Jan. 6 panel to vote on urging DOJ to prosecute Trump on at least three criminal charges

The Jan. 6 select committee is preparing to vote on urging the Justice Department to pursue at least three criminal charges against former President Donald Trump, including insurrection.

The report that the select panel is expected to consider on Monday afternoon, described to POLITICO by two people familiar with its contents, reflects some recommendations from a subcommittee that evaluated potential criminal referrals. Among the charges that subcommittee proposes for Trump: 18 U.S.C. 2383, insurrection; 18 U.S.C. 1512(c), obstruction of an official proceeding; and 18 U.S.C. 371, conspiracy to defraud the United States government.

It’s unclear whether the select committee's final report will recommend additional charges for Trump beyond the three described to POLITICO, or whether it will urge other criminal charges for other players in Trump's bid to subvert his 2020 loss. The document, according to the people familiar, includes an extensive justification for the recommended charges.

To justify incitement of insurrection, the report references U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta’s February ruling saying Trump’s language plausibly incited violence on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of his supporters besieged the Capitol in a bid to disrupt congressional certification of his loss to Joe Biden. The report also cites the Senate’s 57 votes in last year's impeachment trial, Trump’s second, to convict him on an “incitement of insurrection” charge passed by the House.

The select panel's report also notes that, in order to violate the insurrection statute, Trump did not need an express agreement with rioters — but rather, simply needed to provide “aid or comfort” to them.

DOJ, which is already pursuing a criminal probe of Trump’s Jan. 6-related actions, is not required to consider referrals from Congress, which have no legal weight. However, the select committee plans to act in the hopes that lawmakers' input can influence prosecutorial decision-making.

A select committee spokesperson declined to comment.

A Trump spokesperson denounced the committee's plans.

“The January 6th un-Select Committee held show trials by Never Trump partisans who are a stain on this country’s history," said Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung in a statement. "This Kangaroo court has been nothing more than a Hollywood executive’s vanity documentary project that insults Americans’ intelligence and makes a mockery of our democracy.”

DOJ, which is already pursuing a criminal probe of Trump’s Jan. 6-related actions, is not required to consider referrals from Congress, which have no legal weight. However, the select committee plans to act in the hopes that lawmakers' input can influence prosecutorial decision-making. Panel chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) has also raised the possibility of referrals to outside entities like bar associations for the constellation of lawyers involved in election subversion efforts.

The panel’s lawmakers have debated the value of referrals at length through the end of their investigation. But in recent days, they’ve made the referrals into a play for history and have stressed their symbolic nature, regardless of what DOJ or other entities might do.

The enormous cache of evidence the panel plans to release next week, including transcripts of over 1,000 witness interviews, could prove to be an even more significant development by helping federal prosecutors determine which leads to track and which witnesses may have committed crimes themselves.

Over the course of its probe the committee interviewed nearly every member of Trump’s inner circle — from his White House counsel Pat Cipollone to attorney Rudy Giuliani to his children Ivanka and Donald Jr. They interviewed members of Trump’s Secret Service detail, campaign team, attorneys and White House staff. And while some key witnesses pleaded the Fifth or invoked privileges that the committee could not pierce, many provided extraordinary evidence of Trump’s plot.

The panel has alleged for months that Trump knowingly spread false claims about the results of the election in order to upend the transition of power to Joe Biden. In the frenzied weeks following the Nov. 3, 2020 election, they say Trump systematically pressured state and local government officials, the Justice Department and his own vice president to help him seize a second term he didn’t win. When those efforts failed, they say he used the presence of a mob — which he knew the be armed — to attempt to derail the certification of the election by Congress.

The panel also contends that Trump falsely signed court documents attesting to evidence of election fraud that he was told was inaccurate and that he incited the crowd at a Jan. 6 rally by telling them to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell.” Amid the mob attack on the Capitol, they say Trump incited further violence by tweeting an attack on then-Vice President Mike Pence, who was fleeing from the mob at that very moment. And as the attack continued and allies pleaded with him to intervene, Trump refused to directly tell the mob to leave.

Instead, he continued watching the attack on television and held calls with allies to continue strategizing ways to remain in power.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Jan. 6 committee makes Jan. 7 — and beyond — matter

The Jan. 6 select committee’s name never fully fit a panel long focused on the runup to that date. And its members made clear Thursday night that they’re turning to Donald Trump’s actions after the violent riot.

As his days in office dwindled after the Capitol attack, Trump kept resisting the reality of his loss to Joe Biden, according to the select panel. Its starkest illustration of the former president's unwillingness to abandon his plan to seize power, even after it erupted in violence, came in outtakes from his Jan. 7 attempt to deliver words that might calm a nation on edge.

“I don’t want to say the election is over,” Trump said on the evening after the siege, rejecting prepared remarks his staff pleaded with him to repeat on camera.

That unguarded image, aired Thursday night during the select committee’s eighth public hearing, shows that the committee has quietly amassed evidence postdating Jan. 6 — material that provides a window into the mind of a defeated president refusing to concede.

The select panel is turning to the aftermath of the riot for a reason. Jan. 6 committee members say their evidence of Trump's enduring fixation on his loss, even after he left office and kept trying to convince his supporters he was cheated out of a second term, underscores an important message about his future as he weighs a 2024 campaign.

“The forces Donald Trump ignited that day have not gone away … They’re all still out there ready to go,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).

Select committee members told POLITICO that they’ve been intensely focused on what the post-Jan. 6 period in Trump’s White House reveals about the attack itself, seeing the weeks after the riot as a bookend to everything that came before.

“There were efforts even after January 6 to continue to try to vacate the election in some way,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the select committee. "So we are interested in anything concerning that effort to overturn the election.”

Trump wasn't the only person whose post-Jan. 6 moves the committee is pushing into the spotlight. It showed Thursday night that two well-known Trump staffers were frustrated over their boss' refusal to acknowledge the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who collapsed and died a day after the attack.

But tellingly, the aides also rationalized that Trump's silence about Sicknick’s death fit his mindset.

“No way he acknowledges something that could ultimately be called his fault,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said at the time.

The select panel has also assembled evidence showing frantic efforts by Trump loyalists and appointees to usher him out of office as calmly as possible after Jan. 6. Fox News host Sean Hannity texted Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Jan. 7 offering a plan to stabilize the administration — “impeachment and 25th amendment are real,” he noted of the growing momentum in both parties at the time to remove Trump from power before Biden's inauguration.

Later, Hannity texted then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan with a plan to “land the plane." That was code for winding down Trump’s term without further turbulence.

Which wasn't a foregone conclusion in the wake of the riot; as Hannity pointed out, interest was building in the extraordinary step of removing Trump via the Constitution's 25th Amendment, which provides for the Cabinet and vice president to take power if they deem the president unfit.

Several Cabinet members discussed this possibility in the days after Jan. 6. And amid those discussions, then-Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia urged Trump to call a Cabinet meeting to discuss an orderly transition of power.

“I believe it is important to know that while President, you will no longer publicly question the election results — after Wednesday, no one can deny this is harmful,” Scalia wrote to Trump in a memo.

A week later, the House would impeach Trump on a single article: “incitement of insurrection.” Days after that, Trump would meet in the White House with outside advisers, including MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. He was seen carrying papers that included the words “Insurrection Act,” a component of one of Trump’s most extreme options to attempt to remain in power.

To Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), these points all figure into the committee's mandate by illustrating Trump’s state of mind after the riot.

“If someone commits a crime, and then later, you know, brags about committing the crime, applauds his criminal confederates and so on — then that makes it pretty clear what happened,” Raskin said. “And so I think that post-Jan. 6 statements and actions are relevant.”

In Thursday’s hearing, the panel highlighted Trump’s final tweet on Jan. 6, which seemed to validate the actions of the mob at the Capitol.

“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” he wrote. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

In fact, Trump has only escalated his frontal attack on the 2020 election in recent days. Last week, he called the Wisconsin state House speaker, Robin Vos, and encouraged him to attempt to decertify ballots in a state Biden fairly won. He’s lashed out at former allies who have spoken out against him and floated the possibility of pardons for people who breached the Capitol in his name.

And the select panel highlighted the responsibility of other elected Republicans in continuing to enable Trump too. On Thursday night, Vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) aired a recording, previously reported by the New York Times, of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) telling other Republicans he'd urge Trump to resign in the aftermath of Jan. 6. McCarthy has since struck a different tone on Trump.

Trump offered his first, if unintentional, window into his mentality in the Jan. 7 outtakes as he stumbled over some of his prepared remarks.

“I would like to begin by addressing the heinous attack yesterday,” he said.

Then he paused and told his aides, “Yesterday is a hard word for me.”

Posted in Uncategorized

Jan. 6 panel reveals how Trump sat on his hands during attack

While rioters smashed through police lines at the Capitol, Donald Trump asked aides for a list of senators to call as he continued to pursue paths to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election.

“He wanted a list of senators,” former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in recorded testimony, aired by the Jan. 6 select committee at a public hearing Thursday night.

McEnany didn’t identify which senators Trump called, but one of them was Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who has previously described receiving a call from the then-president just as he and Pence were being evacuated, as the mob encroached on the Senate chamber.

The new evidence underscored Trump’s fixation on seizing a second term and disrupting the transfer of power, even as his vice president and Congress were fleeing from violent rioters. The committee aired audio from Pence’s Secret Service detail making rapid-fire decisions about the proper route through the Capitol to avoid confronting the mob.

“We may lose the ability to leave,” one agent warned moments before Pence was ushered to an underground loading dock, where he remained for the remainder of the riot.

The evidence was the centerpiece of the committee’s case that Trump didn’t just sit on his hands during the riot, he welcomed the chaos and sought to use it to further his goal to cling to power and prevent Joe Biden from taking office.

“President Trump did not fail to act … he chose not to act,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), at Thursday’s hearing, the eighth in the committee’s recent series.

The panel added new details to the timeline of Trump's actions, painting a picture of a president who sat idly in the Oval Office, watching on TV as pro-Trump rioters battered their way through police lines and into the Capitol. While Trump's public silence during much of the violence is already well-known, the panel argues that the new evidence it is revealing about what happened inside the West Wing will show he purposely didn’t intervene in the chaos until it was clear the mob had failed to stop the certification of Joe Biden's election.

"Donald Trump ignored and disregarded the desperate pleas of his own family, including Ivanka and Don Jr." said Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), referring to the former president's children. "He could not be moved."

The hearing focused intensely on the now-famous “187 minutes” — the period of time between when Trump urged his supporters to march on the Capitol, 1:10 p.m., and when Trump haltingly told them to depart, at 4:17 p.m.

The committee showed new testimony from Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, including his recollection of discussions with colleagues about the mob’s chants of “hang Mike Pence.” Though Cipollone relied on executive privilege to decline to discuss whether he raised concerns about this directly with Trump, White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson said she overheard Cipollone discussing the matter with then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. She recalled overhearing Meadows say Trump thought Pence deserved it.

One of the committee’s live witnesses, former press aide Sarah Matthews, described how easily the press team could have arranged for Trump to make an address to the White House press corps quickly: “He could have been on camera almost instantly.” But the order never came, she said.

The hearing also emphasized the role of Trump’s 2:24 p.m. tweet, in which he angrily attacked Mike Pence for his refusal to attempt to block the transfer of power. The committee showed testimony from Trump White House aides uniformly expressing disappointment and frustration at Trump’s broadside against Pence, which also rippled through the mob itself, with rioters amplifying it and using it to urge others to enter the Capitol.

“My reaction is that it’s a terrible tweet,” Cipollone told the select committee. “I disagreed with the sentiment.”

"The scenes at the U.S. Capitol were only getting worse at that point," said former White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere. “This was not going to help that.”

Thursday night’s hearing is closing the latest chapter of the select panel’s investigation, but investigators vowed to keep going. Its probe has opened up extraordinary new avenues of inquiry — from Secret Service agents’ deletion of text messages in the days surrounding Jan. 6 to the legal concerns about Trump’s plans that day from his own White House counsel’s office.

“We anticipate further testimony” from the Secret Service, said Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), one of two lawmakers leading Thursday’s hearing.

Thompson said the committee would reconvene in September to continue presenting evidence to the American people about a "coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn an election overseen and directed by Donald Trump."

"There needs to be accountability, accountability under the law, accountability to the American people," Thompson said. "If there's no accountability for January 6, for every part of this scheme, I fear we will not overcome the growing threat to our democracy."

The hearing’s two witnesses are former Trump White House aides, Sarah Matthews and Matthew Pottinger. But select panel members also featured extensive video clips from witnesses interviews, highlighting the vast network of Trump allies who tried to facilitate his plans.

By all accounts, witnesses are coming forward at a steady clip, offering new insights about the multiple facets of Trump’s plan, which grew increasingly desperate as Jan. 6 approached. Some of them were featured in Thursday’s hearing, including Cipollone, who testified privately to the committee earlier this month.

The committee emphasized that while Trump was continuing to lean on senators and allies to aid his quest to remain in power, he never called security agencies to send aid to the Capitol.

He also fielded pleas for help from House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has told allies he rejected Trump’s contention that the violent mob was a left-wing assault masquerading as Trump supporters. Trump then replied the mob must have cared more about the election than McCarthy did, according to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who has publicly recounted a conversation she had with McCarthy where he described the phone call.

The panel is likely to turn the lens on the post-Jan. 6 period in the White House, when a still defiant Trump continued to consider ways to overturn the election. That aspect of the investigation has been largely overlooked, but the committee has eyed Trump’s actions in those closing days as he fended off talk about removing him from office, both through impeachment and the 25th amendment. Trump still huddled with fringe advisers, like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who was seen in late January carrying papers that referenced invoking the Insurrection Act, part of a plan that Trump considered to seize voting machines from various states.

The committee has also shown that Trump’s outside lawyers continued to strategize about potential legal actions that might undo the results of the election, and Fox News host Sean Hannity texted with then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) about trying to usher Trump out of office without further resistance.

Meadows’ role was a focus Thursday as well. Aides have testified about his communications with Trump during the riot. A top Meadows adviser, Cassidy Hutchinson, told the committee that Meadows emerged from a conversation with Trump on Jan. 6 and indicated that Trump had expressed support for an ominous sentiment chanted by rioters at the Capitol: “Hang Mike Pence.”

Posted in Uncategorized

Audio: McCarthy told colleagues he would seek Trump’s resignation after Jan. 6

Days after a violent pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and sent lawmakers fleeing for their lives, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy told top allies he would urge then-President Donald Trump to resign, according to an audio recording of a conference call on Jan. 10, 2021.

The recording, obtained by New York Times reporters Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin — and heard publicly for the first time Thursday on MSNBC — shows McCarthy preparing to formally break from Trump in the aftermath of the deadly riot and as House Democrats started drawing up an impeachment resolution.

“Again, the only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign,” McCarthy said of the impeachment resolution. “Um, I mean that would be my take, but I don’t think he would take it. But I don’t know.”

Joining McCarthy on the call was Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who was then the third-ranking Republican. They briefly discussed the prospect of Trump’s Cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment, which would allow Trump to be immediately removed from office, and McCarthy revealed he had spoken to Trump within the previous “couple days.”

A spokesperson for McCarthy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The California Republican had responded to the reporting by Burns and Martin earlier in the day by calling it “totally false and wrong,” though his statement did not address specifics. Spokespeople for Cheney and the Jan. 6 select committee declined to comment.

The call underscores the degree to which GOP leaders were preparing to abandon Trump in the aftermath of the attack — only for McCarthy to rapidly veer back into Trump’s fold. McCarthy, who sharply denied plans to recommend Trump’s resignation before the tape was released, has since become one of Trump’s staunchest defenders and worked to stymie congressional investigations into the Jan. 6 attack. He warned tech companies of potential retaliation if they cooperated with House Jan. 6 investigators and he pulled the plug on the prospect of a 9/11-commission-style investigation of the attack, despite having deputized a Republican lawmaker who forged a bipartisan proposal.

For McCarthy, the appearance of the audio recording from the days following the attack could weigh on his bid to become the next speaker of the House, a possibility if Republicans retake the chamber, as they’re now favored to do.

Trump still commands great sway over House Republicans and his reaction to McCarthy’s newly public comments could ripple across the caucus, as well as among the candidates likely to help Republicans take control of the House next year.

It’s also a reminder that McCarthy rejected a call from the Jan. 6 select committee to describe his interactions with Trump on and shortly after Jan. 6. McCarthy at the time ripped the panel and said he had nothing new to add to what was already publicly known. The tape underscores that this was not the case.

The Jan. 6 committee’s letter inviting McCarthy to testify noted his public statements on the Capitol attack had “changed markedly” since he met with Trump on Jan. 28, 2021, at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Congressional investigators sought to ask him whether Trump or his allies discussed what the Republican leader should say publicly about Jan. 6 during the impeachment trial or in later investigations.

