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Tag: zoe lofgren

January 6 Hearings To Examine Links Between Trump Aides And Violent Extremists

By Richard Cowan and Katanga Johnson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Congressional investigators into the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol expect this week to draw connections between violent extremist groups that took part and government officials, possibly including then-President Donald Trump, a member of the committee conducting the investigation said on Sunday.

"We are going to be connecting the dots during these hearings between these groups and those who were trying in government circles to overturn the election," Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren said on CNN's State of the Union.

Asked if Trump was aware members of these groups attended a rally he led outside the White House when he urged them to march on the Capitol, Lofgren said: "You have to reach your own conclusions but based on the events leading up to the day, I think that would be a logical conclusion."

Trump, a Republican, has falsely claimed Democrat Joe Biden defeated him in the 2020 presidential election through massive fraud - assertions rejected in U.S. courts, by Trump's own Justice Department and even Republican-led audits.

After Trump spoke outside the White House on January 6, his supporters marched to the Capitol in a failed bid to prevent Congress from certifying Biden's victory in a session where then-Vice President Mike Pence was presiding.

Two groups, the self-described Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, will be under the spotlight in the two hearings this week, expected on Tuesday and Thursday.

NBC News reported that Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers, would testify on Tuesday. A committee spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Federal prosecutors have alleged that Jeremy Brown, a member of the Oath Keepers, brought explosives to the Washington area on January 6. Brown, in a statement, called the charges a "disgusting lie."

During a September 2020 debate between Trump and Biden before the November election, Trump was asked whether he would condemn white supremacist and militia groups for violent activities during his presidency.

Trump responded, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by." He added, "Somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left. ... this is a left-wing problem."

On Friday, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone testified to committee investigators behind closed doors.

Videotaped excerpts of that testimony will be presented at Tuesday's hearing, said Lofgren, who is one of nine members on a bipartisan House of Representatives Select Committee that began its current series of public hearings last month.

"He was able to provide information on basically all of the critical issues we are looking at, including the president's what-I-would-call dereliction of duty on the day of January 6," Lofgren said.

The committee has yet to say whether this Thursday's hearing, expected in evening prime time when U.S. television audiences are at their peak, will be the final one before a panel report is issued, possibly in September.

Representative Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the panel, is expected to lead witness questioning that night, along with Democratic Representative Elaine Luria.

"We're going to really focus on what was the president doing from in essence the moment the insurrection started until he finally, hours later, put out a tweet that said, 'We shouldn't do anything like this,'" Kinzinger told ABC's This Week.

He added, "Keep in mind in the middle of that was the tweet that said in essence this is what happens when you steal an election; that Vice President Pence deserved this."

In earlier committee testimony, witnesses said Trump signaled support for rioters calling for Pence to be hanged.

Lofgren also said the committee had received a letter from Trump adviser Steve Bannon saying he would be willing to testify. Bannon was charged last year with two counts of contempt of Congress for defying a committee subpoena.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Katanga Johnson; additional reporting by Tyler Clifford and Patricia Zengerle; editing by Mary Milliken, Howard Goller and Edwina Gibbs)

Select Panel Member Suggests New Evidence Of Witness Tampering

On Tuesday, the House Select Committee hearing featured testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ aide. It was damning. Hutchinson went on the record reiterating what she had told investigators previously, detailing the many things she saw and heard before and during January 6, 2021. Her testimony touched on Trump’s insistence that he join the riot at the Capitol, his knowledge of armed MAGA audience members, the bizarre disappearing act Meadows performed, and the fact that leading up to the “Stop the Steal” rally, Trump’s own lawyer knew that crimes were most likely being committed.

One of the more explosive moments in Hutchinson’s testimony concerned her recounting of what Trump’s former lead Secret Service agent turned political adviser Anthony Ornato told her about Donald Trump’s actions, alleging he attacked his chief security official, Robert “Bobby” Engel, when Engel would not allow him to lead the rioters at the Capitol grounds. This reportedly took place after Trump left the Stop of Steal rally on January 6, 2021.

Since that time, the right-wing media and traditional news outlets have put out not-exactly-verified rumors that Ornato denies ever recounting these events to Meadow’s top aide. Of course, Ornato and Engel have also not appeared under oath to put their money where their mouths are. Whether these two come forward and say Hutchinson has perjured herself or simply say they do not recall remains to be seen.

On Thursday, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who is on the House Select Committee, suggested that Trump’s fundraising may be connected not simply to crimes of scam artistry, but crimes of coercion of witnesses. It seems that Ornato and Engel may be hiding in the shadows finding out where exactly that money is before they go on the record.

The fact of the matter is that Ornato’s move from a senior Secret Service official to a political adviser was seen as a betrayal of the Secret Service’s nonpartisan position in our government.

It has led to the speculations around Vice President Mike Pence’s reticence to get into a car with Secret Service during the January 6. attack on the Capitol.

On Thursday, Lofgren explained to Anderson Cooper on CNN that Donald Trump’s intense fundraising off of the Big Lie is a paper trail with many angles. While it is obvious to most people who have ever followed even a little bit of Donald Trump’s history as a corrupt dirtbag (dating all the way back to the 1970s in New York City), there is a high probability that much of his fundraising has gone into people’s pockets. Lofgren spoke to the fact that money can help buy testimony and offer the promise of legal protections for people who may otherwise be forced to tell the truth about Donald Trump.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN: Let's just say, we're concerned. As you know, in a prior hearing, we talked about the hundreds of millions of dollars that the former president raised. Some of that money is being used to pay for lawyers, for witnesses. and it's not clear that that arrangement is one that is without coercion potential for some of those witnesses. So, let's just say this: It's a concern. And anyone who is trying to dissuade or tamper with a witness should be on notice that that's a crime. And we are perfectly prepared to provide any evidence we have to the proper authorities.

This goes along with the Hutchinson’s own testimony that she had been contacted by “someone attempting to influence her testimony.” It also follows Rep. Liz Cheney’s assertion at Tuesday’s hearing that two witnesses had also told the committee they were being intimidated by people connected to Donald Trump’s circle of conspirators.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Long After Trump's Election Lawsuits Failed, Cash Poured Into His Coffers

The House Select Committee, tasked with probing the January 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, is detailing how former President Donald Trump invented, disseminated, and cashed in on baseless conspiracies of widespread voter fraud that his senior advisers counseled him weren’t true.

On the precipice of electoral defeat, Trump — seeking to supercharge his fundraising efforts — bombarded his supporters with millions of ominous emails requesting donations for an “Election Defense Fund,” which he said would help him “fight back” against voter fraud engineered by the “left-wing mob.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), a select committee member who played a leading role in the panel’s second day of hearings, detailed the fundraising campaign to the American people.

“We found evidence that the Trump campaign and its surrogates misled donors as to where their funds would go and what they would be used for,” Lofgren said in her closing statement for the hearing.

Lofgren argued that the devious fundraising tactic, driven by the Big Lie, allowed Trump to pull off a “big ripoff,” conning his supporters to the tune of $250 million. “So not only was there the big lie, there was the big ripoff,” Lofgren added.

The committee played a video near the end of its second hearing detailing how, between November 2020 and early January 201, the former president sent his supporters up to 25 donation request emails a day, raising falsehoods that judge after judge rejected, including some he appointed.

"Claims that the election was stolen were so successful, President Trump and his allies raised $250 million, nearly $100 million in the first week after the election," said Wick, senior investigative counsel for the committee.

"Most of the money raised went to this newly created PAC, not to election-related litigation," Wick said. She also said committee lawmakers found out that this PAC, the Save America PAC, gave millions in contributions to pro-Trump organizations.

The select committee trailed the money and outlined its findings: $1 million of the donation pool went to the Conservative Partnership Institute, a charity run by Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows. $1 million to the America First Policy Institute, a small organization that hires many former Trump staff and champions the former president’s political vision.

The Trump Organization got $204,857 for the hotels it owned, and the company that ran Trump’s January 6 rally outside the White House, Event Strategies Inc., gulped $5 million.

In an interview with CNN that aired after the hearing, Lofgren disclosed another startling expenditure: Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr.’s fiancee, got “paid $60,000 for the introduction she gave at the speech on January 6.” According to the Washington Post, Guilfoyle's speaking fee was financed by Publix supermarket heiress and laundered through Turning Point Action, a far-right activist group close to Trump Jr.

Guilfoyle has been under scrutiny for reportedly receiving large payments from third-party companies — remuneration that didn’t need to be reported to the Federal Election Commission.

According to the Washington Post, millions of dollars continued to pour into the Trump campaign coffers even after its last election lawsuits were thrown out of court. The campaign pulled in $62 million in the first half of 2021 and $23 million in the latter part of the year, months after the crash and burn of Trump’s legal efforts.

“People were conned by the former president,” Lofgren told CNN. "It's clear that he intentionally misled his donors, asked them to donate to a fund that didn't exist and used the money raised for something other than what is said," she added.

A spokeswoman for Trump, Liz Harrington, dismissed the select committee’s allegations in her reply to requests for comment, saying that Trump’s "political spending is totally synchronized" with his goal of "fixing our elections," CNN stated in a report.

Trump blasted the allegations made in Monday’s hearing in a 12-page rambling statement, where he didn’t address his fundraising plans but called the select committee a “kangaroo court.”

Select Committee Mulls Criminal Referral Of Trump For January 6 Coup Plot

The leaders of the House Select Committee on the January 6 Insurrection, a bipartisan panel probing the U.S. Capitol riot, are debating whether to send Attorney General Merrick Garland a criminal referral for former President Trump, despite having enough evidence to do so,according to the New York Times..

A criminal referral is only a notification to the Department of Justice about possible criminal conduct. Yet members of the committee are concerned that issuing one for former President Trump would politicize an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the Capitol attack and the events that preceded it. This effort has yielded over 775 arrests nationwide.

Since last summer, a group of ex-federal prosecutors working for the committee has been investigating the riot, what led up to it, and former President Trump and his allies' roles in inciting it.

The committee has conducted over 800 depositions, obtained nearly 90,000 documents relating to the investigation, and even issued criminal referrals for top Trump allies — notably Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist; Mark Meadows, former chief of staff; and, most recently, Peter Navarro and Don Scavino, two of then-President Trump’s top advisers.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) told CNN that Trump and his allies knew their actions preceding the insurrection were “unlawful,” but “they did it anyway.” She added that the committee had yet to decide on issuing a criminal referral.

Cheney’s remarks came after the Times reported that the committee was confident it had obtained enough evidence to send the DOJ a criminal referral for former President Trump.

“The committee has … a tremendous amount of testimony and documents that I think very, very clearly demonstrate the extent of the planning and the organization and the objective, and the objective was absolutely to try to … interfere with that official proceeding,” Cheney told the CNN’s State of Union. She also cited U.S. District Court Judge Carter’s ruling in March that former President Trump “more likely than not” obstructed Congress in efforts to stop the certification of the Electoral College results.

According to the Times, committee members and staffers believe this ruling holds more weight than a criminal referral — which could be construed as a Democratic vendetta against former President Trump, who has been teasing a re-run in 2024 — ever could.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), a member of the House panel, didn’t see the need for a referral. “If you read his decision, I think it’s quite telling,” she said of Judge Carter’s ruling, according to the Times.

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), another member of the House panel, called for the committee to issue referrals for crimes it uncovers, telling MSNBC, “I would say that I don’t agree with what some of my colleagues have said about this.”

Cheney played down reports of a divide in the committee. “I wouldn’t characterize there as being a dispute on the committee. I think that it is the single most collaborative committee on which I have ever served. I’m very proud of the bipartisan way in which we’re operating,” she told CNN.

The committee is wrapping up its 10-month-long investigation and aims to publish its final report in September, with public hearings held sometime during the summer.

Pelosi Names Liz Cheney And Others To Jan. 6 Select Investigative Committee

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has named the first members to the House January 6 Insurrection Special Select Committee.

The chairman will be Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, who led the negotiations for the first bill which the House passed but Republicans in the Senate blocked. Thompson also chairs the House Homeland Security Committee.

Thompson, after being named chair, described the events of January 6 as "domestic terrorism."

Speaker Pelosi also named the first Republican member of Congress, Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who has supported the investigation.

"Other members include Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren, of California; Adam Schiff, of California; Pete Aguilar, of California; Stephanie Murphy, of Florida; Jamie Raskin, of Maryland; and Elaine Luria of Virginia," CNN reports.

When asked about House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy threatening GOP members of Congress, telling them he will strip their committee assignments if they accept membership to the Special Select Committee, Speaker Pelosi interrupted the reporter and declared she is not going to respond to any of McCarthy's remarks.

"It's not political so I'm not getting involved in any discussion that happens in the Republican caucus," Pelosi said.

UPDATE –
Rep. Cheney later issued a statement:"Congress is obligated to conduct a full investigation of the most serious attack on our Capitol since 1814. . . . What happened on January 6th can never happen again,.Those who are responsible for the attack need to be held accountable and this select committee will fulfill that responsibility in a professional, expeditious, and non-partisan manner.

"Our oath to the Constitution, our commitment to the rule of law, and the preservation of the peaceful transfer of power must always be above partisan politics."

Report: Capitol Police Warned Days Before Jan. 6 That Congress Was Targeted

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The Capitol Police absolutely did know that the crowd of Trump supporters on January 6 was threatening violence, and that "Congress itself is the target," a new inspector general's report confirms. But the agency's leadership not only failed to act on that, it did the reverse, not allowing the Civil Disturbance Unit to use its most serious crowd-control equipment and techniques.

The warning from a Capitol Police intelligence assessment three days before the attack could not have been much more explicit, noting that a map of the Capitol's underground tunnels had been posted online.

"Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th," the inspector general's report quotes the threat assessment. "Stop the Steal's propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike."

Skip forward to Jan. 5—the day the FBI's Norfolk field office forwarded a social media thread with threats like "Get violent … stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal"—and Capitol Police leadership concluded, in a plan for handling the next day's events, that there were "no specific known threats related to the joint session of Congress."

In February, Steven Sund, the former chief of the Capitol Police, testified to the Senate, saying "None of the intelligence we received predicted what actually occurred." He added, "These criminals came prepared for war."

Yes, they did. As they repeatedly pledged on social media to do. As the Capitol Police intelligence assessment warned days before the attack. As Sund and his leadership somehow … overlooked, as they planned for the kind of protest that could be controlled by the simplest metal barricades and an underequipped, understaffed roster of police.

As a result, "Heavier, less-lethal weapons"—you know, the kind you've seen used against far, far less threatening protesters time and time again if they're carrying Black Lives Matter or Water is Life signs—"were not used that day because of orders from leadership."

The report from Michael Bolton, the inspector general for the Capitol Police, also notes that there were significant equipment failures that day, as well as that training and audits of equipment hadn't been kept up.

But as damning as it is, Bolton's report leaves significant questions, Dan Froomkin of Press Watch argues. Froomkin obtained part of the report—which is not public—and wrote that "the part of the report I saw doesn't get into why officials weren't more alarmed. It doesn't address the either covert or overt role of racism. I see no sign that, to this day, anyone—not the inspector general, not congressional overseers, and certainly not journalists—has gotten hold of contemporaneous correspondence between the key players or any other evidence that would offer insight into their states of mind." That's significant.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has called Bolton to testify before a House panel on Thursday. There should be questions about this, because the investigation needs to keep going deeper. We know the Capitol Police failed. This inspector general's report tells us more about how they failed. Why did they fail?

Republicans are trying to prevent a serious assessment of what happened, getting in the way of the 9/11 Commission-style independent investigation House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for. If Republicans make that kind of investigation impossible, she told USA Today, investigations by existing congressional committees will continue, and a select committee is "always an option." That said, "It's not my preference in any way. My preference would be to have a commission." But Republicans have their reasons for wanting to keep what happened on January 6—and in particular what motivated the insurrectionists—obscured. They may not be able to stop investigations, but they especially don't want an investigation from an independent commission that will command added media and public attention.

This inspector general's report once again makes clear why it's so desperately important that we learn what really happened.