Jan. 6 probe seeks Newt Gingrich; questions role in Trump’s attempt to overturn election

The Jan. 6 committee on Thursday asked Newt Gingrich to come forward voluntarily and answer questions about evidence investigators obtained highlighting the role he played promoting former President Donald Trump’s scheme to overturn the 2020 election both before and after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. 

According to the committee, the emails that piqued their interest were between Gingrich and Trump’s advisers, including Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, communications strategist Jason Miller, and others, like Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, all of whom have cooperated at length with the congressional investigation.  

Gingrich, a Georgia Republican and former House speaker, had cozied up to the White House as Trump’s impeachment-marred and scandal-ridden term came to an end. In the process, the committee contends, Gingrich ended up providing Trump’s team with significant input on television advertisements that propagated conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud. 

Jan 6 Cmte Letter to Newt Gingrich by Daily Kos on Scribd

Further, House Select Committee Chair Bennie Thompson noted, mere days after the election in November 2020, Gingrich peppered Meadows and Cipollone with questions about who was in charge of coordinating an elector bid that would put fake pro-Trump “electors” in states demonstrably won by now-President Joe Biden. That fake elector bid was at the very core of Trump’s attempt to overturn the election. 

A month later, Gingrich proposed that ads should encourage the public to pressure state officials to investigate conspiracy theories. Those included the now long-debunked claim of Trump ballots being smuggled in suitcases out of voting centers in Georgia by nefarious election workers.

Those conspiracy theories latched on to by Gingrich and others ultimately upended the lives of election workers. 

But persuasion was not enough. 

Gingrich wrote Kushner, Miller, and consultant Larry Weitzner in a Dec. 8, 2020 email that “the goal is to arouse the country’s anger through new verifiable information.” 

“If we inform the American people in a way they find convincing and it arouses their anger, they will then bring pressure on legislators and governors,” Gingirch wrote. 

But that “new verifiable information” was bunk. 

Gingrich also did this just after Gabriel Sterling, the Georgia deputy secretary of state, issued an impassioned public plea begging that the disinformation and character attacks on election workers and election officials cease. 

“Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed,” Sterling said. 

Literal hours after the insurrection, investigators on the committee say Gingrich opted to keep pushing Trump’s agenda.

Thompson described Gingrich as “relentless.” 

In an email sent at 10:42 PM on Jan. 6—former Vice President Mike Pence had only reopened the Senate around 8 PM—Gingrich asked about the fake electors for Trump in an email to Meadows:

“[A]re there letters from state legislators about decertifiying electors?” Gingrich wrote.

The committee asked Gingrich to appear for a transcribed interview beginning the week of Sept. 19. 

As the summer winds down, the Jan. 6 committee’s public-facing activities are expected to ramp up. As committee member and Rep. Jamie Raskin recently told Daily Kos, the Jan. 6 probe would continue to gather and assess new evidence it received over the course of its public hearings and work to tie up loose ends before issuing an interim report.  

RELATED STORY: Pulling back from the ‘appalling descent’: An interview with Jan. 6 investigator Jamie Raskin

Meanwhile, on Friday, according to The New York Times, Cipollone and his deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin are expected to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the Jan. 6 attack. 

Trump White House lawyer Pat Cipollone to meet with Jan. 6 probe

Fresh off a subpoena requesting his cooperation, former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone is slated to testify before the Jan. 6 committee for a private, transcribed, and videotaped interview.

A committee aide did not immediately respond to a Daily Kos request for comment. The New York Times was the first to report the development Wednesday, citing a person briefed on the matter. 

Cipollone’s full compliance could be illuminating for the investigation into former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. According to sworn testimony already delivered by former members of the Department of Justice under Trump, as well as Trump White House officials, Cipollone was often a firsthand witness to make-or-break moments in Trump’s attempted coup. 

RELATED STORY: Pat Cipollone’s chance to serve the country—not Trump—is now, Jan. 6 probe demands in subpoena

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Cipollone was privy to multiple conversations about the bunk elector scheme championed by Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, witnesses have said, and Cipollone was also present when Trump raised the question of seizing voting machines.

The former president’s counsel attended a meeting recently detailed at length—and under oath—by the nation’s former acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, and Rosen’s deputy, Richard Donoghue.

Rosen and Donoghue testified that it was Cipollone who stood tall against Trump in the Oval Office during a meeting where Trump nearly fired Rosen and replaced him with yes-man Jeffrey Clark, a mid-level environmental lawyer at the Department of Justice who strongly supported Trump’s baseless election fraud claims.

Like Cipollone, Clark was subpoenaed by the committee. But Clark refused to answer any questions and instead pleaded the Fifth Amendment repeatedly during a private meeting with committee counsel.  

When Rosen and Donoghue testified, they described how the draft letter written by Clark rattled off a long series of bogus claims about election fraud in Georgia and urged that “alternate” electors be seated.

Rosen’s predecessor, Attorney General Bill Barr, had already declared publicly and in private meetings with Trump, that there was no evidence of fraud widespread enough that it would alter the outcome of the election. But Clark, Rosen and Donoghue said, pushed ahead anyway. 

When Cipollone saw the draft letter, Donoghue told the committee he remembered the counsel’s reaction vividly. 

If the DOJ cosigned it, Cipollone allegedly said, it would be a “murder-suicide pact.”

The draft letter never went out because Donoghue, Rosen, and others at the Department of Justice threatened to resign en masse if Trump insisted on replacing Rosen with Clark. 

According to sworn testimony already provided by former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, Cipollone was also part of key conversations with Mark Meadows, then Trump’s chief of staff. 

Hutchinson said Cipollone pleaded with Meadows to act as the mob grew larger, gallows were erected on the Capitol lawn and chants of ‘Hang Mike Pence’ reverberated on Capitol grounds. 

Hutchinson recalled Cipollone telling Meadows how desperate the situation had become on Jan. 6 and urged Meadows to understand that the mob was quite literally calling to kill then-Vice President Mike Pence.

“You heard him, Pat,” Hutchinson recalled Meadows saying. “He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”

According to Hutchinson's recounting of the day, Cipollone was flabbergasted.

“This is f-ing crazy. We need to be doing something more,” Cipollone allegedly said. 

Cipollone has been a stalwart ally to Trump, representing the 45th president for both of his impeachments and in various other legal matters. When Trump was impeached for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power in 2019, Cipollone offered a vehement and sharp defense of Trump, taking up the “witch hunt” mantle at length and slamming the inquiry as meritless and part of a campaign by Democrats and those on the left to punish Trump for political differences. 

When Trump was impeached the first time, Cipollone notably called for cameras to be barred from proceedings, arguing it would create a circus-like atmosphere. The cameras would stay. 

Trump was ultimately quite pleased with Cipollone’s performance during the first impeachment, calling him a “Great White House counsel.” 

This latest decision to comply with the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoena will put Trump’s relationship with Cipollone to the test and the extent of Cipollone’s cooperation will naturally hinge on what he actually discloses. 

When Trump attorney John Eastman tried to fend off the committee’s subpoena for his records, Eastman cited attorney-client privilege but was unable to overcome the crime-fraud exception to this assertion. The crime-fraud exception essentially says that confidentiality is not blanketed and if a client sought advice from an attorney that would help that client pull off or commission a crime, then work product or correspondence can be disclosed. 

A Washington Post profile of Cipollone from Jan. 2020 notes the counsel’s propensity to keep himself out of the national spotlight.

His profile was so low in Washington, D.C., in fact, that when Cipollone first took to the Senate floor during Trump’s impeachment, it was his first time ever appearing on C-SPAN.

Memorably, even while presiding over the inquiry, Chief Justice John Roberts introduced Cipollone and mispronounced his last name. 

TODAY: Cipollone's first time on C-SPAN. Sekulow's 44th time on C-SPAN (first in 1990 ... 1991 below) pic.twitter.com/XbWVBCJ5ek

— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) January 21, 2020

 Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s personal attorneys, told Yahoo! News in January 2020 that Cipollone was a “serious tactician” and described him as an “aggressive advocate” for the 45th president though “measured.”

In that same 2020 article, an unnamed Trump White House official said Trump saw Cipollone as “beyond loyal.” 

Cipollone will appear before the committee for his private session this Friday.

The committee’s next public hearing is July 12 at 10 AM ET and there will be at least one more hearing to follow. The committee is expected to focus on the extremist elements involved in the insurrection as well as unpack exactly what was going on during the 187 minutes of silence from the White House as the Capitol was under attack. 

Cartoon: Join the Trump legal defense team!

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We have now seen — in ranting “legal” briefs — how President Trump’s team is planning on defending him in the Senate impeachment trial. In short, they’re going to rant and rave, blame everyone else and wrap the whole package in faux legalese.

That’s what happens when you pick most of your legal team from the Fox News bench. You don’t necessarily get the brightest legal minds by doing it that way. (In their defense, even the most brilliant legal mind would have a tough time defending Trump.) Good thing the president has the Republican-held Senate to throw down roadblocks and acquittals as needed.

The more we review the details of what led to impeachment, the more disheartening it is that the Senate will likely let him off the hook. Who knows, maybe more revelations and evidence outside the Senate trial will lead to additional articles of impeachment. Extorting Ukraine is just one of the many threads of criminality woven through this administration.

Enjoy the cartoon, which you would have seen along the way to completion if you were one of my Patreon supporters :-)