On Insurrection's Anniversary, True Accountability Remains To Be  Achieved

On Insurrection's Anniversary, True Accountability Remains To Be  Achieved

The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol incited by former President Donald Trump marks its second anniversary on Friday and this year, the occasion arrives amid a far different and far more informed backdrop than the one that couched the nation’s very first commemoration of January 6.

For 18 months, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol convened to untangle the web that the former president and his coterie of confidantes and less-than-constitutionally-minded attorneys wove to keep Trump in power despite his defeat at the polls and among the Electoral College...The release of the committee’s final report—all 845 pages of it plus hundreds of transcripts and supporting materials—was the panel’s grand finale after more than a thousand witness interviews and a series of dramatic public hearings. The reams of records congressional investigators obtained ultimately pieced together an important tapestry of one American president’s unprecedented dereliction and disregard for concepts like law and order or duty and honor.

Yet, even with all of this important work completed, hugely significant and necessary questions about the attack, and accountability for the attack, linger.

Former President Donald Trump has not yet been indicted for crimes related to January 6. Much conversation and reporting has already been devoted to a “will they, won’t they” discourse surrounding the Justice Department. This dialogue has only ramped up in recent weeks as the select committee finished its business.

During its very last meeting, the committee queued up its swansong with criminal referrals to the Justice Department for Trump and his alleged election subversion cohort, John Eastman. Those referrals were only symbolic practically speaking. But there was no other symbol the congressional committee could offer. It was their final statement. We have done our part. Now, we leave it to the Justice Department to decide what’s next.

For many Americans paying attention to the January 6 investigation, patience for the Justice Department is thin. Frustration is palpable. It is also understandable.

Trump’s name is not and has rarely, if ever, been synonymous with accountability of any sort. Adding to that, there is the simple competing reality: for the very rich and very powerful in the United States, justice is frequently deferred and often indefinitely.

In the nation’s entire history, a former president has never faced indictment for criminal activity and it is not because there is some law on the books barring it. Presidents of the past, like Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton, avoided indictment after leaving office despite their respective nation-rocking scandals. Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, took Nixon’s words of contrition over the Watergate Scandal as sufficient and pardoned him before he could be indicted. In 2004, during an interview with journalist Bob Woodward, Ford elaborated: “I had no hesitancy about granting the pardon because I felt that we had this relationship and that I didn’t want to see my real friend have the stigma.”

Clinton was contrite too. He struck a bargain to avoid indictment for making misleading or false statements to Congress about his affair with then-intern Monica Lewinsky. Once the deal was reached, Robert Ray, then the head of the Office of Independent Counsel told reporters at The Washington Post: "I think it's a collateral benefit to the country that the new president be given a fresh start if that can be achieved. The best interests of the country would be achieved by letting the past be the past."

But with Trump, the past never stays buried long and it is usually he who carries the shovel.

In the aftermath of Jan. 6—two full years later—Trump still vocally maintains the lie that he won the 2020 election. He continues to champion the same debunked conspiracy theories about rampant election fraud that brought throngs of his armed supporters to the Capitol. He continues to casually attack the same private citizens he tormented in the run-up to January 6. He appears to be, as ever, unwilling to stop fomenting real world chaos or violence with his self-serving digital screeds or meandering political rallies.

At this late stage, contrition genuine or otherwise, is unlikely to come from Trump and is certainly not expected. Besides his own long public track record of ruthlessness, consider the evidence the committee unearthed: Multiple witnesses, including Trump’s own staff and family members, testified that the former president was immovable for three hours during the attack. Video footage documenting outtakes from Trump’s speech that would be delivered after the attack, show him unwilling to say that the election was over.

Unedited footage of Trump the day after Jan. 6 shows then-president resistant to condemn riotersyoutu.be

The committee found that Trump was informed at 1:21 p.m. that the Capitol had come under siege. It was not until after 4 p.m. when he finally issued a video message on Twitter expressly asking his followers to go home. In the hours between, as people lay dying, including some of his own supporters, Trump drank a Diet Coke in the White House dining room and watched the rioting on television.

Cell phone records as well as records from the White House call logs secured by the committee over the last two years have shown that Trump made multiple calls to his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani during the attack. He reached out to lawmakers, like Republican Senator Mike Lee though it was a misdial. He meant to reach Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville. Mid-riot Tuberville told Trump that then-Vice President Mike Pence had been moved for safety and he couldn’t remain on the phone. With lawmakers sheltering in place and the vice president in hiding, Trump went to Twitter and attacked Pence, saying he didn’t have “the courage to do what should have been done.” Trump’s next step was to call House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy.

Sarah Matthews, the former deputy press secretary for the White House, told investigators if Trump wanted to appear on camera and make a definitive call for the mob to disperse, he could have done so in the White House briefing room within 60 seconds.

Records obtained in the 18-month investigation of the attack show Trump made no calls for assistance for 187 minutes.

As for the possibility that presidential friendships may preclude justice from being served, it is worth noting that where there was amity among Ford and Nixon, the dynamic is quite different among Trump and Biden. How Biden may treat Trump in the event that he is indicted of course remains to be seen. But to the current president’s credit, for the last two years he has at least made transparency over the Capitol attack a priority: Biden routinely declined to assert executive privilege over Trump White House records when Trump attempted to block their release in a failed fight at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Even if Trump invoked a vow of silence over all things Jan. 6 today, he is unable to stop the reverberations triggered two years ago. He is unable to erase the no less than seven people, including five police officers, who died as a result of the violence at the Capitol. He cannot unwind injuries to more than 150 officers. There is no undoing for police officers who were forced into early retirement because of those injuries. And police are not alone: there is no way to go back and stop the flow of trauma that was spread generously on January 6 among legislators, Capitol staff and members of the media alike.

Thirteen months after the insurrection, the Republican National Committee described January 6 as ‘legitimate political discourse” albeit unfortunate. That “discourse” for U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards—believed to be the very first officer injured on Jan. 6—featured her slipping around in so much blood and vomit as she tried to defend the Capitol that she could barely stand. She told investigators it was members of the neofascist Proud Boys who tried to push a bike rack against her before she was struck over the top of the head. As she was pushed backwards, she testified, she fell and smacked her head on concrete stairs. When she came to, she ran to the Capitol’s west front where some of the worst violence ultimately erupted.

It was a “war scene,” “carnage,” and “chaos,” Edwards testified publicly in June.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that as a police officer I would find myself in the middle of a battle,” she said, her voice quaking more than a year after the assault. “I’m trained to detain a couple of subjects and handle a crowd, but I’m not combat trained.”

As of this week, the Justice Department announced that it has made over 950 arrests related to Jan. 6. There have been 484 people who have pleaded guilty to federal charges and face prison time. One of the steepest charges to emerge—seditious conspiracy—was successfully prosecuted for the first time in more than a decade.

Oath Keeper founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes was found guilty of seditiously conspiring to stop the transfer of power as well as a number of other felony charges. His associate, Kelly Meggs, was found guilty of seditious conspiracy, too. The charge carries a maximum 20 year sentence. The trial, which featured multiple counts against multiple Oath Keeper defendants, proved to be a mixed bag of verdicts but the toughest charges for the senior-most leaders held.

A second group of Oath Keepers charged with seditious conspiracy are in the midst of their own trial now. On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that one Oath Keeper who already pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy, Caleb Berry, appeared in court on behalf of the government and testified that instructions from Meggs were explicit on January 6.

When Meggs and other Oath Keepers gathered just outside of the Capitol on January 6 Berry said Meggs lamented that the election was “illegitimate” and that they “were going to try and stop the vote count.”

The leader of the Proud Boys, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, and four members of that extremist group, are finally on trial now after months of delays. Like Rhodes, Tarrio faces multiple charges including seditious conspiracy. Jurors are still being selected as Tarrio and his co-defendants insist that finding an impartial jury in the nation’s Capitol is impossible. More than 30 jurors have so far made it into jury pool before lawyers for the Justice Department and Proud Boys begin to negotiate over final selections. Opening statements are expected next week.

As for Trump, the threat of major legal peril is very real, even if final outcomes are in question.

Special Counsel Jack Smith was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November to oversee criminal probes of Trump’s conduct related to Jan. 6 as well as Trump’s retention of classified documents at his Florida property Mar-a-Lago. Probes had already been underway for months when Smith came aboard.

Smith made quick work of his role and issued a tranche of subpoenas to key figures tied to the Trump White House and to individuals who participated in the former president’s bid to submit phony electoral slates to Congress.

In the last year, former White House attorneys like Pat Cipollone and Eric Herschmann have been hauled before a special grand jury as were a litany of other relevant officials and witnesses.

Just a day before the second anniversary of the insurrection, Bloomberg reported that officials from battleground states in the 2020 election have complied with subpoenas from the Justice Department. Those subpoenas sought their relevant emails, letters and other records central to the fake elector bid, a key feature in Trump’s push to stop the certification.

Though citing sources anonymously, Bloomberg reported that Smith is “set to make critical decisions about whether to bring charges, possibly in a matter of weeks.”

In the wake of the select committee’s probe, the territory the nation finally finds itself in, is in many ways uncharted. The committee’s investigation and its final report are like a map to this new world. The criminal referrals are flags the panel has staked on this pioneer front. Prosecutors can follow them for additional clues as they navigate a possible path to indicting a former president. But it bears repeating: the Justice Department did not begin investigations last month.

The path has been tread by federal prosecutors since at least July 2022 when reporting emerged for the first time that the Justice Department was eyeing Trump himself and not just rioters who breached the Capitol.

Discussion of an indictment of Trump for charges related to the insurrection rarely goes without questions raised over whether such a course of action would spark civil unrest from his supporters. In a September radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, Trump remarked that if he was indicted, “you would have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before.”

“I don’t think the people of the United States will stand for it,” he said.

This language may be typical of the former president but it shouldn’t prompt eyes to glaze over. Though polling by the Pew Research Center indicated ahead of last year’s midterms that Trump’s popularity has waned among Republicans, the fact remains: Trump only requires a mouthpiece (he bought one with TruthSocial) and the fealty of just enough people to make deadly trouble.

Trump’s messaging has always benefitted from the cognitive dissonance of his supporters. This will not change unless he changes or unless they change. Heading off an indictment of a former president over fear of retribution from that president’s supporters will not alter these potentialities and Attorney General Merrick Garland would seem smart enough to know this.

Dakota Adams, the estranged son of Oath Keeper founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes, escaped his father’s militia and has spent a large portion of his young life dedicated to advancing principles of fairness, equality and justice. He is interested in deprogramming extremist ideology, not advancing it.

During an interview with Daily Kos this week, Adams said he thinks violence and protest and demonstrations are inevitable if Trump is indicted. He does not advocate for violence but he’s well versed in the world of those who use it as a carrot or a stick.

“It’s going to happen regardless and it’s going to have to be gotten out of the way,” he said, before carefully measuring his next words.

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” he said, “but the more Trump supporters that wig out and try to shoot at federal buildings or riot or burn stuff, the better. It will demonstrate the reality of the situation where a lot of people have been able to safely ignore that all of these guys are in a sort of circle amping each other up towards acts of violence and normalizing violent rhetoric.”

Acts of domestic extremism and terrorism increased last year. Though there hasn’t been a repeat of January 6 in two years, Adams noted the spike of attacks by far right and Christian extremists on the LGBTQ community.

A lot of people, he said, don’t pay attention to these threats or perhaps, don’t take them as seriously as they would if there were “a bunch of people in red hats flipping cars and starting fires downtown.”

“That’s hard to ignore and if that’s going to happen at some point, it’s best if it happens while Republicans do not have a trifecta [of majority power] in government,” he said.

The mythology around Jan. 6 that has been sustained by Republican lawmakers, the right wing media sphere and extremists alike needs dismantling.

Adams noted how so much of it simply doesn’t make much sense. Some people think January 6 was real but staged. They think it was a trap. But they also think it was a false flag.

“It’s an incredibly mixed bag. There are a lot of people waiting for a revolution or the Q-Anon signal that will herald the 30 days of darkness and their pseudo-biblical apocalypse. People are waiting on that and there are a lot of people who are very much aware that another January 6 would set off a Republican riot and hurt their case,” Adams said. “But there are also people who are totally prepared to believe it was faked or [done by] secret antifa actors. Even now, there are lot of people who post about January 6 being started by antifa but also say it was only doddering old people who got into the building. There are people simultaneously promoting that Ashli Babbitt was a martyr and a federal plant. The cognitive dissonance, as it becomes more sophisticated is dangerous.”

He continued: “If there are not consequences and everyone tries to pretend like everything was normal and we continue on, many Americans who need to hear about this will not because many Americans were not there and effectively live in a news desert. In the absence of consequences, I think the current American system will continue on sheer momentum for awhile just because legitimacy is derived from people’s collective delusion of legitimacy. But over time, these same bad actors who are complicit or affiliated with January 6 perpetrators are going to be taking the system away piece by piece.”

Look to the rise of theocratic legislation, he said, pointing to restrictions on abortion and contraception and and even a recent law passed in Louisiana that requires people to verify their identity in order to watch pornography online.

And wthout consequence for Jan. 6, he is concerned that the Supreme Court will continue to “go off the rails.”

“The system that we all take for granted will be dismantled and slip away a little bit a time,” he said. “We’ll see more militarized police cracking down on all protesters except for violent white supremacists. We’ll see more lone wolf terrorist attacks, more attacks on the power grid, Everything can fall apart as the same collection of bad actors grab more and more power for themselves,” he said.

it wouldn’t surprise him either if on the “bad path” of no accountability, paramilitaries in the U.S. increasingly turned to organized, militant violence to meet their ends. This would likely prompt more left-wing organized militant responses in reaction, he opined. And that could be used to justify harsher security measures.

Without accountability for the egregiousness of Jan. 6, Adams thinks the U.S. will “fall further faster” but he doesn’t think the model is something like The Handmaid’s Tale.

“I think the model is present day Hungary where we still technically have elections but it will be mathematically impossible for anyone but the Republican party to win,” he said.

As bleak as that seems, Adams said he doesn’t believe in the concept of “too far gone.”

His life experiences, including those with his recently-convicted father, shaped those views.

“This might make my opinions biased but as a personal decision, so I can continue to function in day to day life and not collapse into depression—but also recognizing my childhood programming that the end of the world is always 14 months away—I've made myself disregard any sentence that starts with ‘we’re too far gone.’ And i just refuse to entertain the thought. If I entertain ‘its already too late,’ or ‘we’re too far gone,’ it’s going to dominate my thinking. Even if it is the more likely outcome, I'm just not going to engage with it,” he said.

Plus, life can surprise you.

After the raid of Mar-a-Lago, Adams said a “bunch of my god old boy associates in my rural small town” were of the opinion that if Trump did something “criminal and stupid,” then he should go to prison.

When Trump is held to account, Adams said, it can and does hurt Trump’s power over his base.

On Friday, as the nation marks the second anniversary of the insurrection, President Joe Biden will honor a dozen people with the Presidential Citizens Medal for their “exemplary contributions to our democracy.”

It is one of the highest civilian honors that can be bestowed by the White House.

Recipients will include: the late Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who died 24 hours after the being badly injured during the attack; U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who defended the building valiantly against rioters as he endured racial slurs and other abuse; Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell who was so badly beaten he was forced into early retirement; Michael Fanone, the D.C. Metropolitan police officer who was dragged from the Capitol and beaten horrifically on the steps; Daniel Hodges, a D.C. police officer who was crushed by rioters in the tunnel on the Capitol’s west side; Jocelyn Benson, the former Michigan Secretary of State who resisted pressure to overturn the election results even as she faced threats from armed rioters who gathered around her home; Russell Bowers, the former Arizona House speaker who rejected attempts to overturn the 2020 election; Al Schmidt, the city commissioner who made sure to keep counting votes in Philadelphia even as Trump allies leaned on him to overturn valid results; and finally, Ruby Freeman and Wandrea ArShaye Moss, a mother and daughter from Georgia who were wrongfully and publicly accused by Trump of election fraud, sparking death threats and large scale intimidation.

In an interview with Daily Kos, Dunn, who has been a vocal proponent of transparency and accountability around the events of January 6, said receiving the award humbled him.

“This award is for me as an American citizen, not as a police officer… It’s for everything afterward. I was doing my job that day. But this is for everything that came after and its beyond humbling,” he said.

Dunn has faith that the Justice Department will get accountability from the leaders of the insurrection, Trump included. And while much of the nation may have lost patience, Dunn’s resolve is unwavering.

‘If I was the attorney general, I would have brought charges on Jan. 7. But that’s not my job. I take him at his word when he says no one is above the law. I don’t have a choice but to wait until it happens. Even if this goes into another administration, or another year or another couple of years, you don’t just stop and say, ‘Well, that’s it,’” Dunn said. “I’m not a quitter and I always believe in standing up for what’s right.”

Extremism is already here, embedded deeply into our culture and our society, he said. The difficult thing is now identifying who the extremists are and responding accordingly.

“People are allowed to have their opinions, even if they are extreme. But let’s not confuse extremism with violence. People can think the earth is flat — that’s extreme to me. Or Covid is a hoax. That’s extreme for me. They can have those views. However, once you start threatening people and making people feel unsafe, when it reaches that level, it becomes a problem.”

But people must be willing to admit there’s a problem, he added.

People must get to a point where they can, at the minimum, acknowledge that they have been misled. Indictments for leaders of the insurrection, including Trump, may be one of the most critical ways to garner that acknowledgment and in the process, tamp down extremism.

Adams believes if there is no large scale accountability for the insurrectionists and ringleaders, then what becomes very important is the “local fight.”

All votes count when elections can be swayed by a single one and participation on school boards is also important, he said.

Whether fascist and militia demonstrators feel welcome in your community matters hugely, Adams added.

“The number of frustrated tears shed on the right over the counterprotesers at the drag shows in Texas was beautiful. It added years back to my life that the stress and everything else had taken away,” he said.

Large crowds of “unarmed but fiesty looking demonstrators” can discourage attacks. Right now, people should host drag shows in their communities and get as many friends to show up as they can, he said.

“Demonstrate [to extremists] that they will not be allowed to influence how society works and who will be out in the open,” he said.

Today, Adams worries about extremist groups like Patriot Front.

They are being “badly underestimated,” he said.

“There’s a market gap, particularly in the white supremacist sphere that is being exploited where the popular image of racist groups—outside of edgy losers hanging out at black metal shows—is that they’re all out of shape, washed up alcoholics who play around in the woods,” Adams reflected.

The same connotation is often lent to paramilitary and militia people, he said.

“In the case of militias, [that perception] serves as a smokescreen to keep the public from taking the threat seriously and it helps law enforcement to want to emotionally dismiss them, especially if they have sympathetic politics. For white supremacists, [this perception] hurts their cause because teenage skinheads looking for a group to join want a group that is edgy and dangerous. That's where Patriot Front is going: They put, front and center, fit young men who do martial arts and lift weights in all of their recruitment videos. They make themselves look aggressive, militant and scary.”

In their training videos, Adams said he notices that firearms are deliberately missing.

“That would garner a higher level of federal law enforcement attention and if they had brought guns to the pride event in Cour d’Alene, that would have been federal charges instead of state level misdemeanor charges, which is what they got off with,” he said.

Adams also suspects that members of these groups likely have overlapping memberships with small unofficial or undocumented militias where they do training with firearms.

“This allows them to associate with violent felons without it being an issue because they arent a gun centered group,” he said.

“Something a lot of people miss when studying this group and others: they are training for riot control. They’ are training to fight left wing and antiracist and social justice protesters in front of cameras for a PR move and to generate fight videos on LiveLeak that will serve as a recruiting tool,” he said. “They are training to back up a regime in the event of mass civil unrest. They are training to turn out as the back up sheriff’s posse.”

The committee’s final report is not the end of the story behind the insurrection or its causes.

Rather, it is the end of a chapter in time. The report deserves praise but it also deserves intense scrutiny and criticism where it made glaring omissions.

It did not meaningfully and credibly address the failures of intelligence or law enforcement agencies to prepare for the attack. Though the report heartily acknowledged the role that extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers played in Jan. 6, the final analysis bizarrely suggests that there simply wasn’t enough time for officials to make all of the necessary warnings, batten down the Capitol, and prepare police for a protest that the former president had advertised from his bully pulpit for weeks.

At its base, the committee conceded there were warnings of violence littering the public domain before Jan. 6. The FBI even flagged intelligence reports from around the United States about the possible threats and filed them under a single category it dubbed CERTUNREST2

But it wasn’t until 24 hours before the attack that the FBI finally began to aggregate all of those warnings and submit them to the officials on the last lines of defense.

U.S. Capitol Police, for example, did not receive a warning from the FBI that Trump supporters had formed an armed “quick reaction force” in nearby Virginia and were ready to “respond to calls for help in the event that protesters believed the police were not doing their job.”

And a report from the FBI’s Norfolk, Virginia field office was as blatant as could be:

“An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and antifa slave soldiers being spilled. 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,” the bulletin stated. [Emphasis original]

Capitol Police did not receive either of those warnings until after the attack.

Steven Sund, the former chief of Capitol Police who resigned days after the insurrection as calls for him to step down mounted, has laid blame at the feet of the Department of Homeland Security as well as senior officials on the Capitol Police force.

Other officials, like Julie Farnam, the assistant director of the Capitol Police’s intelligence unit, have rejected Sund’s premise. Farnam, as the final report noted, warned in advance that Congress itself could be a “target” on January 6.

While the committee, as promised, delivered a series of recommendations to accompany its final analysis, many recommendations lacked heft. In response to rising extremism in particular, the committee only generically recommended that there be a forward-march on “whole-of-government strategies to combat the threat of violent activity posed by all extremist groups.”

This bureaucratic word salad has been uttered in some variation at congressional hearings on domestic extremism for the last six years, at least.

One of the committee’s foremost recommendations, fortunately—reform of the Electoral Count Act—was meted out when an omnibus spending package was passed in December. The legislation made the long-ambiguous law more clear: the powers a vice president has during the certification ceremony are ministerial only. It was ambiguity around the original law from 1887 that Trump exploited. The reformed law also raises the bar for objections to the count.

Before the committee published its final report in December, there was widespread reporting citing anonymous sources that the panel’s vicechair, Liz Cheney, wanted to keep the thrust of the final report’s attention focused on Trump while keeping criticism against law enforcement failures to a minimum.

Trump's role was outsized in the attack and the focus on him was more than warranted, one of her aides said in a statement after those media reports first surfaced last year.

In two years, Cheney’s commitment to the Jan. 6 probe torpedoed her leadership role in the Republican conference and she lost her reelection bid to a Trump-backed candidate during the midterms. Since that defeat, she’s formed a PAC dubbed The Great Task. That PAC may furnish a run for the White House in 2024 though Cheney hasn’t been explicit about her plans of late.

“I believe that Donald Trump continues to pose a very grave threat and risk to our republic. And I think that defeating him is going to require a broad and united front of Republicans, Democrats and independents, and that’s what I intend to be a part of,” Cheney said in August during an appearance on NBC’s Today show.

A group of investigative analysts who worked for the committee, Dean Jackson, Megan Conroy and Alex Newhouse, released an essay in conjunction with Just Security on Thursday about the role social media played in enabling the attack. Since much of the panel’s final report focused on Trump’s “legal chicanery and outright violence” specifically, the analysts wrote, much additional context was left on the cutting room floor.

“While Trump played an instrumental role in driving the attack, right-wing networks—comprised of everyone from mainstream talking heads to extremist armed groups—drove the mass spread of conspiracy theories and far-right content on social media. That spread could not have occurred without corporate policies of social media platforms and other enterprises that allowed dangerous rhetoric to proliferate online and ultimately contribute to violence in the real world,” Jackson, Conroy and Newhouse wrote.

There’s no quick legislative fix that will divorce social media from rising extremism, they said.

”Instead we must pursue a host of pro-democracy and counter-extremism reforms both on and offline. As a starting point, a recent paper by Rachel Kleinfeld offers “Five Strategies to Support US Democracy” that government, civil society, and politicians can take to reduce demand for anti-democratic action, reinforce democratic norms and institutions, and rebuild public trust.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Final Report: Select Panel Recommends Barring Trump From Public Office

Final Report: Select Panel Recommends Barring Trump From Public Office

The House Select Committee has published its final report. You can find it here.

The report is a sweeping 845 pages and features rich narratives neatly divided into different phases of former President Donald Trump’s push to overturn the results of the 2020 election before finally inciting an insurrection at the U.S Capitol.


The first chapter of the final report covers former President Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” and specifically, the committee contends, how he deliberately exploited the “Red Mirage” to advance his overturn agenda.

As Fox News elections head Chris Stirewalt explained: for nearly half a century, the practice of voting by mail or early voting, or absentee voting was par for the course. Typically, because Democrats tend to vote this way more often than Republicans in “nearly every election,” he said, it results in a simple formula: “Republicans win Election Day and Democrats win the early vote and then you wait and start counting. It happens every time.”

Trump exploited an ordinary situation, sowed confusion about the timing of the votes, and deceived Americans, the report notes. And all of this was foreshadowed.

Subchapters in the first section of the report focus on Trump’s early plans to declare victory in the election, further details about his efforts to delegitimize the process, the formal launch of the Big Lie, the shakeup to his campaign team after the election was over, how his campaign informed him repeatedly that he had lost and voter fraud didn’t exist as well as Trump’s promotion of conspiracy theories. Another section is devoted entirely to his speech on January 6.

  • Trump “pushed the campaign’s ‘Team Normal’” to the curb two weeks after the election (Campaign manager Bill Stepien and deputy Justin Clark) and replaced them with Rudy Giuliani who then recruited attorneys Jenna Ellis (Giuliani’s deputy), Bernie Kerik, Boris Epshteyn, Katherine Friess, and Christina Bobb.
  • On January 2, 2021, Matthew Morgan, the senior-most lawyer for the Trump campaign approached then-Vice President Mike Pence’s staff, and together, the men reached the conclusion that even if every claim of fraud was “aggregated and read most favorably to the campaign… it was not sufficient to be outcome determinative.”
  • Trump White House adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner arranged an Oval Office briefing for Trump on Nov. 6, exactly two months to the day until the insurrection, with campaign staff. Trump was told then that analysis from swing states showed a victory was impossible.

By the numbers:

Trump sued 62 times in states and in Washington, D.C. from Nov. 4 to January 6. He lost all but one case. 22 judges appointed by Republican presidents oversaw the cases. 10 of them were Trump-appointed. All three of the justices appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court who reviewed his fraud claims, rejected them.

The first chapter of the report, in particular, Section 1.8 “President Trump repeatedly promoted conspiracy theories,” offers extensive analysis and debunking of the various conspiracy theories that Trump deployed about rampant voter fraud.

Dead people voting became a major, disinformation-laden complaint flowing from the Trump campaign and the Republican party. The final committee report notes that just days before January 6, Senator Lindsey Graham prodded Trump’s lawyers to “provide evidence to support the campaign’s claims regarding dead voters.”

Giuliani looked into it and “they concluded they could not find evidence of dead voters anywhere near the number that Giuliani and President Trump were claiming publicly.”


After noting the shortcomings in their evidence, Katherine Fries, a lawyer working with the Giuliani legal team, warned that Senator Graham would “push back” on their evidence. As predicted by Friess, Senator Graham was not impressed by the information provided by Giuliani’s team.
In his speech on the Senate floor on January 6th, Graham explained why he would not object to the certification of electoral votes. Senator Graham referred to the failure of the Trump attorneys to provide the evidence he requested: “’They said there’s 66,000 people in Georgia under 18 voted. Howmany people believe that? I asked, ‘Give me 10.’ Hadn’t had one. They said 8,000 felons in prison in Arizona voted. Give me 10. Hadn’t gotten one. Does that say there’s—There’s problems in every election. I don’t buy this. Enough’s enough. We’ve got to end it.”

Dominion Voting Systems may have a chance to sue Trump yet. According to the final report, Trump tweeted and retweeted false claims about the voting machine manufacturer over 30 times, lies about them in election speeches and interviews and did all of this, despite his staff telling him his claims had no merit, the report notes.

“Hand recounts confirmed the fidelity of the machines. But none of this overwhelming evidence mattered. President Trump demonstrated a conscious disregard for the facts and continued to maliciously smear Dominion.”


The final report reveals that former President Donald Trump contacted more than 190 Republican state legislators in Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan alone—just three of seven battleground states.


One voicemail left as part of this initiative was leaked to the press on December 1, 2020. In it, a Trump Campaign staffer said, “I did want to personally reach out to you on behalf of the President.” Her main point came later in the message: “we want to know when there is a resolution inthe House to appoint electors for Trump if the President can count on you to join in support.” Another message from this effort that reached reporters made the same ask and claimed that, “[a]fter a roundtable with tthe President, he asked us to reach out to you individually” to whip support for a “joint resolution from the State House and Senate” that would “allow Michigan to send electors for Donald J. Trump to the Electoral College and save our country.” Soon after the voicemail leaked, the Campaign staffer who left this voicemail got a text message from one of her supervisors, who wrote: “Honest to god I’m so proud of this” because “[t]hey unwittingly just gotyour message out there.” He elaborated: “you used the awesome powerof the presidency to scare a state rep into getting a statewide newspaper todeliver your talking points.”


At the heart of the attempt to overturn the election were the fake electors. The committee notes how in seven battleground states, they affixed their signatures to bunk certificates in gambits led by Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani and others like Kenneth Cheseboro, Cheseboro provided instructions to pro-Trump electors in five of the seven battleground states to declare themselves “duly elected and qualified” but they weren’t. None of those who had signed were sanctioned by the state government with what is known as a “certificate of ascertainment.”

In just two of the seven battleground states, electors included a disclaimer on their “certificate” that noted the form was valid only if they were deemed “qualified” at a later time.

In an email to Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien on December 14, 2020, Joshua Findlay, the Republican National Committee’s director for election integrity, sent an email to the legal team on the campaign.


“Findlay updated Campaign Manager Bill Stepienand his bosses on the legal team that the Trump team’s slate in Georgia wasnot able to satisfy all provisions of State law but still “voted as legally aspossible under the circumstances” before transmitting their fake votes toWashington, DC, by mail.”

The final report also presents evidence connecting Trump directly to the fake elector scheme. Findlay said Trump “made it clear that Rudy [Giuliani] was in charge of this and that Rudy was executing what he wanted.””


The Justice Department never found any evidence of widespread voter fraud significant enough to alter the outcome of the 2020 election and hand Donald Trump a victory.

The committee notes that former Trump-appointed Attorney General Bill Barr authorized two investigations into claims of election fraud. The first one began on Nov. 7—the day the press declared Joe Biden was the winner—and then on Nov. 9. Barr ordered the department and the FBI to investigate for fraud in their respective jurisdictions. He specified that his order should not lead anyone to believe that the request for an investigation alone constituted proof fraud.

Barr rebuffed Trump’s conspiracy theories in three meetings and Trump was immovable.

“The President said there had been major fraud and that, as soon as the facts were out, the results of the election would be reversed,” Barr told the committee.

Rudy Giuliani had been in Trump’s ear, Barr said, and was telling him “crazy stuff” about what authority the Justice Department had to investigate their claims. Giuliani had badmouthed the Justice Department to Trump and Barr believed this was because Giuliani was upset that no one had come up with any evidence of fraud.

By Nov. 29, Trump went on Fox News and claimed the DOJ was “missing in action” and he opined that maybe the FBI was involved nefariously somehow. Trump claimed the FBI wasn’t investigating Dominion, either. But six days earlier Barr had already explained to Trump that the Dominion voting machine conspiracy theory was nonsense. All Trump did, Barr testified, was come back at him with “crazy stuff.” Barr would resign on Dec. 14.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen stepped in after Barr left. From December 23, 2020, to January 3, 2021, Rosen and Trump were in constant contact and it was usually Trump calling to complain about how little the Justice Department had done to investigate his claims of voter fraud.

Rep. Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, had introduced Trump to Jeffrey Clark, an attorney at the Justice Department who was sympathetic to Trump. Clark eventually went to a meeting at the Oval Office against department policy. Rosen warned Clark not to do it again. Rosen had not yet learned that at the meeting in the Oval Office, Clark “told the President that if he were to change the leadership at the Department of Justice, ‘then the Department might be able to do more’ to support the President’s claims that the election had been stolen from him.”

As Clark vied for the top spot at the department, he would draft a memo intended for battleground state legislatures that proclaimed voting irregularities. First up was Georgia. If Rosen wouldn’t send memo as Trump wanted, Clark would replace him, Rosen recalled. The memo was never sent and Clark never ascended the ladder for the simple fact that Rosen and his deputy, Richard Donoghue, as well as other Justice Department officials, threatened to resign en masse if Trump went forward with Clark.


“People tell me Jeff Clark is great” and that “I should put him in,”President Trump said on the call. “People want me to replace the DOJ leadership.” Donoghue responded “[S]ir, that’s fine, you should have the leadership you want, but understand, changing the leadership in the Department won’t change anything.”

Perry, who has been referred to the House Ethics Committee by the January 6 probe, called Richard Donoghue one day before Clark drafted the 5-page memo.

The final report notes at length that the same tactics being used by Rudy Giuliani to advance fake elector slates, were the ones Clark deployed in his draft letter.

From December through January 2, Clark met with Trump in Oval Office despite admonishments from Rosen. Trump meanwhile was fervently pushing the Justice Department to file a frivolous lawsuit in Pennsylvania challenging the election results. Despite being told repeatedly that this would not happen, Trump and his allies kept pressing the Justice Department.


Highlights from this section of the final report include some incredibly damning if not wildly curious details around the drafting of a memo by attorney John Eastman that proposed to have the vice president intervene at the joint certification ceremony. The proposal was flatly unconstitutional but ambiguity in the language around the Electoral Count Act was just wide enough of a window for Eastman.

The final report contends that Eastman wrote his first of two “January 6th Scenario” memos on Dec. 23. That same day he spoke to Trump for 23 minutes.


“From the start, President Trump was looped in on Eastman’s proposal.The same day Eastman started preparing the memo, he sent an email to President Trump’s assistant Molly Michael, at 1:32 p.m.: “Is the President available for a very quick call today at some point? Just want to update himon our overall strategic thinking.” Only five minutes later, Eastman received a call from the White House switchboard; according to his phone records, the conversation lasted for almost 23 minutes.”

Pence and Trump met privately, without anyone else present, on January 5, 2021, at the White House. Eastman had been pushing the Pence-as-arbiter-of-the-count strategy hot and heavy but understood, the committee notes, that Pence wouldn’t go for it.


Eastman recognized that Vice President Pence was not going to change his mind on rejecting electors outright, but he still asked if the Vice President would consider sending the electors back to the States. “I don’t seeit,” Vice President Pence responded, “but my counsel will hear out whatever Mr. Eastman has to say.”Jacob received other calls from Eastman on January 5th. Jacob toldthe Select Committee that he had a detailed discussion with Eastman concerning the ways his proposal would violate the Electoral Count Act. Eastman resorted to a ridiculous argument—comparing their current situation to the crisis that faced President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.Eastman invoked President Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. He also told Jacob to “stay tuned” because “we” were trying to getsome letters from State legislators indicating that they were interested inthe Vice President sending the electors back to the States.”


  • According to the report, for the Million MAGA March in Washington, D.C. on Nov 14, Proud Boy leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio had his air travel to D.C. paid for by Patrick Byrne, the founder of Overstock who urged Trump during a Dec. 18, 2020 meeting to seize voting machines.


The select committee was unable to corroborate testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson about Trump lunging at a Secret Service driver on January 6 and requesting that it be taken to the Capitol. Individuals who were in the president’s car that afternoon could not remember Trump grabbing at the clavicle of Bobby Engel, Trump’s head of Secret Service. Hutchinson testified under oath that this story was relayed to her secondhand by Tony Ornato, a Secret Service agent-turned--deputy chief of staff for the Trump White House. (Such a transition is rare.)

A footnote in the final report points out:

A book written by Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in December 2021 made the categorical claim that the President never intended to travel to the Capitol that day. See Mark Meadows, The Chief’s Chief (St. Petersburg, FL: All Seasons Press, 2021), p. 250. The Committee’s evidence demonstrates that Meadows’s claim is categorically false. Because the Meadows book conflicted sharply with information that was being received by the Select Committee, the Committee became increasingly wary that other witnesses might intentionally conceal what happened. That appeared to be the case with Ornato. Ornato does not recall that he conveyed the information to Cassidy Hutchinson regarding the SUV, and also does not recall that he conveyed similar information to a White House employee with national security responsibilities who testified that Ornato recalled a similar account to him. The Committee is skeptical of Ornato’s account.

Multiple people reached out to Trump while he failed to respond to the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Trump allies, family members, friendly press, staff; nearly everyone in Trump’s orbit who testified to the committee about this three-hour block said the same thing: Trump had to do more to condemn the violence.

The final report shows that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of Trump’s most ardent supporters, was in a panic on January 6, just like so many of her colleagues, Capitol staff, journalists, and others who were working inside the Capitol or visiting that day.

“Mark, I was just told there is an active shooter on the first floor of the Capitol Please tell the President to calm people This isn’t the way to solve anything,” Greene wrote. [Punctuation original]

Notably, Trump’s personal assistant Johnny McEntee said when he and the president spoke by phone after the attack on January 6, Trump did not express any sadness.

“This is a crazy day,” McEntee recalled Trump saying. The tone was “like, wow, can you believe this shit?” and McEntee thought Trump seemed shocked that things got out of control. Trump didn’t make any other phone calls for the rest of the evening on January 6. He did not call Pence, despite learning earlier that he had to be whisked to safety during the siege.


The final chapter of the report delves into how the Capitol attack took shape on January 6 and who was involved, starting with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. The activities of Trump allies like Roger Stone, Alex Jones, Ali Alexander and Michael Flynn are discussed, Details include analysis from the moments that Capitol was breached to the first person inside to the conduct of some of the most memorable faces to emerge from the violent attack.

This portion of the report also includes information around the timelines of lawmaker evacuations from the Capitol, and other important details in the day’s chronology including when an officer shot Trump supporter and U.S. veteran Ashli Babbitt. Babbitt refused to stand down, video footage shows, and ignored the officer’s orders, attempting to squeeze herself through a shattered glass door.

The clearing of the Capitol is also detailed in this segment of the report.


Appendices are split into four categories: Government Agency Preparation for and Response to January 6; DC National Guard Prep for and Response to January 6; The Big Rip-Off: Follow the Money; Malign Foreign Influence


Government Agency Preparation for and Response to January 6

  • Senator Mark Warner called FBI deputy director David Bowdich during the siege and told him the situation was a “mess” because 87 Senators were in one location during the attack. “We now have the vast majority of the Senate in one room,” Warner told him.
  • Agents with the Secret Service who were tuned into Trump’s speech at the Ellipse sent an email to Secret Service leadership stating: “POTUS just said that he is going up to the U.S. Capitol to ‘watch’ the vote.” The agent was unsure if Trump was serious. Another Secret Service executive replied, “[he] said it but not going to our knowledge.”

DC National Guard Prep for and Response to January 6

  • The commander of the National Guard, General William Walker, was forced to wait for three hours and 19 minutes on Jan. 6 as the Pentagon worked on a plan to deploy back up to the Capitol. Chris Miller, then the acting-defense secretary, said he thought it would only take a minute but that minute turned into five, then 10, and then 15.
    • EXCERPT: “And then an hour went by, then more time went by . . . .But we never thought it would take that long. Col. Matthews confirmed that there were periods on the call when no one was talking. At times, there was talk of securing buildings other than the Capitol. [Miller] called the open channel essentially “a general officer chat line.”
  • Miller said he had approved the National Guard at 3:04 p.m. but the Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, hosted a planning call but that call did not include General Walker, the official responsible for leading troops into Washington.
    • EXCERPT: Major General Walker himself understood he had to wait for approval from Secretary McCarthy to deploy his forces. But as he waited on that video CALL for hours, he did strongly consider sending them anyway. He turned to his lawyer and said, “Hey, you know what? You know, we’re going to go, and I'm just going to shoulder the responsibility.” According to Major General Walker, his lawyer responded, “What if you get sued?” Colonel Mathews, that lawyer, “told him not to do that. Just hold on.” The Guard officials located with Major General Walker at the Armory all say he seriously contemplated aloud the possibility of breaking with the chain of command. “Should we just deploy now and resign tomorrow?” was how Lieutenant Nick recalled Major General Walker bluntly putting it. “I would have done just that,” Major General Walker said, “but not for those two letters” from his superiors curtailing Guard redeployment.
  • General Walker told the committee that “ultimately, no plan from Army leaders—strategic or tactical—made it to the troops.“[I]f they came up with a plan, they never shared it with us,” he said. “They claim they were putting a plan together. That’s what took so long. I never saw a plan from the Department of Defense or the Department of the Army.”

The Big Rip-Off

The select committee contends that Trump sucked up cash from donors by proclaiming that he was using donations to support his legal battle. The Republican National Committee knew Trump’s claims of winning were baseless, the final report notes. and that any additional donations would not help him win the 2020 election.

The only individuals at the RNC who tried to “walk back” the fundraising email blasts were RNC lawyers. Members of the RNC legal team did not testify to the committee due to attorney-client privilege issues, but interviews with RNC staffers like Alex Katz revealed that lawyers instructed him not to say “steal the election” in messaging.


  • The final report recommends reform of the Electoral Count Act and proposals removal of ambiguous language while solidifying the role of the Vice President as ministerial only. (Senators passed ECA reform legislation on Thursday)
  • The final report recommends that the Justice Department make a determination on its criminal referrals for former President Donald Trump and others. Bar associations should also continue to review the conduct of attorneys cited in the report for unethical behavior or misconduct to ensure they are not practicing improperly; DoJ should take greater steps to prevent its attorneys from participating in any campaign-related activities (See: Jeffrey Clark)
  • The final report recommends that Trump be banned from running for office ever again and points to the 14th Amendment which bars someone from holding office if they have “engaged in an insurrection” or provided “aid and comfort” to enemies of the U.S. Constitution
  • The committee recommends that the joint session of Congress be considered a “national security special event”
  • The committee recommends that tougher penalties are enforced on those who would try to upend the nation’s transfer of power as well as increasing the federal penalties for people who threaten election workers; in that same vein, the committee recommends stronger protections be put in place to shield election worker’s personal information
  • The committee recommends that the House of Representatives develop legislation that would make its subpoenas enforceable in federal court, either following the statutory authority that exists for the Senate in 2 U.S.C.§ 288d and 28 U.S.C. § 1365 or adopting a broad approach to facilitate timely oversight of the executive branch.”
  • The committee recommends increased oversight of the Capitol Police as well as increased oversight over social media companies' policies that have the real-time effect of “radicalizing their consumers including by provoking people to attack their own country”
  • The committee recommends federal agencies with intelligence and security missions move ahead on developing strategies to combat extremism, including white nationalist groups and violent anti-government groups.
  • Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos
'They'll Ruin My Life': Hutchinson Says Trump Team Coerced Her On Testimony

'They'll Ruin My Life': Hutchinson Says Trump Team Coerced Her On Testimony

On Thursday, the House Select Committee published two transcripts from its extensive interviews with Cassidy Hutchinson, the former Trump White House aide who offered some of the most damning and explosive testimony to emerge from the 18-month probe of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

When she appeared publicly before the committee this summer, Hutchinson recounted how former President Donald Trump waved off warnings from his security detail about armed people in the crowd and urged that they be allowed to pass through metal detectors unmolested. She revealed learning about how Trump had lunged at the neck of his own Secret Service agent when his request to be ferried to the Capitol after the speech at the Ellipse was denied. She recalled the secrecy of her boss, former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who allegedly burned paperwork after a meeting with Rep. Scott Perry, an outspoken advocate of Trump’s Big Lie.

Hutchinson’s testimony was an embarrassment of riches for the committee, filling in blank spots left open by less-than-cooperative Trump White House officials. But the transcripts released Thursday also illuminate the huge pressure she came under by testifying.

Hutchinson told the committee that she recalled telling her mother plainly: “I’m fucked.”

She was “fucked,” she said, because she was effectively trapped.

She didn’t have the ability to shell out huge sums of cash to attorneys who could represent her when she went before the committee so was stuck with Stefan Passantino, a Trump White House lawyer whose fees were being paid by the former president’s Save America political action committee.

“I am completely indebted to these people,” she told her mother, the transcript shows. “And they will ruin my life Mom, if I do anything they don’t want me to do.”

She went to her estranged father, a Trump supporter, and asked him for help.

“I drove up to New Jersey, and I went to his house one night and begged him. It’s probably the one thing I regret in all of this, I wish I didn’t stoop to that level because it was a no— but I begged him to help me. I said I would pay him back, like, ‘name your interest rate,’” she said. “Like I just need help. And I remember saying to him, ‘you have no idea what they’re going to do to me if I have to get an attorney with Trump world,’ because he’s a very big Trump supporter, as is his own right, and I don’t—it’s not being critical, it’s just a fact. And he just didn’t get it. And I didn’t expect him to. But I just left there feeling defeated.”

Passantino, she told the committee, urged her to skimp on details when answering the investigator’s questions. He advised her to mislead the committee, she said, though she stressed that he did not instruct her to lie explicitly.

“I want to make this clear to you,” Hutchinson said. “Stefan never told me to lie. He specifically told me, ‘I don’t want you to perjure yourself but ‘I don’t recall’ isn’t perjury.”

She remembered him adding: “They don’t know what you can and can’t recall.”

He also suggested that she avoid meeting with the committee altogether when she had an appointment in June. She should consider drawing a contempt of Congress charge instead of testifying, he allegedly advised. It would be an unpleasant risk but a smaller one.

Hutchinson said Passantino told her, “running to the right is better for you.”

Passantino represented Hutchinson during three of her depositions before she hired a different attorney. The transcripts published on Thursday are dated Sept. 14 and Sept. 15, both dates when Passantino was not representing her. For these meetings, Hutchinson was represented by attorney Jody Hunt.

The committee has not yet published its final report in full or the complete record of its witness transcripts. Her earlier interviews under Passantino’s representation are expected to be included in that group.

When news first broke Wednesday about Passantino’s alleged advice to Hutchinson, he denied any wrongdoing in statements to reporters. Hutchinson, he said, was truthful and cooperative and he never instructed her to mislead the committee. His biography, meanwhile, has been pulled off the webpage of the law firm where he serves as partner.

During her initial interviews with the committee prior to September, Hutchinson said Trump aides would reach out to her. Jason Miller and Justin Clark extended potential job offers to her after she met with the select committee for the first time. The next time she was scheduled to testify, she said Ben Williamson, an aide to her former boss Mark Meadows called her on the eve of her appearance.

‘Mark wants me to let you know that he knows you’re loyal,” Williamson said in a voicemail, Hutchinson recalled. “He knows you’ll do the right thing tomorrow and that you’re going to protect him and the boss.”

The “boss” was watching, Passantino would later hint to her.

In one of her final exchanges with the lawyer, Hutchinson told the committee she remembered learning how Passantino had shared details of her interview with other Trump attorneys against her wishes. She said he shared some of the information with attorneys representing Mark Meadows, too.

This was the “first clear indicator,” she testified, that she was on her own.

“He doesn’t care about what I want, he doesn’t care about what I think is best for me, he’s doing what he thinks is best for Trump and people in Trump’s orbit,” she said.

When she finally broke off from Passantino, she described what had happened between them to the Justice Department, too.

“So, the question for me became where do my loyalties lie?” Hutchinson testified.

She said she “knew where they were” but the dynamic was terribly difficult anyway.

“I wasn’t equipped with people that allowed me and empowered me to be loyal to the country and loyal to the truth,” she said.

Describing her fear of what could have happened to her if she was to testify and remain connected to Trump-allied attorneys, the former White House aide said: “You know, I had seen this world ruin people’s lives or try to ruin people’s careers. I’d seen how vicious they can be.”

One of the most shocking bits of testimony to emerge almost didn’t.

Hutchinson told the select committee that Passantino urged her not to testify about what she had learned from Tony Ornato, the head of Trump’s Secret Service detail, after Ornato informed her Trump had freaked out and lunged at the head of his driver when he was told he would not be taken to the Capitol after his speech.

“I didn’t go into extremely graphic detail telling Stefan about it. I tried to kind of make it more casual than my conversation with Tony [Ornato] but I think I said something to— I said something to Stefan like, ‘yeah, i had a conversation with Tony Ornato when we got back from the rally that day and he told me that the president tried to wrap his hands around [driver] Bobby [Engel’s] neck and strangle him because he wouldn’t take him to the Capitol,” she said.

“And Stefan said, ‘no, no, no, no.’ I remember he like sat back in his char and he’s like, ‘no, no, no, no. We don’t want to go there,’ she said.

He added: “We don’t need to talk about that.”

Hutchinson told the probe that Passantino tried to soothe her even as she raised concerns about the integrity of her testimony. The committee didn’t know how much she knew or not, he told her.

“You think they know, because you do,” she recalled him saying. “He’s like, but you’re doing the right thing.”

Other details that emerged from the transcript:

  • Hutchinson testified under oath that she spoke to McCarthy almost every day in the run-up to Jan. 6. When they spoke a few days before the insurrection, she recalled him remarking to her that her boss and Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows was leading Trump down a bad path.
    • “What’s Mark doing? What’s Mark thinking? He’s giving the president bad advice,” Hutchinson recalled McCarthy asking her.
  • Critically, Hutchinson testified that McCarthy told her Trump frequently acknowledged his electoral defeat in private but then quickly shifted gears and insisted he had to remain in the White House nonetheless. McCarthy allegedly told her he thought this attitude was being fomented by Meadows.
  • Hutchinson also testified that she believed Meadows was utilizing his aide Ben Williamson to get information about what she was doing with the select committee so he “wouldn’t be in the dark about anything,” she said. Historically, Williamson has denied such claims and in June when she appeared before the committee and reports surfaced that Meadows tapped Willamson to be his eyes and ears on her, Williamson denied the allegations saying that no one, not himself or Meadows, or anyone else, had tried to pressure her or tamper with her testimony

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

House Select Panel Now 'Extensively Cooperating' With Special Counsel

House Select Panel Now 'Extensively Cooperating' With Special Counsel

The House Select Committee is sharing more of its records and transcripts freely with the Justice Department after it received a letter from Special Counsel Jack Smith requesting the committee’s documents,Punchbowl News reports.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based news outlet, Smith issued the request on December 5. A committee spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.

The select committee began the handoff last week.

The decision shouldn’t come as a surprise for watchers of the probe; committee chairman Bennie Thompson has said repeatedly in recent months that when the probe completed its investigation in full, it would comply with requests for copies of its records and transcripts—but not before.

The final committee report will be made public today. An executive summary of the report was released Monday during the panel’s final meeting, where members voted unanimously to criminally refer former President Donald Trump and attorney John Eastman to the Justice Department.

It has been reported in recent days that transcripts and other supporting materials underpinning the final report could be released separately before the end of the year.

Per Punchbowl’s reporting, the committee “plans to share additional transcripts and documents with the special counsel’s office in the coming days.”

This would seem to suggest that the committee will delay publishing all of its transcripts in full.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

House Panel Expected To Refer Trump For January 6 Prosecution

House Panel Expected To Refer Trump For January 6 Prosecution

When the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol meets on Monday, the panel will reportedly ask the Justice Department to pursue no less than three criminal charges against former President Donald Trump. Chief among those charges? Insurrection.

Politico, citing two people familiar with the matter, first reported the news of the impending criminal referral to the Department of Justice. In addition to insurrection, the select committee is also reportedly poised to ask the department to consider charges of obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States government.

The committee has been in talks for months about whether it will issue criminal referrals for Trump. The maneuver would be symbolic. A congressional criminal referral has no force of effect because it does not obligate the Justice Department to take action.

The committee will meet on Monday to adopt its final report and officially decide whether it will make criminal referrals. Daily Kos will have live coverage of the hearing when it begins at 1 PM ET.

Federal court rulings will give the criminal referrals some heft, anyway. Per Politico, committee members will point to a ruling by a federal judge from February that stated Trump’s language on Jan. 6 incited violence. It is safe to assume that the committee will also rely on a ruling from a federal judge that found Trump “more likely than not” corruptly attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.

If a plan concocted by Trump and conservative attorney John Eastman had worked, U.S. District Judge David Carter wrote in court ruling this March, “it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution.”

The final select committee report is expected to say that Trump never needed to have an explicit agreement with the mob that stormed the Capitol in order to commit insurrection. They will argue that he only needed to provide them “comfort” to carry out their conduct.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Sedition, Dishonor, And Dishonesty At Oath Keepers Trial

Sedition, Dishonor, And Dishonesty At Oath Keepers Trial

There’s something I’ve been thinking about while I have been listening to testimony at the seditious conspiracy trial of Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes.

Every time a witness who was or is part of the organization testifies, as they introduce themselves to the jury and they explain, in effect, how they got to where they now find themselves, there’s a sort of fawning that happens when these mostly old, mostly white men talk about the group.

They speak of camaraderie. They speak of brotherhood. They speak of a willingness to help. Before they even get into the allegations at hand or talk about their reverence for things like the Constitution or the Second Amendment, there has been testimony too about coming together during trying times, like during a natural disaster, where they are willing to step in to provide “protection.”

The definition of “protection” may vacillate a bit but it is overwhelmingly discussed in terms like what Rhodes described when he was on the stand.

During Hurricane Katrina, for example, he said people were having guns taken from their homes “door-by-door” prompting Oath Keepers to show up and ensure people were not being disabused of their Constitutional rights.

He didn’t speak much about providing food or transportation or shelter. And if you were to ask him, it’s not difficult to imagine him saying these elements are not necessarily his organization’s chief priority since their expertise is primarily “security.” Or in other words, the muscle, to “assist” those doing what can viably be described as “the real work” in a disaster scenario (See: feeding, clothing and housing people as they pick up the pieces.)

Besides, his remark about the confiscation of guns post-Katrina was exaggerated.

In 2015, Mother Jones reported that even on blogs “sympathetic to Oath Keepers,” there was concerted pushback over claims that a widescale seizure of weapons by the federal government was taking place in the storm’s aftermath.

In fact, public court records show 552 guns were seized in the aftermath of Katrina and “were mostly inoperable junk guns.” And as the report digging into these claims noted, “either way, in a city of nearly half a million, where gun possession had always been popular (and exploded after the storm), that doesn’t amount to a totalitarian power grab.”

In Louisville, after Breonna Taylor was killed by police and protests erupted, Oath Keepers showed up to “protect” businesses. In video shown to jurors, locals are heard imploring the armed Oath Keepers standing in a circle around a vehicle to leave.

Local police asked Oath Keepers to leave Ferguson, Missouri after Michael Brown was killed by police. And though it has been almost a decade since real cops with real badges asked Rhodes and his cosplayers to stop offering their “services” in St. Louis, Rhodes appeared to still smart at the memory when testifying at the trial in Washington.

They were showing cops how to “do things right,” he said,

The good samaritan shield Rhodes hoists up may have been forged in earnest fires once and it may be true when other Oath Keepers say they joined the group because they wanted to be part of something meaningful.

Perhaps, yes, in the minds of some of these men, there was a time and place where they believed there was something worth protecting in a vulnerable stranger—no matter any possible difference in opinion, color, or creed.

Maybe the hope was real, the belief that the experience of those who have traveled tough terrain could be valued. Maybe there could be a place for people who understood what it is to sustain on very little for very long in dangerous places? Maybe there would be a use in peacetime, right here at home, for people overly acquainted with the theater of war.

Perhaps there was a time when the idea of utilizing veterans and first responders to form a community of public servants was the goal.

But what good samaritan writes a death list?

Who is the person who views other human beings as “bugs” that need to be fought in the streets?

Who is the person who looks at their fellow citizens in the 21st century and believes that political or ideological differences can only be resolved by fighting a civil war?

What does it say when a so-called good samaritan enters the nation’s Capitol during a riot with a patch on themselves that states plainly: “I don’t believe in anything. I’m just here for the violence.”

Members of the Oath Keepers, including Rhodes, have testified for weeks that they are admirers of the First Amendment. Much time has been devoted to featuring the claim that Rhodes and co-defendants Jessica Watkins, Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, and Thomas Caldwell merely shared a penchant for braggadocio when they discussed plans that could “go kinetic” when they came to Washington to “help” on Jan. 6.

America’s first president George Washington, who Rhodes himself revered highly, once said “if the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be, like sheep to the slaughter.”

Washington followed it up with another thought immediately after: “It is far better to be alone, than to be in bad company. Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.

The Justice Department has taken great pains to bring to light what Rhodes and his cohorts said and did before, during, and after January 6, 2021.

The notion that the Oath Keepers good samaritan defense is believable beyond a reasonable doubt tests the limits of logic.

The presupposition that the group’s only plan was to be ready to provide “assistance” to a U.S. president—who helms the second largest military in the world— is hard to square against a mountain of damning diatribes and testimony.

When men keep bad company, are they able to have honor?

The Oath Keepers communications presented to jurors over this last month often appear dripping in contempt for anyone who might oppose their ideological world-view. Entire swaths of people are lumped into a singular category.

Perhaps if some of these men, in another timeline, would have not been radicalized by disinformation or were not so driven to toy with power because they felt so underutilized or unheard themselves, then their claims of righteousness would be easier to believe.

But there’s vigilantism that hides in every piece of evidence. There’s a violent disregard for a difference of opinion.

And now, there is only a jury that will decide what comes next.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Sentencing For Bannon On Contempt Conviction In Three Weeks

Sentencing For Bannon On Contempt Conviction In Three Weeks

Steve Bannon refused to cooperate with a congressional subpoena seeking his insights into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and for that, he’s now facing a potential sentence of up to a year in prison. He will be sentenced on October 21.

The bombastic right-winger proclaimed his trial would be ruinous for prosecutors. He vowed to go “medieval” and “savage” on the Justice Department as he tried to fend off two counts of contempt of Congress.

Before his trial in Washington, D.C., began, the former adviser for ex-President Donald Trump riffed on his podcast: “Who needs prayers? Certainly not Stephen K. Bannon.”

Jurors returned their guilty verdict for Bannon after deliberating for less than three hours.

And for all the bluster, when given the chance to testify on his own behalf at trial, Bannon opted against it. He also didn’t launch any real defense of his actions in court. His attorney David Schoen told U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols this July that Bannon wanted to testify but ultimately would not because of how the court had hamstrung his defense.

At a pre-trial hearing, Nichols found the former Trump adviser could not argue that his refusal to comply with the subpoena from the Jan. 6 committee was permitted because of his purported concerns over violating executive privilege.

By the time Bannon was subpoenaed by the House Select Committee in September 2021, he was far removed from working in the Trump White House, Nichols ruled, so privilege did not apply. Bannon left the White House in 2017.

Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel rulings around privilege that Bannon hoped would defend his noncompliance were actually unrelated to his case, Nichols found.

The Trump-appointed judge tossed Bannon’s attempts to subpoena lawmakers—they were immune under Speech and Debate clause of the Constitution—and he rejected Bannon’s arguments that he was effectively tricked into thinking he could evade the subpoena because he relied on shoddy legal advice.

In the end, the judge allowed Bannon to argue only that he might have misunderstood the deadline for his subpoena. Nichols also gave Bannon a chance to call forward witnesses he felt could support his claims of political bias against him, ABC News reported in July.

But Bannon would do none of that.

Instead, he railed outside of the courthouse after trial dates and blubbered about the legitimacy of the Jan. 6 committee and its members.

Earlier this month, Nichols denied Bannon’s request for a new trial. Such a request is only fulfilled “when a serious miscarriage of justice may have occurred,” he wrote.

Bannon claimed the court gave jurors bad instructions and he also claimed his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights were violated because he was unable to subpoena lawmakers.

“The court disagrees,” Nichols wrote.

Bannon had failed to show any indication that the evidence or testimony he sought would actually be material to his defense. Most of it, Nichols said, would be “irrelavant.”

In addition to a possible maximum sentence of up to 12 months in prison—the minimum is 30 days—the two counts of contempt of Congress also pose a hefty fine of up to $100,000 each.

His legal troubles are far from over. Earlier this month, prosecutors in New York indicted Bannon on money laundering and conspiracy charges connected to the nonprofit organization “We Build the Wall.”

Per his indictment, U.S. attorneys say Bannon knew the group that promised to fund the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border was bunk. Bannon faced similar money laundering and wire fraud charges tied to the same alleged conspiracy when Trump was in office. Bannon pleaded not guilty then and has pleaded not guilty once more.

Trump pardoned Bannon at the 11th hour of his presidency on January 20, 2021.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

New Texts Reveal Details Of Scheme To Overturn Election

New Texts Reveal Details Of Scheme To Overturn Election

New text messages obtained by CNN on Monday have freshly exposed the depths of former President Donald Trump’s push to overturn the 2020 election and, more specifically, the involvement of his chief of staff Mark Meadows to meet that end.

The messages unearthed Monday were sent to Meadows by Phil Waldron, a retired U.S. Army colonel who became one of Trump’s most ardent peddlers of voter-fraud conspiracy theory ahead of the January 6 insurrection.

Waldron was responsible for circulating a PowerPoint presentation to numerous lawmakers in Washington recommending that Trump declare a national emergency over the so-called “fraud” in order to stay in power. He also reportedly helped write a draft executive order to seize voting machines. That executive order was never formally issued.

According to CNN, Waldron texted Meadows just two days before Christmas in 2020. He was frustrated that a judge in Arizona had tossed a lawsuit calling on state officials to seize voting machines there.

To Waldron’s mind, the ruling was dangerous because it gave Trump’s opponents too much time to oppose them.

The state of Arizona, Waldron wrote to Meadows on December 23, was the “lead domino we were counting on to start the cascade.”

When Donald Trump lost the election to now-President Joe Biden both popularly and by way of the Electoral College, the former president and several of his closest allies, advisers, and attorneys had their eyes focused on seven battleground states including Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Trump insisted that his losses there were due to widespread voter fraud. As the January 6 committee’s investigation and a subsequent mountain of court filings from Trump’s advisers like overturn architect John Eastman have shown, there was no voter fraud on a wide scale—but it didn’t stop the Trump White House from trying to suggest otherwise.

Passing off bogus and unsanctioned pro-Trump electors to Congress was critical to getting the overturn scheme off the ground.

When Waldron lamented the court loss in Arizona to Meadows on Dec. 23, Trump’s then-chief of staff commiserated.

“Pathetic,” Meadows wrote.

Waldron has said publicly that he “contributed” to the 40-page proposal to seize voting machines entitled “Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN.” And he’s admitted to sharing the proposal with lawmakers in Congress before the Capitol attack.

He’s also not made much of a secret of his proximity to Trump insiders like Meadows. As noted by the government watchdog American Oversight (who helped CNN obtain the new records released Monday), Waldron told reporters in 2021 that he spoke to Meadows at least eight to 10 times after the election. He also said he went to the White House for visits, as well.

Before the text to Meadows on December 23, Waldron had spent weeks asking Republican state legislators if he could show them “evidence” of voter fraud. He also offered legislators the chance to let him analyze their results.

One of Waldron’s most well-known reviews of “fraud” was one he launched in Antrim County, Michigan. That assessment ended up being widely panned and completely debunked.

But on December 28, 2020, the newly obtained text messages show Waldron was undeterred by the loss in Arizona. There was data coming in from multiple counties, he wrote to Meadows.

Waldron dubbed the “irregularities” the “Southern steal” by Democrats.

Meadows responded to the December 28 text: “OK.”

The former chief of staff’s replies may be succinct, but they also underline something important: Meadows responded to Waldron, meaning he had awareness of the push to overturn the election results after the safe harbor deadline for Congress.

Waldron’s testimony has recently been demanded by a grand jury in Georgia examining Trump’s push to reverse election results there. Meadows has also been asked to testify in that state’s investigation.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Former White House Lawyer Warned Trump Against Illegally Keeping Documents

Former White House Lawyer Warned Trump Against Illegally Keeping Documents

A new report suggests former White House counsel Eric Herschman warned Donald Trump in late 2021 that if he failed to return presidential records or classified materials he had retained after leaving office, the 45th president could face serious legal trouble.

The New York Times was the first to report the development, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

Herschmann was no longer working for Trump by the time this conversation reportedly occurred in December 2021. An exact date for the meeting was not confirmed. Trump had been out of the White House for almost a year by that point, however, and though it is unclear whether Herschmann was aware of precisely what records Trump had retained, he still felt the need to offer the caveat. Trump’s response to Herschman’s warning was allegedly “noncommittal” but courteous.

The warning likely didn’t come as a total surprise.

By the time Herschmann had offered his input, the National Archives had already informed Trump that it was missing a number of original documents from his time in the White House.

Some two dozen boxes of presidential records that were meant to go to the Archives in January 2021 didn’t. Instead, they were shipped off to Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago. This happened against the advice of Pat Cipollone, another White House attorney under Trump.

By January, the former president handed over some 15 boxes to the Archives from those he had sent to Mar-a-Lago. There were 184 classified records inside, But by May 2021, the National Archives was still trying to find other key records that appeared to be missing. Gary Stern, the Archives lead counsel, fired off letters to Trump’s attorneys and emphasized that all presidential records must be accounted for.

A back-and-forth over the documents continued. By the autumn of 2021, according to sources who spoke to The Washington Post, former deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin told the Archives that it was Mark Meadows, Trump’s onetime chief of staff, who had reassured him the documents Trump took were only inconsequential news clippings and nothing more.

But the Archives believed there was more than news clippings missing. The Archives had already informed Trump’s team by then that it was looking for specific records, like his letters with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, a letter left for him by former President Barack Obama, and, among other things, the National Weather Service map from 2019 that Trump drew on with a Sharpie marker when falsely proclaiming that Hurricane Dorian was going to hit Alabama after the National Weather Service had reported otherwise.

Around the time Herschmann reportedly offered his warning to Trump in December 2021, Trump’s team informed the Archives it had 12 boxes at Mar-a-Lago waiting to be picked up. The Archives went to retrieve them in mid-January 2022. Archive aides found 15 boxes and within weeks of reviewing all that Trump had kept, the Archives asked the Justice Department to get involved.

Many of the records that the Archives found inside the boxes at Mar-a-Lago were labeled classified. The agency was unsure to what extent documents were mishandled and an investigation got underway. This June Trump remitted more classified documents through his attorneys but it was suspected by investigators that there were more records yet to be unearthed at Mar-a-Lago.

They were right.

A search warrant was issued to the FBI, and on Aug. 8, agents picked up more than 100 new documents with classified or sensitive markings from Mar-a-Lago. The FBI said it seized roughly 11,000 documents without classified markings altogether. In its warrant, authorities cited a possible violation by Trump of the Espionage Act and noted that “evidence of obstruction” into the investigation for the classified records also likely existed.

Trump has spent every week since tossing out excuse after excuse for his retention of the classified records. He has also insisted that he had stand-alone power to declassify documents.

This is not possible according to most legal and national security experts in the U.S.

This has not stopped Trump from claiming the investigation into the missing classified records is a “witch-hunt” or yet more political persecution against him by the “deep state.”

Herschmann’s legal relationship with Trump has never been dull, to say the least.

Herschmann defended Trump during the former president’s first impeachment trial for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and left a lucrative partnership at the law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres to do it. Financial disclosures from 2020 show Herschmann was earning just over $3.3 million when he took on the advisory role for Trump.

When Trump and his personal attorneys and advisers like Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman pushed to overturn the results of the 2020 election ahead of Jan. 6, Herschmann was one of the few resistant voices inside Trump’s immediate orbit.

Upon cooperating with the Jan. 6 committee’s probe, Herschman said under oath that he had candidly warned officials about the legal danger underpinning schemes to overturn the election results.

One of those warnings went to Jeffrey Clark, a mid-level lawyer and former Trump lackey at the Department of Justice.

Clark, Herschmann testified, had revealed a plan to him that would see Clark installed as attorney general with Trump’s blessing if only Clark could get letters sent off to swing state legislatures falsely claiming that voter fraud had altered election results.

“I said good… fucking a-hole… congratulations. You’ve just admitted your first step or act you’d take as attorney general would be committing a felony in violation of Rule 6 (c),” Herschmann recalled telling Clark.

Herschmann was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury this summer along with former White House lawyers Pat Cipollone and Patrick Philbin. According to the Times, Herschmann engaged with Trump’s attorneys Evan Corcoran and John Rowley, asking for guidance on how he might field questions that could run afoul of executive privilege or attorney-client privileges.

Herschmann was told to assert executive privilege broadly. Corcoran then allegedly told him not to worry because a “chief judge” would “validate their belief that a president’s powers extend far beyond their time in office.”

So far, Cannon has ruled in favor of Trump and to some outrage from seasoned jurists and prosecutors.

On Sept. 15, Cannon rejected the Department of Justice’s request to keep investigating Trump’s handling of classified records while an independent “special master” or arbiter, was assigned to review records. Andrew Weismann, a former attorney who worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, for one, has dubbed Cannon’s decision as profoundly “stupid” and “partisan.”

The special master’s role primarily involves filtering through documents seized by the FBI to determine what may be privileged versus what may be personal. The special master, in this case, is the mutually agreed-upon appointment of Raymond Dearie, a semi-retired judge from New York. Trump proposed Dearie serve in the role first and the Department agreed. Dearie is widely regarded as a neutral choice for arbiter. Dearie is now reviewing a total of 11,000 documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

Despite having his preferred special master appointed and his appointed judge presiding, Trump is still backpedaling. Though he initially claimed publicly that he had the power to declassify documents all by his lonesome and could take taxpayer-owned records wherever he pleased, in court, he has refused to elaborate on this so-called declassification. In a letter to Dearie on Monday, Trump’s attorneys argued that they could not discuss Trump’s declassification claims because it would force the former president to expose a defense he may use against “any subsequent indictment.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Trump Pleads The Fifth In New York State Probe Of His Company (VIDEO)

Trump Pleads The Fifth In New York State Probe Of His Company (VIDEO)

Former President Donald Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination on Wednesday when he was deposed by lawyers at the New York Attorney General’s office investigating whether the Trump Organization defrauded or misled lenders by tweaking the value of his properties and assets.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is leading the civil probe of Trump Organization, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. In a statement released shortly after he appeared, Trump defended his decision to invoke the right after years of insisting that only guilty parties plead the Fifth when under questioning.

Before Wednesday’s deposition, Trump previously invoked the right in the 1990s when he was divorcing Ivana Trump. He did not wish to answer questions about adultery.

Trump famously remarked in at a campaign rally in 2016 before becoming president: “You see, the mob takes the Fifth. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”

In his public statement Wednesday, Trump cited this remark—but only in part.

“I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’ Now I know the answer to that question. When your family, your company and all the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded, politically motivated Witch Hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors and the Fake News Media, you have no choice,” he wrote.

To be clear, the Fifth Amendment is a constitutionally protected right afforded to all Americans and in court, lawyers cannot argue that silence equates to guilt.

Trump’s silence is a smart legal maneuver given the current dynamic. In addition to the civil probe of his real estate dealings, a criminal probe investigating similar issues led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is still open, making his comments to attorneys fair game for use in either investigation. Bragg’s criminal investigation has stagnated according to multiple reports in recent weeks and months, but it is not officially closed.

Ahead of his appearance, Trump slammed the attorney general online and the attacks kept coming in his public statement Wednesday.

James has been a fierce, unabashed critic of the former president and when she ran for the attorney general role she labeled Trump “incompetent,” “ill-equipped” and said she believed “he is an embarrassment” to America and what it stands for.

In 2018, she said: “America is in uncharted territory. We are angrier and more deeply divided than we’ve ever been at any point in our history since the Civil War. And at the eye of the storm is Donald Trump, ripping families apart, threatening women’s most basic rights. I’m running for attorney general because I will never be afraid to challenge this illegitimate president when our fundamental rights are at stake.”

James’s probe is reaching its end after more than two years of scrutiny of Trump and Trump Organization. The former president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son, Donald Trump, Jr. have testified in the civil matter. So too has Eric Trump, the executive vice president of the eponymous family business. According to James, when Eric Trump was deposed in October 2020 he invoked his Fifth Amendment right over 500 times and would only answer the most basic background questions. He sat for six hours.

Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, invoked the Fifth too when he was deposed in September 2020. Last July, prosecutors charged Trump Organization and Weisselberg with grand larceny and tax fraud. Both he and the company have entered not guilty pleas and pretrial proceedings are expected to get underway on Friday.

The battle for Trump’s deposition has been a lengthy one.

Trump was held in contempt by New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron in April for his failure to comply with the state attorney general’s subpoena. That order was lifted this June when Engoron said Trump’s legal team had finally produced documents at the last minute. For his contempt, however, Trump still had to shell out $110,000 in penalties. The funds are now sitting in escrow and will be released pending the case’s outcome.

The former president maintains he is innocent and that the valuations on his properties were above board. James claims that Trump and the Trump Organization regularly inflated values to reap in tax and loan benefits. Often, she has claimed, Trump Organization would tweak the values by several millions of dollars.

For instance, James claimed Trump’s valuation of the Trump International Golf Club in Scotland was wildly off. Where Trump Organization originally valued the resort at $12.6 million when it was first purchased in 2006, in the span of five years, the valuation became $161 million. According to court records, James said this valuation was not ginned up by professional appraisers. Rather it was George Sorial, a former Trump Organization executive, who set the price.

Trump has had an eventful week thus far: After securing a warrant, the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida, reportedly seeking classified presidential records that he allegedly failed to return under terms of the Presidential Records Act. The House Ways and Means Committee also successfully gained access to Trump’s tax returns after a years-long fight though he can still appeal. And the Jan. 6 Committee has continued its work quietly as the Department of Justice also quietly continues its probe into Jan. 6.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Oath Keepers Seditious Conspiracy Trial Begins Next Month

Oath Keepers Seditious Conspiracy Trial Begins Next Month

The seditious conspiracy trial of former Oath Keeper ringleader Elmer “Stewart” Rhodes is still on track to begin this September.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta dismissed a request to delay the trial to January 2023 over concerns from Rhodes and his attorneys that this summer’s House Select Committee hearings made a fair trial an impossibility. Mehta locked in the September 26 trial date last week, reiterating that he would ensure the jury selection process was fair and that any further delay was unnecessary. Moving the trial was also impossible due to the many competing, unrelated schedule demands on an already busy docket in the nation’s capital.

“The court’s docket cannot be dictated by how Congress is acting and what they are doing … I have no influence over what they do and when they do it. What I do have control over is whether these defendants receive a fair trial through the most vigorous voir dire process that can happen,” Mehta said, according to The Washington Post.

Mehta, appointed by former President Barack Obama, emphasized that a potential release of transcripts from the January 6 committee in the weeks ahead did not warrant a trial delay either.

He agreed to reconsider the request if committee transcripts went public on the eve of Rhodes’ trial and if the records contained specific information about him or other Oath Keepers under indictment including Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, Roberto Minuta, Joseph Hackett, David Moerschel, Thomas Caldwell, and Edward Vallejo.

But according to Law and Crime, Mehta was firmly set on starting in September and told defense attorneys to disabuse themselves of the notion that coverage of January 6 in the press would irrevocably taint the trial’s outcome.

“Whether this trial is held in September, November or December or January, the news media is going to continue to cover the events of January 6, before the September hearings or after the September hearings. We’re not going to avoid that publicity by virtue of moving this trial for a few months,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the select committee, told reporters last month the panel had begun negotiating with the Justice Department over access to records it collected during its investigation. In a statement to Politico days later, a committee spokesman confirmed that some 20 transcripts were soon to be shared with the Justice Department. No timeline on that specifically was given. A spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.

The select committee is expected to hold public hearings next month, though an exact schedule has not yet been confirmed. When members meet next they are likely to review findings that made it into the body’s interim report. It is also possible that committee investigators will disclose new information or other evidence churned up since their eight back-to-back hearings concluded this summer.

Getting this seditious conspiracy trial off the ground from a purely logistical standpoint has proven somewhat difficult given the large number of Oath Keepers facing conspiracy charges, the always-packed docket at the federal court in Washington, D.C., and most key, the battle over a huge amount of discovery both prosecutors and defense attorneys were required to sort through.

But after two delays this spring and multiple failed attempts to change venues put forward by the defendants, the Sept. 26 seditious conspiracy trial is on, and the first group of Oath Keepers to face jurors will be Rhodes, Meggs, Harrelson, Caldwell, and Watkins.

The next group will go to trial in February 2023. Those defendants include Oath Keepers Edward Vallejo, Roberto Minuta, Joseph Hackett, and David Moerschel.

Prosecutors charge that Rhodes and his codefendants engaged in an extensive, weaponized plot to stop the peaceful transfer of power and orchestrated a conspiracy to obstruct the counting of votes by Congress on Jan. 6 to that end.

Through stockpiling weapons, deploying “quick reaction force teams” situated just outside of D.C. in Virginia, and using an advanced communications network, prosecutors say members of the extremist group conspired to intimidate government officials, aided and abetted civil disorder, and tampered with documents in order to obstruct the transfer of power.

Court records filed ahead of trial by prosecutors have offered a glimpse into what they plan to argue this fall.

Instead of allowing defendants to heap the responsibility for their actions solely on the shoulders of former President Donald Trump, prosecutors instead want to highlight how the Oath Keepers’ individual and collective actions were planned and well thought out.

Further, they argued, Oath Keepers who stormed the Capitol, plotted for an insurrection, or otherwise aided a conspiracy to do so were not “taking orders” from the former president because any such order would have been illegal.

“Here any ‘public-authority’ defense put forth by the defendants would fail for two reasons: no government agent possessed actual authority to order the defendants’ criminal actions, and, in any event, it would have been objectively unreasonable torely on any such order,” prosecutors wrote on July 29.

Trump did not have authority to “permit or authorize a conspiracy to forcibly oppose the authority of the government or the execution of the laws of the United States, nor could he have lawfully sanctioned the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6 or any of theother criminal conduct allegedly perpetrated by defendants,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves argued.

This was the same conclusion reached by the D.C. court when it found former President Ronald Reagan could not order Oliver North to violate the law, “particularly if such ‘orders,’ explicit or implicit, represented nothing more than [the president’s desires.’”

“Any claim that defendants believed theyhad been authorized as an agent of the Executive Branch to oppose by force the authority of the United States, or forcibly stop the congressional certification of the vote by breaking into the Capitol would be objectively unreasonable,” Graves wrote.

The department also wants to shut down any theorizing that suggests law enforcement or police at the Capitol tried to aid those breaching the complex.

“The government acknowledges that the conduct of law enforcement officers may be relevant to the defendants’ state of mind on January 6, 2021. However, unless defendants were aware of law enforcement’s alleged inaction at the time of their entry onto restricted grounds or into the Capitol building (or at the time they committed the other offenses charged in the indictment), any alleged inaction would have no bearing on the defendants’ state of mind and therefore would not meet the threshold for relevance,” a July 29 motion stated.

As for what some defendants want presented at trial, some Oath Keepers have asked to omit evidence from jurors, like the “death list” found in defendant Caldwell’s home after his arrest last January.

His attorneys chalked the list up to being a “doodle pad.”

Though the names of those on the list were not revealed when he was first arrested, Caldwell exposed in court filings last month that they were those of Georgia election workers Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman.

Moss and Freeman were forced to go into hiding as a result of the threats and harassment they experienced regularly when former President Donald Trump singled them out while spewing baseless conspiracy claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Moss testified under oath at one of the Jan. 6 committee’s public hearings this June, choking back tears as she described how every part of her life has been turned “upside down.” At one point, she described a frantic call from her grandmother, who was terrorized as people knocked on her door and tried to barge in, claiming a citizens arrest needed to be made for Moss and her mother.

The scene was reminiscent of a modern-day lynching attempt.

“She was just screaming and didn’t know what to do. And I wasn’t there, so, you know, I just felt so helpless and so horrible for her. And she was just screaming. I told her to close the door and don’t open that door for anyone,” Moss testified.

Prosecutors said evidence found in Caldwell’s Virginia home indicated he “dehumanized those who held opposing world views and discussed killing them, shooting them and mutilating their corpses to use them as shields.”

Caldwell has vehemently denied this, telling CNN through his attorney that suggestions he wished to assassinate officials or election workers was “100% false.”

The 66-year-old Navy intelligence veteran also sought to keep other evidence away from jurors, including records the government alleges show he tried to have someone build him firearms before January 20. He has since argued in court that he was too weak to storm the Capitol on January 6 and has asked that his medication regimen be up for jurors’ consideration.

There has been a request too by co-defendant Jessica Watkins to keep allegations about “bomb making instructions” found in her home out of trial.

The Justice Department says it has evidence Oath Keepers toted grenades and other weapons with them in an RV when they came to Washington on January 6. Court records show this allegation came by way of a disclosure from Florida Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs to fellow Florida resident Caleb Berry. Prosecutors allege Meggs told Berry that Oath Keeper Jeremy Brown had the explosives in his vehicle that day.

A search warrant of Brown’s residence turned up two illegal short-barrel firearms, and when agents searched the RV he used to go to Washington, they found grenades. Prosectors admitted they were unsure if the grenades found in Brown’s RV were the same ones that were stashed with the “quick reaction force” teams that positioned themselves in northern Virginia ahead of the Capitol assault.

Berry pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and a single count of obstruction and admitted to being part of the military stack formation that breached the Capitol on January 6. He admitted to coordinating plans with fellow Oath Keepers to bring weapons to Washington, and he entered the Capitol with body armor and tactical gear on around 2:40 PM.

Like Berry, Oath Keeper and Florida resident Graydon Young admitted to being in the stack. He has been cooperating with prosecutors as part of his plea agreement. Alabama Oath Keeper Mark Grods entered the Capitol after Young and others made it inside. Grods has pleaded guilty as well and has reportedly been sharing information with the federal government about the group’s encrypted chat network as well as plans for the weapons cache in Virginia.

Those who have pleaded guilty so far in the seditious conspiracy case include Joshua James, Brian Ulrich, and William Todd Wilson.

Wilson pleaded guilty in May to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding. His plea deal came as a surprise; he had not been previously named as a defendant in the Oath Keepers Jan. 6 cases.

Wilson allegedly joined Rhodes in the plot stop the transfer of power on Jan. 6 and worked with other regional leaders to take up Rhodes’ “call to arms,” prosecutors said. The 44-year-old North Carolina resident admitted that he was a member of the Oath Keepers since 2016 and that he linked up with Rhodes in a leadership chat group in November 2020.

With Rhodes’s instruction, Wilson drove from North Carolina to D.C. on Jan. 5, bringing an AR-15-style rifle, a 9 millimeter pistol, body armor, pepper spray, a pocketknife, and some 200 rounds of ammunition. Wilson told prosecutors he filmed his fellow Oath Keepers moving in the stack formation up the Capitol stairs, and that he entered closely behind Meggs and Berry.

Brian Ulrich of Georgia, who cried as he entered his guilty plea in court this April, admitted that he conspired for months with Rhodes to stop Congress from certifying the election on 2020. In the run-up to the attack, he planned on using two backpacks, one filled to the brim with ammunition, “if shit truly hits the fan blades.”

“I’ll be the guy running around with the budget AR,” he wrote in a December 31 Oath Keepers group chat.

Joshua James was the first Oath Keeper to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy and cop a deal with prosecutors. James admitted this March that he was part of the quick reaction force unit and further, that he was prepared to “report to the White House grounds to secure the perimeter and use lethal force if necessary against anyone who tried to remove President Trump from the White House, including the National Guard or other government actors who might be sent to remove President Trump as a result of the presidential election.

James is the same Oath Keeper who chauffeured Trump ally and GOP operative Roger Stone around Washington in the run-up to January 6. When he was inside the Capitol, James admitted to brawling with police. Once he left, he met with Rhodes and other Oath Keepers. They changed clothes, he said, and worked fast to hide their identities. Then they met at Olive Garden to celebrate and plan what would come next. President Joe Biden’s inauguration was days away.

According to his indictment, in the hours after the insurrection, Rhodes was buzzing about what was to come.

“Thousands of ticked off patriots spontaneously marched on the Capitol,” he wrote. “You ain't seen nothing yet.”

Rhodes is currently being held in a detention facility in Alexandria, Virginia.

Members of the Proud Boys facing seditious conspiracy will go to trial in December after a federal judge in June agreed to delay proceedings.

The trial for the former chairman of the Proud Boys, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, was supposed to begin Monday, August 8, but U.S. District Judge Tim Kelly said weeks ago that he shared concerns from prosecutors and defense attorneys alike about new evidence that could soon emerge from the select committee. The new trial date is December 12.

“The parties’ inability to prepare their respective cases to account for such additional information is potentially prejudicial to all parties,” assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Kenerson wrote.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Mastriano Threatens To End Cooperation With January 6 Committee

Mastriano Threatens To End Cooperation With January 6 Committee

An attorney for Doug Mastriano, the anti-abortion, pro-Trump gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania, informed the House Select Committee this week that his client would only sit for a deposition if he could personally record the session.

Betsy Woodruff Swan at Politico reported the development first on Friday, noting that the request from lawyer Tim Parlatore is almost certain to be dismissed by the select committee.

Mastriano, who helped organize charter buses to take former President Donald Trump’s supporters to the Capitol on January 6, is concerned about foul play by members of the probe and how they might use his testimony to share “disinformation” or otherwise interfere in his race for the governorship, Parlatore wrote.

Mastriano was first subpoenaed by investigators on the January 6 probe in February. He cooperated in part, handing over some records related to the charter buses he organized, including physical receipts that showed his campaign helped sell 130 tickets to the ‘Stop the Steal’ protest at the Ellipse.

But the majority of what Mastriano produced was already information on the public record, and in a series of files Parlatore made available this May, document after document features Mastriano promoting Trump’s election fraud conspiracy theories or calling for a delay to the Joint Session on January 6.

In the letter, Parlatore argues that the committee does not have the authority to compel testimony because its membership was improperly composed from the start. Parlatore argues that the committee’s founding resolution requires that a ranking member is appointed by the party in the minority.

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy had multiple opportunities to appoint his picks, but when his initial rounds were rejected, he ended his participation altogether.

But this dynamic, according to Parlatore, was what led the committee to take testimony from Bernie Kerik voluntarily instead of forcing him to speak by way of subpoena. Kerik, a former New York City Police Department commissioner, was present for several key meetings where Trump’s fake elector bid was plotted. He was also part of multiple meetings at Trump’s “war room” at the Willard Hotel. Kerik is also represented by Parlatore.

Notably, Mastriano’s lawyer steered clear of other legal arguments that have been attempted before by opponents of the January 6 investigation. Those who have argued that the select committee lacks constitutionality or standing have been shut out time and again. This was already put to the test by Trump’s lapdog and former strategist Steve Bannon, as well as Trump’s former trade adviser, Peter Navarro.

Bannon was found guilty of criminal contempt of Congress and awaits sentencing. Navarro has been indicted on contempt of Congress charges and now awaits trial.

When Trump tried to shield his presidential records from the committee after Biden waived executive privilege, his attack on the committee’s viability also failed.

When John Eastman, the attorney who penned a six-point strategy for Trump to overturn the 2020 election, was subpoenaed by the committee, he too argued it lacked authority. But he lost that bid and his emails have become one of the most integral discoveries to emerge from the select committee’s investigation.

A federal judge, upon reviewing them, said last year that it appeared Trump and Eastman were likely plotting a criminal conspiracy to overturn the election and were engaged in a “coup in search of legal theory.”

Mastriano is insistent that he has “nothing to hide,” but the committee has historically suggested that the Republican was part of efforts to place Trump’s fake electors in Pennsylvania.

If the select committee wants to wage a battle in court with Mastriano, Parlatore said his client is willing.

I have proposed what I believe to be a reasonable arrangement that will assuage my client’s concerns while also providing you with immediate access to the non-privileged information that you seek,” he wrote.

If a “reasonable” agreement can’t be reached, he added, then there will be “little choice but to go to court and litigate the issue.”

A committee spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment Friday.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Justice Department Subpoenas Cipollone In January 6 Probe

Justice Department Subpoenas Cipollone In January 6 Probe

A federal grand jury has reportedly subpoenaed former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone as the Department of Justice conducts its probe into the events of January 6, 2021.

First reported by ABC News,the unnamed sources cited were unclear about what track of the investigation Cipollone may have been asked to testify about, but it is widely reported there are two major prongs the Justice Department is reviewing: former President Donald Trump’s fraudulent gambit to advance fake electors in battleground states and conspiracy to obstruct government proceedings. It is possible the latter could involve seditious conspiracy.

During the hearings, Cipollone’s private testimony punctuated or corroborated other accounts from witnesses who were in close proximity to Trump as the path to January 6 unfolded.

He told the committee how he expressed his concern to Trump that his election fraud claims were not credible. He also urged Trump to concede the victory to now President Joe Biden. On the day of the attack, Cipollone recounted how he pleaded for an “immediate and forceful response, statement, [or] public statement that people need to leave the Capitol now” as Trump idled inside the White House as blood was shed.

Cipollone witnessed discussions where the president and his advisers spoke of seizing voting machines as well as a bid by Trump to effectively capture the Justice Department by having a lackey lawyer at the agency, Jeffrey Clark, send letters to states proclaiming voter fraud where none existed. The attempt only failed after a host of senior-level Justice Department attorneys threatened a mass resignation.

The request for Cipollone to appear comes as other senior Trump administration officials have testified before a grand jury. Last week, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, the former chief of staff and counsel to ex-Vice President Mike Pence, reportedly went before one. Both Short and Jacob ultimately cooperated with the Jan. 6 committee.

Others in Trump’s circle who advanced efforts to overturn the 2020 election, like attorneys Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, and Jenna Ellis have come under increasing scrutiny by the DOJ. Federal agents have already seized Eastman’s phone and raided Clark’s house.

And according to court records, there appears to be some significant overlap: Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom, who appeared on the docket for the Eastman phone warrant, is also leading the department’s probe into the fake electors for Trump scheme.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Armed Militia Member Who Led Capitol Rioters Gets 87 Months

Armed Militia Member Who Led Capitol Rioters Gets 87 Months

Guy Reffitt, a member of the extremist militia known as the Three Percenters and the very first person to stand trial for crimes connected to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, was sentenced to 87 months or just over seven years in prison on Monday.

He will be under supervision for three years following his eventual release.

Although he did not physically enter the Capitol itself, the armed Wylie, Texas, man breached police barriers and advanced against officers even as they tried desperately to repel him with dozens of pepper balls. Reffitt was found guilty this spring of multiple felony charges following a four-day jury trial. His charges included transporting a firearm, obstruction of an official proceeding, being in a restricted area unlawfully while armed, interfering with law enforcement during a civil disorder, and obstructing justice.

The last charge stemmed from Reffitt’s violent intimidation of his own family members, including his son Jackson and daughter Peyton, after he returned to Texas from Washington, D.C., last year. Jackson Reffitt was visibly anguished in court as he told jurors how his father warned him if he ratted him out to the police, he would be a “traitor.”

“And traitors get shot,” he recalled his father saying.

At his trial in Washington, jurors watched video Reffitt shot on January 6, where, courtesy of a camera mounted to his helmet-clad head, he is heard excitedly vowing to drag lawmakers out of the Capitol by their hair.

“I’m not here to play games,” Reffitt said in one clip. “I just want to see [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi’s head hit every fucking stair on the way out—and Mitch McConnell, too.”

Reffitt was also heard saying, “We have the numbers to make it happen,” and was confident the mob could overcome police without “firing a single shot.”

His attorney, F. Clinton Broden—who did not represent Reffitt at trial but signed onto the case later—sought a much lighter sentence than the 15 years initially requested by the Department of Justice. Reffitt was originally represented by William Welch.

Prosecutors argued that Reffitt was a catalyst-type figure on January 6 and urged the court to view him as the “match that started the fire,” since he was one of the very first people to breach police barriers and wave others on.

Reffitt, at the time, would seem to agree. At trial, prosecutors unearthed a Telegram message sent by Reffitt that bragged: “I was the first person to light the fire on the Capitol steps.”

Broden said despite the rhetoric, the suggestion that he started the riot was off-base. According to WUSA9, Broden told the judge Monday that the mob “would have gone up those stairs regardless, without Mr. Reffitt, I think we all know that.”

He argued his client was unlike other January 6 defendants—who had physically assaulted police, too—and therefore deserved no more than two years in prison.

Prosecutors sought what is known as an “upward departure” from the recommended federal sentencing guidelines of 9 to 11 years. Instead, they asked Reffitt to serve 15 years. His conduct warranted enhancements because of his extended planning in the run-up to January 6 and his agitation of the crowd when he started waving to people to come up the Capitol steps, prosecutors said.

In a presentencing report, prosecutors defined the 49-year-old recruiter for the Three Percenters as a “quintessential example of an intent to both influence and retaliate against government conduct through intimidation or coercion,”

Reffitt traveled more than a thousand miles from Texas to attend former President Donald Trump’s “wild” rally at the Ellipse with fellow Three Percenter Rocky Hardie. They came toting weapons, including two AR-15 style semi-automatic rifles, and Reffitt carried a .40 caliber handgun. The handgun stayed holstered at his hip when he was at the Capitol. Hardie and Reffitt left the assault rifles at their hotel in downtown D.C., but when Reffitt marched on the Capitol, he donned the .40 caliber gun, body armor, a tactical helmet, and carried flexicuffs.

The sentence enhancement was necessary for numerous reasons but was especially important because it would serve as a significant deterrent, prosecutors said.

“The need to deter others is especially strong because Reffitt engaged in acts of violence that were intended to influence the government through intimidation or coercion—acts that have been defined, by statute, as domestic terrorism,” assistant U.S. attorney Jeffrey Nestler wrote this month to presiding U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump-appointee. “Moreover, the violence at the Capitol on January 6 was calculated to interfere, and did interfere, with one of the most important democratic processes we have: the peaceful transfer of power.”

In court Monday, Nestler reiterated this point, noting the history of Reffit’s violent remarks and, in particular, his bringing flexicuffs to the Capitol. Reffitt, he said, intended to detain lawmakers.

“He was trying to take over our government. He wasn’t just trying to stop the vote,” Nestler said.

Friedrich was not inclined to uphold the recommended sentencing enhancements for “advanced planning” or for Reffit’s role in “aggravating” events on January 6. Nor was she willing to uphold the domestic terror enhancement. Politico reported Monday that Friedrich felt it would be unfair and would prompt an “unwarranted sentencing disparity” among other Jan. 6 defendants.

Unlike several other January 6 defendants, Reffitt failed to enter into any sort of cooperation agreement with prosecutors. Regardless of who the defendant is, cooperation almost always translates to a more lenient sentence.

Friedrich said in court Monday that she worried about Reffitt receiving a “dramatically different sentence” because he opted to go to trial instead of striking a plea deal.

The Trump-appointed judge raised comparisons between Reffitt and other January 6 defendants like Lonnie Coffman of Alabama. Coffman, she noted, pleaded guilty to possession of an unregistered firearm, but prosecutors did not seek to increase his sentence for that.

When authorities arrested Coffman as he was walking to his vehicle on January 6, they discovered almost a dozen Molotov cocktails in his car, a rifle, shotgun, machetes, a 9mm handgun, a crossbow, and other tactical gear, like smoke bombs. On his person, he had yet another 9mm handgun and a revolver. He was sentenced in April to 46 months or a little under four years.

Nestler reminded Judge Friedrich Monday that Coffman also did not receive the upward departure because he did not go to the Capitol on January 6. Reffitt did.

Friedrich also raised the case of Mark Ponder, a 56-year-old D.C. resident charged with a single felony of assaulting police with a deadly weapon. Ponder, who had a criminal background prior to January 6, assaulted no less than three cops during the Capitol attack, including U.S. Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell.

In court last week before U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, Gonell offered a victim impact statement describing that life-altering day. Ponder used a thin metal pole to strike down at Gonell’s riot shield, cracking it. That pole became damaged, so Ponder picked up another thicker pole just nearby to strike at Gonell again. This one was colored red, white, and blue, The Washington Post reported. Gonell, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq, suffered severe and sustained physical and mental injuries as a result of January 6 and has taken early retirement.

