Lazy Caturday Reads: Investigating The January 6 Insurrection and Trump’s Attempted CoupPosted: October 23, 2021
There is a great deal of news today about the January 6 Capitol insurrection and the House committee’s investigation of what happened.
First up: if you didn’t think Trump and his gang were trying to organize a serious coup attempt, you need to read this stunning article at The Washington Post: Ahead of Jan. 6, Willard hotel in downtown D.C. was a Trump team ‘command center’ for effort to deny Biden the presidency.
They called it the “command center,” a set of rooms and suites in the posh Willard hotel a block from the White House where some of President Donald Trump’s most loyal lieutenants were working day and night with one goal in mind: overturning the results of the 2020 election.
The Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse and the ensuing attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob would draw the world’s attention to the quest to physically block Congress from affirming Joe Biden’s victory. But the activities at the Willard that week add to an emerging picture of a less visible effort, mapped out in memos by a conservative pro-Trump legal scholar and pursued by a team of presidential advisers and lawyers seeking to pull off what they claim was a legal strategy to reinstate Trump for a second term.
They were led by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani. Former chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon was an occasional presence as the effort’s senior political adviser. Former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik was there as an investigator. Also present was John Eastman, the scholar, who outlined scenarios for denying Biden the presidency in an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 4 with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
They sought to make the case to Pence and ramp up pressure on him to take actions on Jan. 6 that Eastman suggested were within his powers, three people familiar with the operation said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Their activities included finding and publicizing alleged evidence of fraud, urging members of state legislatures to challenge Biden’s victory and calling on the Trump-supporting public to press Republican officials in key states.
The effort underscores the extent to which Trump and a handful of true believers were working until the last possible moment to subvert the will of the voters, seeking to pressure Pence to delay or even block certification of the election, leveraging any possible constitutional loophole to test the boundaries of American democracy.
Here’s what these coup-organizers were doing:
The three people familiar with the operation described intense work in the days and hours leading up to and even extending beyond 1 p.m. on Jan 6, when Congress convened for the counting of electoral votes.
In those first days in January, from the command center, Trump allies were calling members of Republican-dominated legislatures in swing states that Eastman had spotlighted in his memos, including Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona, encouraging them to convene special sessions to investigate fraud and to reassign electoral college votes from Biden to Trump, two of the people familiar with the operation said.
On Jan. 2, Trump, Giuliani and Eastman spoke to 300 state legislators via a conference call meant to arm them with purported evidence of fraud and galvanize them to take action to “decertify” their election results. “You are the real power,” Trump told the state lawmakers, according to a Washington Examiner report. “You’re the ones that are going to make the decision.”
The goal was to convince these state lawmakers to work to decertify the election results in their states and to try to convince Mike Pence to delay certification of the electoral college results to give these insurrectionist legislators time to convince their colleagues to overthrow the election results. And Bannon was involved in these efforts.
Also on Jan. 2, Eastman, Giuliani and Epshteyn appeared on Bannon’s podcast to make the case directly to Bannon’s pro-Trump listeners. They discussed what Bannon called that day’s “all-hands meeting with state . . . legislators that the Trump campaign and also others are putting on.” The comments were first highlighted by Proof.
They argued that state lawmakers were legally bound to reexamine their election results. “It’s the duty of these legislatures to fix this, this egregious conduct, and make sure that we’re not putting in the White House some guy that didn’t get elected,” Eastman said. He contended that Congress could itself decide on Jan. 6 to select Trump electors in contested states, but that “it would certainly be helped immensely if the legislatures in the states looked at what happened in their own states and weigh in.”
I hope you’ll go read the rest. Every sentence in the article is important.
Will Bannon pay a price for his involvement in the coup attempt? That will be up to Attorney General Merrick Garland. Former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman writes: Don’t be too sure about the Justice Department’s ‘duty’ to indict Bannon.
Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland has a far more complicated decision coming his way than people realize.
The Department of Justice, in the person of the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, has received a referral from the House of Representatives to bring criminal contempt charges against Stephen K. Bannon, who has refused to comply with a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6.
The righteousness of the referral is not in doubt. There is every reason to think Bannon has important first-hand information about the planning of the Capitol attack. After all, he crowed the night before on his podcast: “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow…. Strap in.”
In addition, as the committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), emphasized Tuesday, there is strong reason to think Bannon knows if and how Trump was “personally involved” in the Jan. 6 attack. No matter is more important for Congress to probe or for the American public to understand.
As for Bannon’s thumbing his nose at a subpoena, it could not be a more flagrant or a more contemptuous violation of the law.
