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Tag: house select committee

Far-right Oath Keepers Charged With Seditious Conspiracy In Capitol Attack

By Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. prosecutors on Thursday charged the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, Stewart Rhodes, and 10 alleged members of the group with seditious conspiracy for their role in the deadly January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

They said Rhodes had warned his group to prepare for a "bloody and desperate fight" in the days leading up to the assault, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump tried to stop Congress from certifying his election defeat.

This is the first time alleged participants in the attack have been charged with seditious conspiracy, which is defined as attempting "to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the government of the United States."

"We are going to have a fight," prosecutors said Rhodes told his allies on the messaging app Signal. "That can't be avoided."

The Oath Keepers are a loosely organized group of activists who believe that the federal government is encroaching on their rights, and focus on recruiting current and former police, emergency services and military members.

Nine of the eleven charged with seditious conspiracy were already facing other charges relating to the Capitol attack. Members of the far-right Proud Boys and Three Percenters have also been charged with taking part in the attack.

The indictment says Rhodes started sending messages to his followers in November 2020, the month of Trump's election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, encouraging them to "oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power."

After his defeat, Trump repeatedly made false claims that his loss was a result of widespread fraud. He repeated those claims in a fiery speech near the White House before thousands of his followers stormed the Capitol in the worst attack on the seat of Congress since the War of 1812.

Prosecutors said that beginning in late December 2020, Rhodes used private encrypted communications to plan to travel to Washington on January 6. He and others planned to bring weapons to help support the operation, prosecutors said.

While some of the Oath Keeper members rushed inside the building wearing tactical gear, others remained outside in what they deemed "quick-response force" teams, which were prepared to rapidly transport arms into the city, prosecutors said.

Jon Moseley, an attorney for Rhodes, told Reuters he was on the phone with Rhodes to discuss his planned appearance before the House Select Committee on January 6 when the FBI called.

"He patched me in on the call and I identified myself as his lawyer," Moseley said in an e-mail. The agent then told him they were outside Rhodes' home in Granbury, Texas, and were there to arrest him.

The indictment alleges that Thomas Caldwell, who was previously charged, and Edward Vallejo of Arizona, a new defendant, were in charge of coordinating the quick-response force teams.

Seditious conspiracy is a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Attorney General Merrick Garland last week vowed to hold accountable anyone involved in the attack on the Capitol. The department has charged more than 725 people with crimes arising from the attack. Of those people, about 165 have pleaded guilty and at least 70 have been sentenced. Garland said the Justice Department would "follow the facts wherever they lead."

On the day of the attack, four people died. One of them, Ashli Babbitt, was shot dead by Capitol Police while trying to break into the Speaker's Gallery. Three others died of natural causes.

The following day, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died. Although he had been sprayed with a chemical irritant the day of the attack, it was later determined he died of natural causes. Around 140 police officers were injured, and four police officers later died by suicide.

The Justice Department has previously obtained seditious conspiracy convictions against Puerto Rican nationalists and alleged Islamist militants including Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the radical Islamic clergyman known as the "Blind Sheikh."

Seditious conspiracy charges featured prominently in a case federal authorities brought in 1987 against leaders and members of a neo-Nazi group known as The Order. Fourteen alleged members or supporters were indicted, with 10 facing seditious conspiracy counts.

After a two-month trial, a jury acquitted all defendants.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Daniel Wallis)

Select Committee Asks To Question McCarthy -- But He Won't Appear Voluntarily

By Jan Wolfe

(Reuters) -The House Select Committee investigating the deadly January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol asked House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday to voluntarily answer questions about Donald Trump's actions on the day of the riot.

In a letter to McCarthy released publicly, the House of Representatives Select Committee requested his testimony on a range of topics, including his conversations with the former president before, during, and after the attack.

"We also must learn about how the President's plans for January 6 came together, and all the other ways he attempted to alter the results of the election," the Select Committee's chairman, Bennie Thompson, said in the letter.

The committee is also investigating whether Trump suggested to McCarthy what he should say publicly and to investigators about their conversations on the day of the attack, according to the letter. McCarthy and Trump met on January 28, 2021, in Palm Beach, Florida.

A spokesman for McCarthy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Later McCarthy's office issued a statement rejecting the committee's 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," McCarthy said.

The panel had previously asked another Trump ally in Congress, Representative Jim Jordan, to disclose conversations he had with Trump on January 6, 2021.

Jordan said on Sunday he would not cooperate with the committee's investigating, calling it illegitimate.

Two Republicans, Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, are members of the committee.

Thompson has said the panel is looking into whether it has the authority to issue subpoenas to congressional Republicans to force their cooperation.

The Select Committee has interviewed more than 340 witnesses and issued dozens of subpoenas as it investigates the deadly storming of the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters as lawmakers were certifying President Joe Biden's election victory.

The committee is aiming to release an interim report in the summer and a final report in the fall, a source familiar with the investigation said last month.

The committee's members have said they will consider passing along evidence of criminal conduct by Trump to the Justice Department. Such a move, known as a criminal referral, would be largely symbolic but would increase the political pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland to charge the former president.

One police officer who battled rioters died the day after the attack and four who guarded the Capitol later died by suicide. Four rioters also died, including a woman who was shot by a police officer while trying to climb through a shattered window.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Scott Malone and Sandra Maler)

Bannon Furiously Denounces McConnell Over 'Direct Challenge To Trump'

Like many other Republicans, former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was not pleased with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for siding with Democratic lawmakers last week on lifting the debt ceiling.

On Friday Bannon again torched the top-ranking Republican lawmaker during the latest segment of his War Room podcast. Bannon's remarks were evidently a reaction to McConnell's recent interview on Spectrum News where he applauded the investigative work of the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. In fact, McConnell even described the deadly day as "horrendous."

"I think the fact-finding is interesting. We're all going to be watching it," the top Senate Republican explained. "It was a horrendous event, and I think what they're seeking to find out is something the public needs to know."

For many Republicans, McConnell's remarks were baffling because it contradicts his previous opposition toward creating the investigative committee in the first place. "He is a direct challenge to President Trump, and Trump is trying to lead this country through these horrible times," Bannon said. "Mitch McConnell, that dirtbag right there, gave the Biden regime $2.5 trillion to fund their madness."

Although no Republicans voted in favor of the $2.5 trillion debt ceiling increase, McConnell and 13 additional Senate Republicans "voted to advance the deal that allowed Democrats to pass the increase with a simple majority vote," reports Newsweek.

According to Bannon, McConnell's latest actions would likely guarantee that he will not be the majority leader again if Republicans regain control of the Senate. Confident of his projection, Bannon said, he was "as sure as the turning of the Earth" as he labeled McConnell a "'little wimp,' claiming that he 'loves' being referred to as 'leader,'" reports Newsweek.

"Here's what your legacy will be. People are going to throw up in their mouth," Bannon said to McConnell. "You have betrayed the Republican Party. You've betrayed this movement. You're only there because of Trump. You never had any loyalty."

Bannon's latest remarks come months after McConnell weighed in on the Capitol insurrection as he acknowledged former President Donald Trump's role in the riots.

Meadows Endorsed Plot To Toss Millions Of Votes -- Before They Were Even Counted

In the months before the 2020 election, lies about widespread voter fraud steadily spewed from former President Donald Trump’s lips and fingertips like so much sewage from a busted septic line. But among a tranche of text messages obtained by the January 6 select committee, a disturbing light shines anew upon the actions of Trump’s most loyal foot soldiers in Congress: One of them was so eager to have the 45th president installed that they suggested tossing out legal votes well before the counting of votes was even complete.

“Here’s an aggressive strategy,” the November 4 text from an unidentified lawmaker to Trump’s then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows began. “Why can’t the states of GA, NC, PENN and other R-controlled state houses declare this is BS [where conflicts and election not called that night] and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to SCOTUS.”

This, put simply, was a proposed strategy to directly undermine the will of American voters. And when Trump’s staff was presented with a similar plot a second time, there was no rush to outrage at the unethical, unprincipled unconstitutionality of it all. Instead, the strategy was welcomed with a warm embrace and three simple words.

Politico reporter Kyle Cheney pointed out this disturbing dynamic in a tweet on Tuesday night as lawmakers convened in the House to vote on a contempt of Congress referral for Meadows.

Select committee Chairman Bennie Thompson has not yet revealed the identity of the person who sent the proposal to Meadows, but he told NBC News this week that there “won’t be any surprises as to who they are.”

As Kyle Cheney opined, once the person is unmasked, it will likely be time to reconcile “his or her claims of concern about voter fraud with the proposal to throw out millions of legal votes before they were even counted.”

This hypocrisy is familiar to Republicans in Trump’s orbit. One-time personal attorney for Trump Rudy Giuliani notoriously went full autocrat during a drunken exchange on election night, according to Washington Post reporters Carol Leonning and Philip Rucker in their book, I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year.

When it looked like Trump was losing Michigan, Giuliani urged Trump’s campaign staff and Meadows to just say that Trump had won. Meadows, at the time, reportedly said such a maneuver couldn’t be done.

“We can’t do that, we can’t,” Meadows said on November 4.

But by November 6, his tune had changed.

According to records already obtained by the committee, Thompson said that when a legislator in Congress approached Meadows this time with the “highly controversial” scheme to appoint alternate electors despite a total lack of evidence for election fraud, Meadows responded: “I love it.”

And a day later on November 7, after Biden was formally declared the victor, Meadows would write an email that Thompson said “discusses the appointment of alternate slates of electors as a part of a direct and collateral attack after the election.”

This sequence of events alone paints one of the clearest pictures yet of how the White House condoned lies about the 2020 election and was on board with attempts to subvert the results, consequences be damned.

Further illuminating the committee’s findings was Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of Trump’s most loyal lapdogs during his presidency.

Politico was first to report Wednesday that Jordan is defending a portion of another text message unveiled by the committee a day earlier. The part of the message made public stated: “On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, should call out all the electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all.”

The full text continued: “In accordance with guidance from founding father Alexander Hamilton and judicial precedence. ‘No legislative act,’ wrote Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 78, ‘contrary to the Constitution, can be valid.’ The court in Hubbard v. Lowe reinforced this truth: ‘That an unconstitutional statute is not a law at all is a proposition no longer open to discussion.’ 226 F. 135, 137 (SDNY 1915), appeal dismissed, 242 U.S. 654 (1916).”

Russell Dye, a spokesperson for Jordan, told Politico that the message from Jordan was merely a forward to Meadows of legal analysis compiled by Joseph Schmitz, the Pentagon’s former inspector general.

“Schmitz's words are an argument that Pence had the unilateral authority to simply refuse to count electoral votes he deemed unconstitutional, akin to arguments made by Trump allies John Eastman and Jenna Ellis,” Politico reported.

Though Jordan maintains the message was a forward, the text itself does not necessarily indicate that.

Meanwhile, as Meadows awaits his fate on contempt charges that have now been referred to the Department of Justice and the mystery lawmaker’s messages are in the public square courtesy of the select committee, two key organizers for Trump’s “Stop the Steal” propaganda, Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lynn Lawrence, have also stepped into the light.

Both Stockton and Lawrence were subpoenaed by the committee in late November. A month prior to that, the duo served as anonymous sources for another Rolling Stone article where they claimed that members of Congress were directly involved in Trump’s scheme to overturn the election and helped orchestrate the rally at the Ellipse on January 6.

Stockton and Lawrence told Rolling Stone that Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar offered a tit-for-tat deal, telling the couple they could receive a “blanket pardon” from Trump in another unrelated investigation if they would protest the election results. Gosar has denied the exchange.

