According to a report from The Guardian published Thursday, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has revealed to investigators on the House Select Committee that Trump held “secret meetings” at the White House residence in the run-up to the Capitol attack.
The committee has not formally subpoenaed Grisham, indicating that her cooperation was voluntary. She had front row seats at the Trump White House while serving as a White House communications director, press secretary for former First Lady Melania Trump, and later, Melania Trump’s chief of staff. Grisham resigned, effective immediately, on January 6 in the wake of the violent Capitol assault. Her resignation was joined by White House press aide Sarah Matthews.
The alleged “secret meetings” were “known only by a small number of aides” and sources told The Guardian that the gatherings were coordinated by Trump’s right hand in the White House, former chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Meadows initially cooperated with the January 6 probe, providing some records and testimony—but he abruptly backtracked and shut down the talks. The committee, in turn, voted to hold Meadows in contempt and the full House of Representatives followed. He was referred for criminal prosecution to the Justice Department in December. So far, the DOJ has been mum about whether it will pursue an indictment as it did for Steve Bannon. Bannon, who has entered a not guilty plea, is now awaiting trial.
While Meadows would reportedly schedule the clandestine meetings, Grisham told investigators it was Timothy Harleth, Trump’s chief White House usher, who would wave the parties in. It is not clear yet who attended the meetings.
President Joe Biden fired Harleth from the usher role one day after his inauguration. It is common for ushers to remain in their positions regardless of the administration in power but Harleth was ousted in short order as the incumbent cleaned house of Trump-era officials. Harleth previously worked as the director of rooms at Trump International Hotel.
Grisham, according to Thursday’s scoop from The Guardian, also provided the names of other aides in the White House usher office that may be of use to the committee in their probe.
Grisham also said that “an aide to former White House adviser Peter Navarro tried at least once to quietly usher” lawyer Sidney Powell into the White House residence. Powell was a major proponent of Trump’s incessant lies about the outcome of the 2020 election, and led the charge in claims that Dominion Voting Systems voting machines were corrupt. For her conspiratorial claims, Powell is staring down a massive defamation suit from Dominion. She was also subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 Committee this week.
Trump’s exact conduct and thinking before and during the Capitol attack when he was out of public view are at the beating heart of the Jan. 6 Committee’s probe. It has been widely reported that the former president sat idly by in the White House as the attack exploded, watching the riot from television. It was also reported one week after the assault that Trump had told aides for several days before the Jan. 6 rally that he wanted to accompany demonstrators but that he only decided not to “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue” after Secret Service agents insisted his safety could not be guaranteed if he did so.
But whether he actually intended to march with his supporters that morning or purely made the remarks to raise the mob’s hackles is debated.
“Grisham told the select committee that Trump’s intentions—and whether the Secret Service had been told Trump had decided not to march to the Capitol—should be reflected in the presidential line-by-line, the document that outlines the president’s movements, the sources said.”
A representative for the committee did not respond to request for comment Thursday.
The committee has so far interviewed more than 400 sources and with its recent victory against Trump at the Supreme Court, the National Archives and Records Administration has already begun the transfer of presidential records Trump wanted to keep secret.
The records to be transferred include critical items like call and visitor logs, diaries, internal correspondence, calendars, speech drafts, photos as they relate to Jan. 6, correspondence among White House officials, and much more.
“The Supreme Court’s action tonight is a victory for the rule of law and American democracy. The Select Committee has already begun to receive records that the former President had hoped to keep hidden and we look forward to additional productions regarding this important information. Our work goes forward to uncover all the facts about the violence of Jan. 6 and its causes,” Jan. 6 Committee chairman Bennie Thompson said Wednesday night. “We will not be deterred in our effort to get answers for the American people, make legislative recommendations to strengthen our democracy, and help ensure nothing like that day ever happens again.”
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos