Jack Smith Digging Into Coup Plot As House Select Panel Prepares Report
This is my umpteenth-plus column about Donald Trump's ongoing assault on our democracy,. To support my travails as I cover this miscreant, please consider becoming a paid Substack subscriber and help me on this journey.
I realize I’m taxing your patience and memory here, but stick with me, please. Do you remember seeing that security video of a dozen or so well-dressed, white, largely middle-aged people being turned away from the Michigan State Capitol building? An armed state policeman was standing in what looked to be a back door, physically blocking the group from entering the building. It was taken on December 14, 2020.
The group was attempting to get into the Michigan State Capitol so they could sign phony certificates appointing them as electors for Donald Trump. They needed to sign the certificates inside the building to comply with a Michigan state law. The state policeman politely asked them if they had an appointment with anyone inside the building, and when they answered no, he sent them on their way.
Why would the group of phony electors attempt to enter the Capitol by a rear entrance? Well, it could have been because the real Michigan electors, all of them pledged to Joe Biden, who had won the state of Michigan in the presidential election, were having the official meeting of electors in the office of the Michigan Secretary of State and signing their official ballots so they could be transmitted to the National Archives, and from there to the President of the Senate, where they could be counted when the electoral college vote was certified on January 6.
It was a backdoor scam that literally tried to go through a backdoor as part of a larger attempt by Donald Trump to have phony electors appointed from the seven battleground states he lost -- Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
In January of this year, the House Select Committee investigating Trump's coup attempt subpoenaed 14 people, two from each battleground state, who had falsely claimed to be legitimate state electors and had attempted to arrange for their phony electoral ballots to be submitted to the Congress back in December of 2014.
Chairman Benny Thompson of the committee put it this way in an announcement on January 22 of this year: “The select committee is seeking information about attempts in multiple states to overturn the results of the 2020 election, including the planning and coordination of efforts to send false slates of electors to the National Archives. We believe the individuals we have subpoenaed today have information about how these so-called alternate electors met and who was behind that scheme.”
The committee went on to take testimony from some of the fake electors from each state, and on June 22, held a hearing about the conspiracy to send the slates of fake electors to Congress as part of Trump’s attempt to overturn the result of the presidential election. The hearing became famous because of the testimony by the Speaker of the Arizona House, Rusty Bowers, who described refusing to play a part in the fake elector scheme, calling it “a tragic parody. I didn’t want to be used as a pawn,” Bowers told the committee. He went on to describe a conversation he had with Trump directly, when he refused the then-president’s attempts to involve him in the scheme, telling him, “You are asking me to do something against my oath, and I will not break my oath.”
Lifelong Republican Bowers also described attempts by Trump supporters and militia groups to intimidate him into not testifying before the committee. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) produced texts which showed that Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson had attempted to deliver his state’s slate of fake electors to Vice President Mike Pence before he presided over the counting and certification of electoral ballots in the wee hours of January 7, 2021, because the process had been delayed past midnight by the assault on the Capitol and by challenges made by 147 Congressmen and Senators to the real slates of electors from several states.
On July 13 of this year, the Department of Justice asked the chairman of the House Select Committee for any evidence and testimony it had accumulated about the fake elector scheme in the seven battleground states. Chairman Thompson told reporters that the committee was “engaging” in talks with DOJ investigators about how they could transmit the copies of witness testimony and other evidence. The committee and the DOJ settled on having DOJ investigators come to the Capitol and read the testimony in person.
On Tuesday, everything we’ve just reviewed in this preamble started to bear fruit. Special Counsel Jack Smith issued subpoenas to officials from three states – Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin – for any records of communication with Donald Trump, his campaign, and a long list of aides and lawyers that included several people involved in the fake elector scheme in those states. On the list of people whose communications the subpoenas seek are Boris Epshteyn, a Trump aide; Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien; and several outside lawyers who were involved in lawsuits attempting to overturn the election in the battleground states: Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, John Eastman, and Cleta Mitchell. Some of the officials subpoenaed had met personally with Trump’s former, lawyer Giuliani at the time in question, and still others spoke with Giuliani on the phone. Trump reportedly placed at least two phone calls to one of the officials from Arizona who was subpoenaed Tuesday.
Meanwhile, over at the House Select Committee, Rep. Thompson announced that the committee will be making criminal referrals to the Department of Justice but has made no final decisions about which individuals it will be recommending that the DOJ criminally charge, or for what offenses. Several weeks ago, leaks revealed that the focus of the committee's final report will be on Donald Trump.
There was great speculation on Tuesday among legal experts that the committee will recommend charges against Trump and others the committee has taken testimony about and from, such as those involved in the fake elector scheme. The DOJ has by this time read the testimony and seen the evidence taken by the committee on that subject. Former prosecutors interviewed on MSNBC said the criminal referrals will provide a “roadmap of evidence for charges” against Trump or others named by the committee to the DOJ.
It now looks that the House Select Committee, which is sure to be disbanded by the new Republican-controlled Congress in January, won’t need any more time for further investigation and testimony.
Special Counsel Jack Smith will be there for that, and he hasn’t shown any signs of shyness in getting on with his job.
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.
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