over Trump’s taxes to Congress, the Justice Dept. says.
The Treasury Department must turn over six years of former President Donald J. Trump’s tax returns to House investigators, the Justice Department said in a legal opinion issued on Friday that most likely paves the way for their eventual release to Congress and potentially to the public.
Hours later, the Treasury told a federal judge that it planned to move ahead.
The 39-page opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel dealt a sharp legal blow to a yearslong campaign by Mr. Trump to keep his tax information secret, reversing a Trump administration position that had shielded the documents from Congress.
Rejecting that view, the Biden administration opinion said that a request for the tax information first lodged in 2019 by the House Ways and Means Committee was legitimate and that the Treasury Department had no valid grounds to refuse it.
“The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former president’s tax information,” the opinion said. “Treasury must furnish the information to the committee.”
Democrats on Capitol Hill, who said they aim to examine the I.R.S.’s presidential audit program and Mr. Trump’s conflicts of interest, hailed the decision as a victory for congressional oversight powers and for national security. The House had sued to enforce the request after the Trump Treasury Department objected, and litigation continues.
“The American people deserve to know the facts of his troubling conflicts of interest and undermining of our security and democracy as president,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a valedictory statement.
Katie Benner at The New York Times: Trump Pressed Justice Dept. to Declare Election Results Corrupt, Notes Show.
President Donald J. Trump pressed top Justice Department officials late last year to declare that the election was corrupt even though they had found no instances of widespread fraud, so he and his allies in Congress could use the assertion to try to overturn the results, according to new documents provided to lawmakers.
The demands were an extraordinary instance of a president interfering with an agency that is typically more independent from the White House to advance his personal agenda. They are also the latest example of Mr. Trump’s wide-ranging campaign during his final weeks in office to delegitimize the election results.
The exchange unfolded during a phone call on Dec. 27 in which Mr. Trump pressed the acting attorney general at the time, Jeffrey A. Rosen, and his deputy, Richard P. Donoghue, on voter fraud claims that the Justice Department had found no evidence for. Mr. Donoghue warned that the department had no power to change the outcome of the election. Mr. Trump replied that he did not expect that, according to notes Mr. Donoghue took memorializing the conversation.
“Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me” and to congressional allies, Mr. Donoghue wrote in summarizing Mr. Trump’s response.
Mr. Trump did not name the lawmakers, but at other points during the call, he mentioned Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, whom he described as a “fighter”; Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, who at the time promoted the idea that the election was stolen from Mr. Trump; and Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, whom Mr. Trump praised for “getting to bottom of things.”
A bit more:
The phone call by Mr. Trump was perhaps the most audacious moment in a monthslong pressure campaign aimed at enlisting the Justice Department in his crusade to overturn the election results.
After the departure of Mr. Rosen’s predecessor, William P. Barr, became public on Dec. 14, Mr. Trump and his allies harangued Mr. Rosen and his top deputies nearly every day until Jan. 6, when Congress met to certify the Electoral College and was disrupted by Mr. Trump’s supporters storming the Capitol, according to emails and other documents obtained by Congress and interviews with former Trump administration officials.
The conversations often included complaints about unfounded voter fraud conspiracy theories, frustration that the Justice Department would not ask the Supreme Court to invalidate the election and admonishments that department leaders had failed to fight hard enough for Mr. Trump, the officials said.
The Justice Department provided Mr. Donoghue’s notes to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating the Trump administration’s efforts to unlawfully reverse the election results.
So it looks like we’ll be following more Congressional investigations of the the former guy in the near future. You can read specifics of Trump’s demands at that link.
David A. Graham at The Atlantic: The Insurrection Was Just Part of the Plot.
…[T]he House Oversight Committee shed more light this week on just how and why January 6 happened, releasing handwritten notes by Richard Donoghue, a top Justice Department official in the waning days of the Trump administration. The violence of the day has taken center stage, but these notes help put it in context: The angry crowd was just one part of President Donald Trump’s long-running effort to overturn the results of the election in the House of Representatives.
Trump’s effort to call the election results into doubt began long before the votes were cast, but it accelerated immediately after the election. As I wrote on January 26, Trump’s coup attempt started not on January 6 but in the wee hours of November 4, when Trump said at the White House, “This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election.” He added: “Frankly, we did win this election.” (He did not, and was not being frank.)
In November and early December, the focus of Trump’s efforts was pressuring state officials in places such as Arizona and Georgia to decline to certify results in favor of Biden, and pressing Attorney General William Barr to cast doubt on the results. But Barr declined, breaking with Trump, and so did pivotal Republicans including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. Once Barr was pushed aside, The Washington Post reported this week, Trump began a daily campaign to pressure Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen into doing what Barr would not, trying to place new claims of fraud before the Justice Department. Unbeknownst to Rosen, Trump was also orchestrating a plan to topple him.
What Trump hoped to achieve from these efforts has always been a little hazy. The Justice Department doesn’t certify elections, and at most could have pursued fraud claims in court—had there been any credible ones, which there were not. The new releases by the House Oversight Committee, first reported by The New York Times,connect the dots. Donoghue explained to Trump that the DOJ couldn’t overturn the result, but the president was unruffled.
“Don’t expect you to do that, just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R[epublican] Congressmen” is how Donoghue recorded Trump’s response in handwritten notes.
All Trump wanted was some semi-independent arbiter to declare the election fraudulent—whether that was the governor of Arizona, the Georgia secretary of state, or the U.S. Justice Department. This much was clear even then, but Trump’s endgame was not. After all, Democrat Joe Biden’s lead was wide enough that a single state declining to certify or a single fraud case couldn’t have erased it. Trump, despite his weakness for conspiracy theories, understood that. But he didn’t need any of these officials to set aside the results on their own. He just needed enough ammunition, no matter how tenuous, that he could derail certification of the election in Congress.
If the election couldn’t be decided based on the results, then it would go to the House of Representatives. Though Democrats held a majority there, the presidency would have been decided by state delegations, of which Republicans controlled more.
Read the rest at The Atlantic.
More stories on Trump’s attempts to subvert the DOJ and his coup attempt:
Margaret Carlson at The Daily Beast: Damn Right Jan. 6 Was a Coup—This Was Trump’s Call That Led There.
Andy Wright at Just Security: Trump inadvertently made key admission in calls to DOJ: impeachment counsel Daniel Goldman.
Is Trump still trying to get himself “reinstated” as president? I wouldn’t be surprised. A couple of stories that suggest there’s still something going on.
Tommy Christopher at Mediaite: WATCH: Mark Meadows Says Trump Meeting with ‘Cabinet Members’ at Jersey Golf Club About ‘Moving Forward in a Real Way.’
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that former President Donald Trump has been meeting with “cabinet members” at his New Jersey golf resort, mysteriously adding that they’re planning to “move forward in a real way.”
On Friday night’s edition of Newsmax’s Cortes & Pellegrino, Meadows defended Trump’s failed endorsement in a Texas special election runoff, saying “the magic is still there.”
He added that Trump is “a president that is fully engaged, highly focused, and remaining on task.” [….]
As he did throughout the interview, Meadows referred to Trump in the present-tense “the president,” and described meeting with “members of our cabinet”:
“Well, we met with several of our cabinet members tonight, we actually had a follow-up member, meeting with some of our cabinet members, and as we were looking at that, we were looking at what does come next. I’m not authorized to speak on behalf of the president, but I can tell you this steve. We wouldn’t be meeting tonight if we weren’t making plans to move forward in a real way, with president Trump at the head of that ticket.”
Although Meadows’ linguistic cues suggested some sort of alt-presidency, the rest of his remarks appeared to refer only to future elections. Meadows did not mention any discussion of a potential Trump “reinstatement” to the presidency, a notion that has been popular with Trump supporters, and reportedly with Trump himself.
Then why did he refer to Trump as “the president?”
On the far-right Brandon Howse Live radio program on Friday, MyPillow CEO and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell suggested that perhaps the Supreme Court will allow a do-over of the election without electronic voting machines.
“So maybe the Supreme Court will say, hey, let’s have another — let’s do another election without machines,” said Lindell. “You know. Maybe that’s a thing.”
Lindell, who this week withdrew all his advertising from Fox News due to his belief they are insufficiently loyal to former President Donald Trump, has been a key purveyor of the nonsense idea that Trump could be “reinstated” as president later this year — although he has recently backed off that idea.
He has also spread false claims about Dominion Voting Systems equipment rigging votes, which has resulted in a lawsuit against him.
Yes, he’s nuts, but does he still have Trump’s ear? I wouldn’t be surprised.
Have a great weekend Sky Dancers! As always, this is an open thread.
Good Day Sky Dancers!
Well, this is another fine mess that Republicans have gotten us into! I watched coverage of a meeting of the St Louis County Council meeting with horror. It was filled with women with that Clairol FoxNewsBlonde look and screaming red-faced old men. It was about the recently reinstated mask mandate that the Council threw out over the objections of its Public Health Officials and the screaming, taunting, racist screams of the previously mentioned burbie nutterz.
This was after I finished a zoom chat with the Drs and my new granddaughters. I’ve been trying to tell myself that kids used to go West in this country and it took months for the Pony Express to get letters between there and New Orleans so this is better than that. But, then I remember this doesn’t have to be this way. It’s those shrieking whackos that are killing people and preventing us from having normal lives. They’re also killing us with misinformation so the reticent become more firmly afraid of the vaccine.
This is from NBC: “St. Louis County health director says he was called racist slurs during mask order meeting. “Public health is not the enemy. We don’t deserve to be targeted,” said Faisal Khan, the acting health director.” If you do watch the video, notice that you’re likely witnessing a superspreader event worthy of Trumperz rallies.
St. Louis County’s acting health director said he was humiliated, attacked and called racist slurs during a council meeting on a newly reinstated mask mandate.
The director, Faisal Khan, was asked to present at Tuesday’s public meeting as council members considered terminating a mandate that St. Louis County Executive Sam Page put in place to slow the spread of the Covid-19 delta variant.
Khan said in a phone interview on Thursday that the crowd was rowdy before the meeting even began because some of them had attended a political rally held outside the venue.
“The anger was already palpable,” he told NBC News. “By the time I was asked to come to the podium, the train had left the station and it was only going to go one way.”
Khan detailed what happened at the meeting in a letter to Council Chairwoman Rita Days, who was in attendance.
“My time before the Council began with a dog-whistle question from Councilman Tim Fitch, who said he wanted to emphasize for the assembled crowd that I was not from this country,” he wrote in the letter.
Khan, who said he became a U.S. citizen in 2013, wrote that Fitch should have known most of the people in the crowd were “from the ‘MAGA’ movement” because they kept chanting “Trump 2024.”
Khan wrote in his letter that during the meeting Fitch’s friend Mark McCloskey posted on social media that mask mandates are “un-American.” Khan told Days that he believes Fitch and McCloskey’s actions were an attempt to “stoke xenophobia against me.”
You may remember Mark McCloskey from his previous racist attack where he waved a semi-automatic rifle with his wife at a Peaceful Black Lives Matters Marches. His wife wears that same shade of Clairol FoxNewsBlonde. Well, they got to speak at the RNC and now they’re back spreading the racism as freely as possible while threatening public health officials.
The NBC article above notes that the same level of threats aimed at folks working elections is now aimed at public health officials.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, public health officials have been targeted and attacked. This week, prosecutors in Maryland announced a man had been arrested and charged in federal court with sending emails that threatened to harm and kill Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins, and their families.
Khan said he believes they have been used as pawns for what some people have turned into a political battle.
“We’ve received so many threats, of all kinds, it is jarring. Public health is not the enemy. We don’t deserve to be targeted,” he said. “We are in the midst of the worst public health crisis to hit the world in 100 years. We should not be worried about our own safety in deliberative sessions with legislative officials. That really is a sad reflection of society in the United States.”
Khan said he wrote his letter with the hopes that it “would jolt members of the Council into realizing that orchestrating hostile meetings and firing up the crowd doesn’t really serve any purpose.” He has asked Days to investigate what happened at Tuesday’s meeting and to enforce measures so it does not happen again.
Today’s WaPo had an excellent article citing internal CDC data on the Delta variants and the threat this variant and others pose to our health. It is also interesting to note that Europe and the UK are doing far better containing the pandemic than we are at this point. This is the headline: “‘The war has changed’: Internal CDC document urges new messaging, warns delta infections likely more severe. The internal presentation shows that the agency thinks it is struggling to communicate on vaccine efficacy amid increased breakthrough infections”
The delta variant of the coronavirus appears to cause more severe illness than earlier variants and spreads as easily as chickenpox, according to an internal federal health document that argues officials must “acknowledge the war has changed.”
The document is an internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention slide presentation, shared within the CDC and obtained by The Washington Post. It captures the struggle of the nation’s top public health agency to persuade the public to embrace vaccination and prevention measures, including mask-wearing, as cases surge across the United States and new research suggests vaccinated people can spread the virus.