Posted in Uncategorized

McCarthy rejects Jan. 6 committee request for testimony about talks with Trump

The Jan. 6 select committee has requested House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s testimony about his interactions with Donald Trump as a mob swarmed the Capitol, describing it as crucial to understanding the former president’s state of mind.

In a letter to the GOP leader on Wednesday, Chair Bennie Thompson said the panel wants to know about the details of Trump’s phone call with McCarthy on Jan. 6, one the California Republican himself once described as “heated,” in which Trump initially downplayed the notion that his supporters were responsible for breaching the Capitol, according to some accounts.

When McCarthy asserted on the call to the outgoing president that it was Trump’s supporters who raided the Capitol, Trump replied: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” This account of the call was shared by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who publicly revealed her conversation with McCarthy ahead of the impeachment proceedings last year. McCarthy has not disputed the account.

In a statement issued later Wednesday, McCarthy said he would not cooperate with the request.

“As a representative and the leader of the minority party, it is with neither regret nor satisfaction that I have concluded to not participate with this select committee’s abuse of power that stains this institution today and will harm it going forward," he said.

Asked whether the panel would subpoena him to ensure his compliance, Thompson told reporters, “We will consider it.” McCarthy is the third GOP lawmaker the panel has requested to testify. The others, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.), have rejected the committee’s entreaties. Both men were key allies of Trump as he sought to subvert the 2020 election results.

Thompson said the select panel is particularly interested in McCarthy’s changing tone around his characterization of Trump’s actions during the riot, adding that members intend to ask him whether Trump or his allies suggested “what you should say publicly during the impeachment trial (if called as a witness), or in any later investigation about your conversations with him on January 6th.”

In addition, Thompson said he was not aware whether the committee had obtained any of McCarthy’s text messages or banking records. McCarthy’s phone records were on an initial preservation request the committee sent to telecommunications companies at the outset of its probe.

Notably, the select panel has obtained a raft of text messages sent and received by Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who briefly cooperated with its inquiry. The committee is also fighting the former president in court to obtain Trump White House call logs from the National Archives, a matter that's pending before the Supreme Court.

McCarthy, who helped scuttle an attempt to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection, has spent months thrashing the Jan. 6 committee. Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of McCarthy’s initial picks to sit on the panel — Jordan and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) — deeming them too intertwined with Trump to be credible investigators. In turn, McCarthy withdrew his remaining three appointees and boycotted the committee altogether.

McCarthy also issued a thinly veiled threat to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the Jan. 6 committee’s request for lawmakers’ phone records, saying a GOP majority next year “will not forget” their decisions.

The panel proposed a Feb. 3 or Feb. 4 meeting, or a time the week after.

McCarthy has softened his tone toward Trump since the immediate aftermath of the Capitol riot. He initially said on the House floor that Trump “bears responsibility” for the violence, but within a six-month span had begun sidestepping such questions.

Some House Republicans who wanted Trump to be purged from the party blame McCarthy for bringing Trump back into a position of influence — particularly after the House GOP leader met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago just weeks after the attack. Trump loyalists in the House, however, welcomed the move.

McCarthy’s early post-insurrection criticism enraged Trump, who has at times lashed out at the lawmaker. But McCarthy has worked diligently to foster relationships with Trump and the former president's allies in the House as he zeroes in on his goal to claim the speaker’s gavel in 2023, should Republicans retake the chamber.

The GOP leader has also offered varying responses when asked if he would testify. In May, he replied to a reporter’s question with a “sure.” At other times, he's offered less clear responses.

In an interview with local California news channel Eyewitness News in late December, McCarthy was asked if he would testify before the Jan. 6 panel. He replied: "I don't have anything really to add. I have been very public, but I wouldn't hide from anything either."

In its letter to McCarthy, the panel also disclosed a new text message from Fox News host Laura Ingraham to Meadows urging Trump on Jan. 12, 2021, to discourage supporters from bringing weapons to state Capitols.

“Remarks on camera discouraging protest at state capit[o]ls esp with weapons will be well advised given how hot the situation is. [E]veryone needs to calm down and pray for our country and for those who lost their lives last week,” Ingraham told the then-chief of staff.

The message came amid heightened fears that state Capitols were vulnerable to violent attacks in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

A Fox News representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Posted in Uncategorized