Ponder was sentenced to five years in prison, just below a recommended six-year sentence. This leniency was the product of his cooperation, Judge Chutkan said.

As for Reffitt, Judge Friedrich said she did not support the proposed enhancements to his sentencing though told prosecutors it was a “close call.”

Were Reffitt joined at the Capitol steps by his fellow Three-Percenter Rocky Hardie on January 6, that would have made the decision to add the enhancements a “slam dunk.”

Hardie, of Round Rock, Texas, testified against Reffitt at trial in exchange for immunity and did not face any charges. Hardie and Reffitt drove to Washington, D.C. together, a trip that took over 20 hours.

Hardie disclosed how he and Reffitt joked gleefully about the sound Pelosi’s head would make thudding downstairs as she was dragged out of the Capitol during the Joint Session.

After Reffitt was found guilty, Hardie told CBS they did not really believe they would harm lawmakers because they did not think it would be possible to actually access them. Hardie defended bringing weapons to Washington, too, saying they were for “self-defense” purposes. When he saw Reffitt carrying the zip ties on January 6, he told CBS that was a precautionary measure. Reffitt told him they would need them “just in case” there was anyone around that needed to be detained.

In an interview last December with ABC, Reffitt said he regretted his actions because they tore his family apart. His son was not at sentencing on Monday.

Last month, Reffitt’s wife and daughter advocated on his behalf. His son did not. Reffitt himself has said before that their relationship was strained because his son leaned more left than he did.

Writing to Judge Friedrich in hopes that she would grant a more lenient sentence, Reffitt’s wife Jodi said tensions in their family were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Guy had lost his job as an oil rig manager, and their children’s schooling was disrupted. Stress levels were high. It didn’t help matters either, she said, that her husband’s brash personality stemmed from a rough upbringing where he had been “on his own since 15.”

Jodi Reffitt begged Judge Friedrich for leniency because, she said, being together would be the only way for their family to “fully heal.”

Reffit’s daughter Peyton defended her father’s behavior and said he fell down a “rabbit hole of political news and online banter.”

In her estimation, it seemed like her father believed Trump was talking right to him and his grievances. Social media just kept “radicalizing” him, she added.

Prosecutors asked the judge not to give this too much credence, pointing to at least two incidents in which Guy allegedly put a gun to his wife’s head. On one of those occasions, he fired the gun near her head. An illegal silencer was also found on Reffitt’s property.

Judge Friedrich acknowledged Reffitt’s behavior was “unhinged at times,” but according to CBS, the judge also “couched her concern saying Reffitt ‘clearly’ loves his wife.”

Peyton Reffitt was originally meant to testify against her father at trial along with her brother Jackson, but she did not. When Reffitt returned from D.C. after the insurrection, Peyton told prosecutors her father had become increasingly paranoid. Once, he told her if she was recording him with her cell phone, he would “put a bullet” through it.

This and the “traitors get shot” comment deeply disturbed her brother. But Peyton said she didn’t see this as a threat to her life, just more of her father’s overheated rhetoric.

In court Monday, she put the blame for her father’s actions squarely on Trump’s shoulders without calling Trump by name.

“My father’s name wasn’t on all the flags,” she said Monday. “It was another man’s name. He was not the leader.”

At his trial, prosecutors shared video footage of Reffitt. In one clip, he is seen taking chemical irritants head-on, rubbing his eye. He had only barely slowed his advance because of this, and even still, he is seen waving more rioters up the stairs. The glint of his gun in his holster was visible in this footage too.

In other footage, a portion of a Zoom call Reffitt participated in with fellow Three Percenters, jurors heard Guy Reffitt boldly gloat.

“Nobody was moving forward until I climbed up that banister. I couldn’t even see, but I kept screaming, ‘Take the House,’” he said.

At sentencing, the former U.S. Capitol Police officer who testified against Reffitt, Shauni Kerkhoff, called for a harsher sentence.

Kerkhoff agreed with U.S. Attorney Nestler, who said Reffitt was more domestic terrorist than so-called patriot.

The former police officer recalled “watching in horror” as Reffitt kept advancing towards her at the Capitol, encouraging others around him to push past barriers and other police. Kerkhoff recalled how he assaulted her and other officers as he tried to push his way past them.

Reffitt has been held in a D.C. jail for more than a year already.

In a jailhouse letter first published this May by ProPublica, Reffitt defended the violence of January 6 and the activities of the extremist Three Percenters militia. The letter was signed “The 1/6ers,” but ProPublica was able to determine through interviews with members of Reffitt’s family that he wrote the screed.

“January 6th was nothing short of a satirical way to overthrow a government,” the letter stated. “If overthrow was the quest, it would have no doubt been overthrown. Ask the Capitol police for their opinion of how it could have been. They are grateful it wasn’t a real insurrection complete with mind, body, and soul.”

Before he was sentenced Monday, Judge Friedrich expressed concern about this letter and noted that it did not disavow January 6 but drew troubling comparisons between January 6 and 1776.

Reffitt offered a statement of his own before he was sentenced. According to WUSA9, Reffitt said he wanted to offer “multiple apologies.”

“I was, to put it colorfully, a fucking idiot,” he said.

The 49-year-old also vowed not to have “anything to do with militia groups or any stupid shit like that.”

He apologized to U.S. Capitol Police and members of Congress as well as the court.

Reffitt then told the judge that his family would be unable to support themselves financially while he was jailed if he “didn’t say something to garner money for them.”

When the judge asked him if it was true that everything he had said at trial was to raise money for his family, including his outward statements about rebelling against tyrannical governments, Reffitt said it was.

He also claimed that his previous attorney, William Welch, did not show him a plea bargain and instructed him that a trial was the only viable path forward.

Welch did not return an immediate request for comment on Monday. In court, Nestler said prosecutors offered Reffitt a 50-month sentence if he would cooperate, but Welch rejected the deal.

Judge Friedrich appeared skeptical at Reffitt’s remarks, pushing back against the notion that his attorney did not offer him insights on how a plea deal might change his fate. Reffitt’s own sense of self-importance may have clouded his judgment, she said: He wanted to be the first to go to trial.

Prosecutors rejected Reffitt’s last-minute mea culpa, noting how he still described January 6 as if it were a false flag event during an interview in The New Yorker this June.

In the end, Friedrich found Reffitt’s pleas unconvincing, telling him his actions posed a “direct threat” to democracy and an equal punishment was warranted.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

In Final Hearing, Select Panel Will Detail Trump's January 6 Dereliction

In Final Hearing, Select Panel Will Detail Trump's January 6 Dereliction

Though their work will continue as they prepare an interim and then final report on the investigation into the U.S. Capitol attack and former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election, the House Select Committee meets for its final expected public hearing on Thursday at 8 PM ET.

Thursday’s primetime presentation—estimated by one senior committee aide to last about two hours—will close out several weeks where investigators presented evidence and witness testimony carefully and methodically that supported their assertion that Trump, as committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin said in April, engaged in an “inside political coup” to retain power despite an electoral and popular defeat by Joe Biden.

The hearing is expected to be a gut-wrenching display of Trump’s idleness on January 6 as his supporters, which included members of extremist groups like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and self-styled militia networks like the Three-Percenters, laid armed siege to the U.S. Capitol.

Reps. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, and Elaine Luria, a Virginia Democrat, will lead the hearing. Chairman Bennie Thompson is expected to be in attendance remotely after contracting COVID-19 this week. He ordered the hearing to go on without him physically present, and a senior committee aide told Daily Kos Wednesday night he was “on the mend.”

Live witness testimony is anticipated from former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger and former White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews. Both resigned from their posts in the Trump White House in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack. Both have previously cooperated with the committee, and their testimony is vital because they were among a select group of people close to Trump who vocally and abruptly ended their tenures after the attack.

Pottinger has said previously that he tendered his resignation shortly after learning on January 6 that Trump sent out a tweet urging then-Vice President Mike Pence to have the “courage” to stop or delay the counting of Electoral College votes.

Pottinger, a former Marine, was no less shocked when he heard unconfirmed reports circulating in the West Wing that suggested the White House may have delayed sending in the National Guard for backup.

Sarah Matthews has been a vocal defender of other witnesses who have come forward to offer their disturbing accounts of the insurrection, including Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump’s then-chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

Matthews, who currently serves as the communications director for a House committee focused on the climate crisis, resigned on Jan. 6 and has been forthcoming about her concerns over the attempted coup and its causes. She told The Washington Post after her resignation that January 6 “shook me to my core” when she saw people she knew running for their lives.

Critically, both witnesses may parse out more details about how Trump was already made aware that there was violence unfolding at the Capitol when he sent the tweet: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

In a private deposition with the committee, former Trump White House aide Ben Williamson testified that Trump was aware of how bad things had become at the Capitol when he sent that tweet. The attack had already been underway for an hour.

in a portion of her own recorded deposition aired prior to Thursday’s hearing, Matthews testified that her immediate superior, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, told her and other aides not to speak to the press during the assault.

“I think when Kayleigh gave us that order of ‘don’t say anything to the media,’ I told her that I thought the president needed to tweet something,” Matthews said. “And then I remember getting a notification on my phone..”

Matthews was with Williamson and other aides when they all got the Twitter notification at once.

“So, we knew it was a tweet from the President. And we looked down, and it was a tweet about Mike Pence,” she said.

She described that tweet as the 45th president “pouring gasoline on the fire.”

A senior committee aide told Daily Kos on Wednesday that the facts have spoken for themselves every step of the way in the committee’s presentations. The evidence, the aide added, has been “compelling” and not credibly disputed.

Whether Trump or other members of his administration involved in the insurrection will face charges will be left to the Justice Department to decide.

Thursday’s hearing will feature information too on those who frantically urged Trump to act during the 187-minute stretch of mind-numbing silence from the Oval Office as police pushed themselves to the brink to defend the building, lawmakers, staff, and journalists inside.

More context is expected to arrive on Thursday as well regarding the activities of Trump’s family members, aides, and allies.

Spectators can expect to see a review of how the video message Trump pushed out on January 6 at 4:17 PM came together. Trump reportedly needed no less than three takes to get the video done because he kept moving off script. What America heard—and saw—in that notorious video was the best of a bunch.

“It was a landslide election and everyone knows it,” Trump said at the very top of the video before moments later calling the election results fraudulent.

Trump’s insistence on claims of widespread fraud in the election, witnesses from the Trump White House and Department of Justice have told the January 6 probe. never wavered, no matter who presented the facts to him. The video on the afternoon of January 6 is arguably some of the strongest proof to confirm that.

The committee has been mum on whether it will seriously push to have Trump or Pence appear for deposition before the interim report emerges but hopes are not high. Chairman Thompson has indicated, however, that Trump is welcome to testify—if he does so under oath.

Viewers of tonight's hearing can also expect to see and hear more testimony via video from Pat Cipollone, once Trump’s White House attorney.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos, which will post a live blog during the hearings.

Secret Service Will Turn Over Deleted January 6 Texts To House Panel

Secret Service Will Turn Over Deleted January 6 Texts To House Panel

After issuing a subpoena to the U.S. Secret Service for text messages from January 5 and January 6, 2021 that were erased, members of the committee investigating the Capitol attack say they expect the agency will hand over the deleted messages by Tuesday.

The committee was only made aware that the texts were missing when the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari notified the House Select Committee chairman, Bennie Thompson, in a July 13 letter that they were deleted during a “pre-planned, three-month system migration” for the agency’s “device-replacement program.”

Members of the January 6 panel were briefed by the agency in person on Friday and by the evening, the committee issued a formal subpoena.

According to a Secret Service spokesman, the text messages that were deleted were not lost permanently. When making the rounds on the Sunday morning news shows, members like Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Adam Kinzinger said they expected the Secret Service to cooperate in full.

“We expect to get them by this Tuesday,” Lofgren, a California Democrat, told ABC News. “We need all the texts from the fifth and the sixth of January.”

Lofgren described “shock” as the mutually shared experience of committee members after Cuffari initially informed the probe that the text messages they requested months ago were erased. Kinzinger, one of the probe’s two Republicans, told anchors at CBS it was “quite crazy” the messages were deleted but like Lofgren, said he expected the Secret Service would hand over the messages by Tuesday.

“They’ve said they’ll meet this deadline and we’ll see what we get here,” Kinzinger said on Face the Nation.

Jan 6 Cmte Letter to USSS D... by Daily Kos

Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said last week that any claims the service was not cooperating with the committee were false.

Notably, the director of the Secret Service, James Murray, will be retiring soon. The Trump appointee made the announcement on July 7. According to a letter obtained by The New York Times, Murray said he accepted a job with Snap, the company that runs the social media app Snapchat. His retirement was also flagged in April to Department of Homeland Security adviser Alexander Mayorkas.

The January 6 select committee will meet again on Thursday for what is expected to be its final public hearing. It will be aired during prime time at 8 PM. Investigators have said they will present evidence of Trump’s “dereliction of duty” during a three-hour period on Jan. 6 when he sat idly by and watched as the Capitol came under siege. The hearing will be led by Kinzinger and Elaine Luria, a Democrat of Virginia.

The witness list for Thursday’s hearing has not been released as of Monday afternoon, but it’s a safe bet to say there will be more video footage aired from the closed-door deposition of Pat Cipollone, the former White House attorney under Trump. Depending on what the committee receives from the Secret Service, that could also shake up the witness panel.

Additional or new evidence that comes to the surface may prompt additional hearings in the future, and the committee has not been outwardly opposed to doing so. A final report is expected in the fall.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Former Trump Counsel Cipollone Will Meet With House Select Committee

Former Trump Counsel Cipollone Will Meet With House Select Committee

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

A committee aide did not immediately respond to a 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.

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 January 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 January 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.

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.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.