The document strikes an urgent note, revealing the agency knows it must revamp its public messaging to emphasize vaccination as the best defense against a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold.
The article really is the must-read today. You can read about the CDC and its problems with communicating the situation. You can also read about the belief that the Delta Variant is likely to be more deadly which has not been widely communicated. The article emphasizes that Delta is as contagious as chickenpox.
There is more about this in today’s NYT: “C.D.C. Internal Report Calls Delta Variant as Contagious as Chickenpox. Infections in vaccinated Americans are rare, compared with those in unvaccinated people, the document said. But when they occur, vaccinated people may spread the virus just as easily.” So, we all need to mask up again.
The Delta variant is much more contagious, more likely to break through protections afforded by the vaccines and may cause more severe disease than all other known versions of the virus, according to an internal presentation circulated within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the agency, acknowledged on Tuesday that vaccinated people with so-called breakthrough infections of the Delta variant carry just as much virus in the nose and throat as unvaccinated people, and may spread it just as readily, if less often.
But the internal document lays out a broader and even grimmer view of the variant.
The Delta variant is more transmissible than the viruses that cause MERS, SARS, Ebola, the common cold, the seasonal flu and smallpox, and it is as contagious as chickenpox, according to the document, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.
Many businesses want to remain open while protecting workers and others. Here are some other things you may want to read.
Ravages of COVID surge evident inside Missouri hospital
Michael Paulson / New York Times:
Broadway Audiences Will Need Proof of Vaccination and Masks
I decided to basically still stay home and not go indoors anywhere unnecessary when I started seeing people pour into New Orleans for Independence Day. The clusterfuck of people driving cars with license plates from the surrounding plague rat states pretty much disturbed me to the point of it. I had thought that May and June’s forays to the hospital would likely be my last mask-wearing adventure. This week, I washed all my cloth masks and now will actually use the double-up method. They’ve started canceling events here. Frankly, I don’t know when I’ll feel like going into a restaurant, let alone a bar. I’m still trying to time my visits to the corner stores carefully and have committed myself to order groceries and get them delivered to the kitchen door. I’m glad I still can teach university online because there’s no intention here to mandate masking or vaccines at public universities. I still enjoy walking Temple maskless though. That’s my one big three times a day outing.
So, what are your plans? Granted, I live in Louisiana where the wipipo are basically plague rats and Petri dishes. I shudder at what I could bring up to Seattle and my family including my sister and her husband who have had various medical problems recently.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Yesterday Joe Biden got another big win when his infrastructure bill got more than 60 votes to begin consideration in the Senate.
The Washington Post: Bipartisan infrastructure pact clears key Senate vote after breakthrough in talks.
Trump Crimes Breaking News
Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett at The Washington Post: As Trump pushed for probes of 2020 election, he called acting AG Rosen almost daily.
January 6 Investigation News
Lawmakers on the Jan. 6 select committee describe their probe’s reach as still undefined, saying in interviews that they have yet to formalize the confines of an already closely watched and fast-moving investigation. Minutesbefore the panel’s first hearing on Tuesday, however, its members scored a key win thanks to a legal opinion from President Joe Biden’s Justice Department that allowed them to freely seek witness statements from former Trump administration officials.
“That means the likelihood of any resistance from the committee’s work from former [Trump] employees or current employees is not an impediment,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs the Jan. 6 probe, said in an interview. The Biden DOJ’s decision “expedites” the panel’s work digging into the insurrection, he added….
The panel only recently hired its senior staff and launched its website — and it has more work to do before it can seek out potential Trump-adjacent witnesses such as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) or Gen. Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I think the true scope of the investigation is still under development,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), a member of the select panel, said in a brief interview. “I know that we will build on work that’s already been done by other committees.” [….]
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), another select committee member, echoed Luria and Thompson about the still-undefined scope of the investigation. But he said it was critical that the panel examine coordination efforts by the extremist groups that marched on the Capitol that day — a process that includes studying the hundreds of criminal prosecutions helmed by the Justice Department.
“[We] want to know who was the ultimate organizer and who paid for all of this action and how did it come about and are they still out there,” Raskin said.
Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, who on January 6 told the insurrectionists to “start taking names and kicking ass,” has been busy destroying his own defenses for his actions on the day of the attempted coup.
Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: Mo Brooks Accidentally Gave Up His Immunity From Eric Swalwell’s Insurrection Lawsuit.
On Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced that it would not shield Rep. Mo Brooks from Rep. Eric Swalwell’s lawsuit against the fomenters of the Jan. 6 insurrection. The DOJ’s decision may seem surprising: After all, Attorney General Merrick Garland has continued to protect Donald Trump from E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit, signaling a broad view of elected officials’ immunity from civil suits. In Swalwell’s case, however, the Justice Department seized upon comments demonstrating that, at the Jan. 6 rally, Brooks was acting not as an elected official, but as a politician seeking to influence future elections. Ironically, it was Brooks himself who made these statements, under oath, in an effort to evade this very lawsuit. The congressman’s legal defense has turned into a legal liability.
Swalwell’s lawsuit marks a serious effort to hold Brooks, Trump, and Rudy Giuliani accountable for their conduct at the rally that preceded—and incited—the Jan. 6 insurrection. He sued all three defendants for civil rights violations, as well as more garden variety misdeeds known as torts. In this case, Brooks’ alleged torts included negligence, aiding and abetting common law assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and bias-related crimes. Brooks sought to dismiss these tort claims by invoking the Westfall Act. Under this statute, a federal official facing a civil suit can ask the Department of Justice to certify that they were acting within the scope of their employment when the alleged tort occurred. If the DOJ agrees, the United States is substituted as the defendant. And because the U.S. cannot be sued for a wide range of torts, that substitution usually ends the case.
Predictably, Brooks asked the Justice Department to certify that he was acting as an employee of the federal government carrying out his official duties at the Jan. 6 rally. This argument is hard to swallow. Then again, so was Trump’s assertion that defaming E. Jean Carroll was a presidential act, yet Garland’s Justice Department still endorsed his theory. What appears to have made the difference in this case is Brooks’ own inadvertent admission that he was acting as a campaigner, not a congressman, on the morning of Jan. 6.
This admission was prompted by a claim at the heart of Swalwell’s lawsuit: that Brooks urged the crowd to commit violence at the Capitol. Central to Swalwell’s theory was a segment of Brooks’ speech in which he declared: “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!” Brooks continued:
“Now, our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes, and sometimes their lives, to give us, their descendants, an America that is the greatest nation in world history. So I have a question for you: Are you willing to do the same? My answer is yes. Louder! Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America? Louder! Will you fight for America?”
In a long, rambling affidavit, Brooks tried to counter this allegation by reframing his call to begin “kicking ass.” He testified that, in this passage, “I am talking about ‘kicking ass’ in the 2022 and 2024 ELECTIONS!” [….]
This narrative provides perhaps the most self-defeating explanation Brooks could possibly muster at this stage in litigation. As the Justice Department pointed out in its Tuesday filing, “activities specifically directed toward the success of a candidate for a partisan political office in a campaign context” are “not within the scope of the office or employment of a Member of the House of Representatives.” That’s because it is not the “business of the United States to pick sides among candidates in federal elections.” Representatives thus cannot invoke the Westfall Act’s protections when they are engaged in “campaign efforts.”
Jim Newell at Slate: Turns Out Mo Brooks Was Wearing Body Armor to Trump’s Very Peaceful Jan. 6 Rally.
Back in December, Brooks was the first House Republican to say ahead of the congressional Electoral College certification that he would object to certain states’ electors. On the day of the certification, Jan. 6, he then gave a fiery speech at President Donald Trump’s rally at the Ellipse where he told the assembled crowd that “today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!” Months later, he still argues that Trump would have won the election if only “lawful votes” were counted.
Brooks, like Republican leaders who tried to counterprogram the hearing with a press conference yesterday, thinks a proper investigation would look at why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office wasn’t “doing a better job with respect to the Capitol Police and their level of preparation.”
Then, to prove his point about preparation, he revealed a new detail to me: that because of a tip he’d received about potential violence, he’d been wearing body armor at the very same Ellipse speech in which he encouraged rally attendees to “start taking down names and kicking ass.”
“I was warned on Monday that there might be risks associated with the next few days,” he said. “And as a consequence of those warnings, I did not go to my condo. Instead, I slept on the floor of my office. And when I gave my speech at the Ellipse, I was wearing body armor.
“That’s why I was wearing that nice little windbreaker,” he told me with a grin. “To cover up the body armor.”
Who was this source? The Committee is probably going to want to hear from Brooks about all this.
Could it have been this guy?
I have a few more links to add in the comments. What’s on your mind today? This is an open thread.
This is an open thread.
The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection begins this morning by interviewing police officers who fought the invading Trump army in the Capitol. I’d like to watch as much of the testimony as I can, so I’ll get right to it. Here’s the latest news and commentary I’ve come across so far.
Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson at The Washington Post: Opinion: We have started investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Nothing will be off-limits.
On Tuesday, the bipartisan Select Committee on the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol begins its work investigating the facts, circumstances and causes of this assault on our democracy.
I had hoped that such an investigation would be carried out by an independent commission composed of national security experts, like the panel created by Congress after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. However, once the House Republican leadership rejected — and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell filibustered — bipartisan legislation to establish such a commission, we in the House believed we had no choice but to establish a select committee. In a recent poll, 72 percent of Americans agree there is more we must learn about that day.
Many of the Jan. 6 rioters have stated in their court pleadings that they stormed the Capitol believing they were acting on behalf of, or even at the behest of, then-President Donald Trump. The protection of our democracy demands that we comprehensively investigate what drove Americans to riot and violently assault Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police and other law enforcement officers to access the inner sanctum of Congress and private offices of top congressional leaders, including the speaker of the House.
Jan. 6 was supposed to be about the peaceful transfer of power after an election, a hallmark of democracy and our American tradition. The rioters went to the Capitol that day to obstruct this solemn action — and nearly succeeded while defacing and looting the halls of the Capitol in the process. The committee will provide the definitive accounting of one of the darkest days in our history. Armed with answers, we hope to identify actions that Congress and the executive branch can take to help ensure that it never happens again.
The bipartisan members of the committee believe strongly it is important to begin our work by hearing from law enforcement officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6. On Tuesday, we will be joined by Capitol Police officers Aquilino Gonell and Harry Dunn and Metropolitan Police officers Daniel Hodges and Michael Fanone. These officers will provide firsthand accounts of the chaos of that day and the violence perpetrated by the rioters.
The Wall Street Journal: Chairman of Jan. 6 Committee Casts Wide Net on Witnesses.
The House’s select committee probing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump won’t hesitate to subpoena members of Congress or Mr. Trump and will try to enforce the subpoenas in court if necessary, said the panel’s chairman.
“Anybody who had a conversation with the White House and officials in the White House while the invasion of the Capitol was going on is directly in the investigative sights of the committee,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.) in an interview ahead of the panel’s first public hearing on Tuesday. He said that could include subpoenas to compel testimony, as well as records related to phone calls and other communications.
Pressed on whether the Democratic-led committee would subpoena Mr. Trump, Mr. Thompson said nobody was off limits. “I don’t want to name him, but what I will say is that in the conversations we’ve had as a committee, there’s been no reluctance whatsoever to go where the facts lead us,” he said.
Unlike the bipartisan Senate investigation into Jan. 6, which published findings and recommendations in June, the House’s select committee will go beyond security failures to look at communications between Congress and the executive branch and examine the role of individuals—including Mr. Trump—“who may or may not have contributed willingly or unwillingly to the events of Jan. 6,” Mr. Thompson said.
The New York Times: Trump officials can testify in Jan. 6 inquiries, Justice Dept. says.
The Justice Department notified former Trump administration officials this week that they could testify to the various committees investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.
Witnesses can give “unrestricted testimony” to the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, the department said in a letter this week. Both panels are scrutinizing the Trump administration’s efforts to overturn the election in its final days and the events leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The decision runs counter to the views of former President Donald J. Trump, who has argued that his decisions and deliberations are protected by executive privilege. It also sets up a potential court battle if Mr. Trump sues in a bid to block any testimony.
In that case, the courts could be forced to decide the extent to which a former president can be protected by privilege. Mr. Trump’s supporters have argued that a president cannot function if privilege can be taken away by a successor, exposing sensitive decision-making and opening up the previous administration to scrutiny.
But others say that the matter is settled law, and that privilege does not apply to extraordinary circumstances.
In its opening act, the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol holds its first high-profile hearing Tuesday with testimony from four officers who will give firsthand accounts of the horrors they witnessed and endured as rioters stormed the building.
The officers are expected to recount the harrowing attacks they faced on January 6, including being beaten with a flagpole, getting crushed in a doorway, being the target of racial slurs and facing rioters who tased them. The committee also is expected to show never-before-seen videos depicting the violence from that day, just as House impeachment managers did during the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
The emotional testimony kicks off the committee’s investigation into the circumstances surrounding the January 6 attack as Democratic leaders look to set the tone for a panel that congressional Republicans have dismissed as a political sideshow created merely to discredit the legacy of the former President.
The goal Tuesday, according to select committee member Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, is to portray what it was like “to be on the front lines for the brave police officers” and to push back on efforts to whitewash the events of that day.
“I’m hoping that the hearing will give the American people an even more vivid sense of what went on that day, the horror of that day, how these brave police officers saved so many lives,” Schiff told CNN.
Investigative report from Joshua Kaplan and Joaquin Sapien at ProPublica: New Details Suggest Senior Trump Aides Knew Jan. 6 Rally Could Get Chaotic.
On Dec. 19, President Donald Trump blasted out a tweet to his 88 million followers, inviting supporters to Washington for a “wild” protest.
Earlier that week, one of his senior advisers had released a 36-page report alleging significant evidence of election fraud that could reverse Joe Biden’s victory. “A great report,” Trump wrote. “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
The tweet worked like a starter’s pistol, with two pro-Trump factions competing to take control of the “big protest.”
On one side stood Women for America First, led by Amy Kremer, a Republican operative who helped found the tea party movement. The group initially wanted to hold a kind of extended oral argument, with multiple speakers making their case for how the election had been stolen.
On the other was Stop the Steal, a new, more radical group that had recruited avowed racists to swell its ranks and wanted the President to share the podium with Alex Jones, the radio host banned from the world’s major social media platforms for hate speech, misinformation and glorifying violence. Stop the Steal organizers say their plan was to march on the Capitol and demand that lawmakers give Trump a second term.
ProPublica has obtained new details about the Trump White House’s knowledge of the gathering storm, after interviewing more than 50 people involved in the events of Jan. 6 and reviewing months of private correspondence. Taken together, these accounts suggest that senior Trump aides had been warned the Jan. 6 events could turn chaotic, with tens of thousands of people potentially overwhelming ill-prepared law enforcement officials.
Rather than trying to halt the march, Trump and his allies accommodated its leaders, according to text messages and interviews with Republican operatives and officials.
Katrina Pierson, a former Trump campaign official assigned by the White House to take charge of the rally planning, helped arrange a deal where those organizers deemed too extreme to speak at the Ellipse could do so on the night of Jan. 5. That event ended up including incendiary speeches from Jones and Ali Alexander, the leader of Stop the Steal, who fired up his followers with a chant of “Victory or death!”
Read more at ProPublica. It’s quite long and detailed.
The Washington Post Editorial Board: Opinion: We have questions about Jan. 6. The new House committee can answer them.
…[I]n contrast to Republican claims, there is much for the select committee to uncover.
Top of the list is precisely what then-President Donald Trump did before, during and after the attack. How did he prepare his speech preceding the insurrection, in which he told the crowd to fight? What did he anticipate his audience’s reaction would be? When did he know the pro-Trump mob was threatening the Capitol? Why did he offer only mild statements long after the danger was clear? Did Trump-affiliated rally organizers coordinate with extremist groups? Answering such questions calls for subpoenaing former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows; Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner; and other White House aides with useful information.
Also relevant is what members of Congress reported to Mr. Trump and other members of his administration as the riot unfolded. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who spoke with the president and Mr. Kushner on Jan. 6, must testify, along with any other lawmakers who interacted with the Trump administration in the run-up to, during and after that day. The list includes Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) and possibly Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). For that matter, the committee must examine whether any lawmakers themselves maintained connections with or even abetted the rioters.
Investigators should hear from extremist-group leaders at the center of the violence. How did they prepare? What was their goal? The committee should hear also from Justice Department and Capitol Police officials who failed to anticipate the riot. Why did intelligence officials across the government seem unaware of warnings that were all over social media? To what extent did law enforcement discount or ignore warning signs about right-wing extremists because federal and local officers did not want to cross Mr. Trump and other Republicans? Why did the National Guard take so long to arrive?
Finally, the investigation should lead to recommendations to forestall a repeat of such political violence, with a particular focus on how the government monitors domestic extremism.
If you’re watching the hearings, please let us know what you think. As always, feel free to comment on any topic. This is an open thread.