Enforcing the subpoena “should be a slam dunk,” Littman writes, “But it isn’t.” According to Littman, there are several Office of Legal Counsel memos that will impact Garland’s actions. One decision is that the DOJ is not required to enforce subpoenas on members of the executive branch–the AG makes the decision. Other OLC memos address the issue of White House officials and executive privilege. I’m not sure I understand this, because Bannon was not a White House official when all this was happening–even when he was in the White House, he was only a political adviser. Furthermore, Trump is no longer president and how can he invoke executive privilege over planning for a coup? Littman writes:
There is a way for Garland to square the circle. The Office of Legal Counsel’s memo that has precluded pursuit of criminal contempt charges was based on cases in which the department issued legal opinions that the assertions of privilege were proper.
Bannon’s suggestion that the subpoenaed documents and communications are properly covered by executive privilege is spurious at best. First, there’s the fact that Trump hasn’t actually asserted the privilege. On top of that, the select committee’s subpoena involves events that happened years after Bannon left the executive branch; it’s ridiculous to say the relevant testimony and documents must be kept secret to ensure that presidents can freely do the country’s business.
Finally, even if Bannon had a sound claim to executive privilege, Congress’ and the public’s need to know the information covered by the subpoena is paramount, and that factor should prevail. (Likewise, public interest trumped Nixon’s claim to privacy in the 1977 Supreme Court case, which was about the disposition of the disgraced president’s papers.)
More January 6 committee news:
The House select committee investigating the US Capitol insurrection is planning for former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark to testify next Friday — teeing him up to be the first Trump administration official to comply with a subpoena for an interview with the panel, two sources familiar with the committee’s inquiry told CNN.
Clark’s testimony could be a major step forward for Democrats as they attempt to determine what former President Donald Trump, Republican members of Congress and his advisers did and said behind closed doors about overturning the results of the 2020 election before January 6.
CNN has also learned that Alyssa Farah, former director of strategic communications in the Trump White House and assistant to the president, has voluntarily met with Republicans on the House select committee and provided information in several meetings, according sources familiar with the matter. There are two Republicans on the committee — Vice Chair Liz Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger.
The panel has been talking to an ever-widening circle of witnesses as part of its sprawling investigation — and testimony from Farah in addition to Clark would give the panel a crucial new level of insight into Trump’s thinking after the election….
After the deadly January 6 insurrection, Farah told CNN that Trump lied to the American people about the 2020 presidential election results and said that he should “seriously consider” resigning from office.
Clark emerged in the last week of 2020 as a central player in Trump’s two-month-long effort to overturn the vote in key states — and as one of the officials who was in direct contact with Trump.
While serving as the acting head of civil cases at the Justice Department at the end of the Trump presidency, Clark floated plans to give Georgia’s legislature and other states backing to undermine the popular vote results. He gave credence to unfounded conspiracy theories of voter fraud, according to documents from the Justice Department, and communicated with Trump about becoming the attorney general, a Senate investigation found this month.
The extent of Clark’s talks with Trump in the days before January 6 aren’t yet publicly known. The committee subpoenaed Clark for testimony and documents last week.
Did Clark decide to testify because he feared being referred for criminal contempt along with Bannon?
The House select committee is setting its sights on the financing behind events and people associated with January 6, CNN has learned, including money that funded pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rallies that preceded the attack on the Capitol that day, in an effort to determine whether any election law violations or financial crimes took place.
The Democratic-led panel is focused in part on understanding how event organizers and vendors were paid, and how the two rallies were funded, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation, including some who have been interviewed by the committee. Investigators also want to know if any funding came from domestic extremists or foreign sources, sources say.
As the committee moves forward with its sweeping probe of January 6, among the many new details CNN has learned is that the committee has divided its work into at least five investigative teams, each with their own color designation.
The ‘green’ team, for example, is tasked with tracking money, including the funding behind the rallies, as well as untangling the complex web of financial ties between rally organizers and entities affiliated with former President Donald Trump or his campaign, according to multiple sources.
Some of the other teams such as the “red” “blue” and “gold” teams are examining everything from the motivation of participants, whether there was coordination between groups, and whether Trump used his executive authority to pressure lawmakers, former Vice President Mike Pence and the Justice Department, according to the sources familiar with the committee’s work.
“As Rep. Liz Cheney said the other night, it’s very likely that Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6 and these money trails can help adduce additional proof of that,” CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen said. Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, is vice chair of the select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection.
I’ll post more interesting links in the comment thread. Have a nice weekend, Sky Dancers!!