The couple also said they had warned Meadows that their discussions with organizers of the pro-Trump rallies in the runup to Jan. 6 left them worried about looming threats of violence.

“The people and the history books deserve a real account of what happened,” Stockton told Rolling Stone.

Lawrence added: “Violent shit happened. We want to get to the bottom of that.”

Importantly, the couple also admits they are running low on funds and don’t have the ability to fend off a hungry congressional probe that has shown it will go the distance to hold those who refuse to cooperate in contempt. They had a self-proclaimed “falling out” with ex-Trump strategist Steve Bannon following Bannon’s We Build the Wall fraud scheme, which led to his arrest and later, to his pardon by Trump. Stockton and Lawrence were raided in connection to that scheme but were never charged.

“We definitely didn’t want to face another violent raid and we also wanted to avoid racking up even more legal fees and trouble,” the couple told Rolling Stone.

The duo admitted to working with other commission probe targets, like Amy Kremer of Women for America First, to coordinate rallies promoting Trump’s lies about election fraud in mid-November, but in the recent interview, Stockton said Trump’s incitements on Jan. 6 incensed him.

“We assumed that him sitting with all the access to all the agencies of government and classified information he … had access to vastly more information than we did,” Stockton told Rolling Stone. “We trusted when he told us that it was black-and-white and that there was clear evidence over, and over, and over again. We trusted that it would be there, and it ended up being a bluff, and he finally got caught in it.”

Now the couple says they are “going nuclear” and are cooperating with the committee in full to expose everyone who was involved.

Unsurprisingly, other individuals also under subpoena by the committee are less keen on transparency.

John Eastman, the author of the now-infamous memo outlining a six-point strategy to overturn the 2020 election, has opted to sue the committee. Eastman argues that lawmakers went too far by demanding he turn over data from a three-month span, and he contends the committee does not have a legislative function. Meadows also sued the committee and Verizon last week as well as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Meadows is asking a federal court to bar enforcement of the subpoena lobbed against him and the requests sent by the committee to Verizon.

The committee has targeted call records for over 100 people but significantly, they are not after the content of calls. They seek only time logs that would reveal details like when calls are made and their duration.

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Video: Raskin Shoots Down Greene For Calling Democrats ‘Communists’

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) labeled Democrats “communists” for moving to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress, even after the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack revealed the text messages he had received from Fox News hosts and the then-president’s eldest son, begging him to get Donald Trump to call off the violent insurrection.

“I’d like to the Democrats and the people on the January 6 committee to produce their text messages,” Greene demanded from the House floor Tuesday afternoon, “denouncing antifa BLM riots that raged across American cities for a year. I would love to read those.”

She went on to call the January 6 Select Committee a “kangaroo court,” and declared that it is “Congress’s job is to make laws not enforce them,” exposing a lack of understanding of how Congress and the Select Committee work. “That’s the role of the executive and the judicial branch of this government. But somehow the communists here in charge have forgotten or no, not forgotten, are purposefully abusing the Constitution and what this body of Congress is supposed to do.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) was not having it.“ We are not a banana republic because we hold everybody to equality under the law,” Rep. Raskin announced, “and we are not ‘communists’ as the gentlelady from Georgia suggested – that’s just the friends of the former president who you lionize, like the dictator of North Korea who he loves and Vladimir Putin, who said that the greatest tragedy of the 20th century was the collapse of the Soviet Union. So those are your friends – don’t put them on our side.”

Watch a short clip of their remarks:

Deafening Silence From Fox News On Network Hosts' January 6 Texts To Meadows

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox News let over 16 hours pass before even mentioning the bombshell information released by the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, which revealed failed attempts by multiple Fox personalities to convince then-President Donald Trump to call off a mob of his supporters who had attacked the Capitol. Those same hosts have deliberately lied about the attack ever since, and sought to stop the investigation.

During a committee meeting Monday night, which preceded a motion to refer former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows for criminal contempt for obstructing the investigation, select committee Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) read a series of texts sent to Meadows during the siege of the Capitol, including several from Fox News hosts who implored the White House to put a stop to the chaos:

  • Sean Hannity texted to Meadows: “Can he make a statement. Ask people to leave the Capitol.”
  • Laura Ingraham wrote: “Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”
  • Brian Kilmeade said: “Please, get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished.”

Cheney’s presentation was carried live in its entirety by CNN and MSNBC and dominated programming for the rest of the evening, but it was barely covered on Fox News. Fox’s prime-time programming neglected to mention the story, despite the personal involvement of Hannity and Ingraham. The next morning, Fox & Friends also neglected to mention the story, despite Kilmeade’s personal involvement.

It was not until later on The Faulkner Focus that the network gave even the slightest mention of the text messages. Fox congressional correspondent Chad Pergram briefly noted that “the committee revealed messages sent by Donald Trump Jr. and Fox hosts to Meadows during the riot. They implored the White House to convince the president to intervene and urge his supporters to stand down.”

Pergram then read one text message from Donald Trump Jr., saying, “We need an Oval Office address. … It has gone too far.” Pergram did not name Hannity, Ingraham, or Kilmeade, nor any of the contents of their messages to Meadows that day.

Cheney Reveals Texts Of Trump Allies Begging Him To Act During Capitol Riot

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

During a televised meeting of the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol insurrection on Monday, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming read aloud a series of texts from former President Donald Trump's allies who pleaded to have him stop the attack in real-time.

The texts were sent to Trump's then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows as the Capitol was overtaken. They showed the raw reactions of the former president's supporters, many of whom have since downplayed the severity of the attack.

"According to the records, multiple Fox News hosts knew the president needed to act immediately. They texted Mark Meadows, and he has turned over those texts," Cheney said.

Fox hosts Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Brian Kilmeade all texted Meadows about the attack, according to Cheney. They reportedly said:

  • Ingraham: "Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy."
  • Kilmeade: "Please, get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished."
  • Hannity: "Can he make a statement. Ask people to leave the Capitol.

  • The president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reportedly texted Meadows: "He's got to condemn this shit ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough."

    And Meadows reportedly responded: "I'm pushing it hard. I agree."

    "Still, President Trump did not immediately act," Cheney explained.

    Trump Jr. kept texting, she said, later admitting, "It has gone too far."

    "But hours passed without necessary action by the president," Cheney said.

    Democratic Rep. Benny Thompson of Mississippi, the chair of the committee, revealed texts to Meadows from members of Congress.

  • Meadows Said National Guard Would 'Protect Pro-Trump People' On January 6

    Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

    With former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows refusing to cooperate with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select committee on the January 6 insurrection, the committee is now recommending that the Trump loyalist be held in contempt of Congress. Meadows, however, did share some documents with the committee before he stopped cooperating, and one of them — released on Sunday, December 12 — shows a promise that on January 6 the National Guard would be on standby to “protect pro-Trump people.”

    Business Insider’s Kelsey Vlamis reports that according to the document, “Mr. Meadows sent an e-mail to an individual about the events on January 6 and said that the National Guard would be present to 'protect pro Trump people' and that many more would be available on standby.”

    Meadows sent that e-mail on January 5, the day before then-President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally and the subsequent storming of the U.S. Capitol Building by a violent mob of Trump supporters.

    “The context of the January 5 e-mail is unclear, and no additional details about it have been given,” Vlamis explains. “But the National Guard has come under scrutiny for its slow response to the attack on the Capitol and the conflicting timelines that have been given.”

    Vlamis adds, “The committee's document also describes other exchanges Meadows had leading up to and on January 6, as well as questions the committee would have asked him if he had sat down for a deposition. In addition to asking about the National Guard e-mail, the committee said it would have asked about exchanges in which Meadows reached out to members of Congress asking them to help President Donald Trump get in touch with state lawmakers.”

    Liberal Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent, in response this new reporting on Meadows, January 6, and the National Guard, tweeted:

    Back on September 8, Sargent tweeted: