Washington, DC — The US House of Representatives Special Committee on January 6th reconvened Wednesday to continue investigating Trump loyalists’ attack on the US Capitol and democracy. Here’s a quick recap followed by chronological notes about the testimony.
- The committee explored how Trump had ignored 2020 election facts and repeated “fake news” about election fraud.
- White House aides testified that on January 5th, Trump was aware of the gathering crowd’s intent to storm the Capitol.
- The committee argued that former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows should testify about January 6th. Meadows faces criminal charges for refusing to testify.
Trump chose Eastman’s flawed advice
Representative Stephanie Murphy (Democrat, Florida) set the scene. She stated that leading up to January 6th, President Trump was trying to get Vice President Pence to “do something illegal”: overturn the 2020 presidential election results. This was despite Trump having been told by many advisors that there were NO legal grounds for such action.
Trump clung to the justification outlined by his lawyer John Eastman. However, today it was stated under oath that not even Eastman had faith in his own argument… that Eastman had acknowledged to Pence’s legal team that if challenged in the Supreme Court, his argument for Pence to overturn the election would “lose 9-0.”
(Eastman, by the way, had tried to exclude Kamala Harris from the 2020 election on the false grounds that she wasn’t a US citizen.)
Trump had knowledge of the crowd’s mood & intent
The committee helped establish the case that Trump knew the violent and treasonous objective of his January 6th crowd. In part, Trump had this knowledge because on January 5th his loyalists were already gathered outside the White House, and Trump kept an Oval Office door open to hear their activity. A staffer testified that after weeks of having been in a terrible mood, Trump “was in a fantastic mood that evening.”
Another staffer then testified that Trump himself said the crowd was fired up and angry that the election had been rigged. “How did Trump know this?” the Special Committee asked. “He could hear them,” the staffer replied.
Trump’s ally Roger Stone spoke to the crowd at Freedom Plaza on January 5th. Through a bullhorn he claimed, “This is nothing less than an epic struggle for the future of this country between dark and light, between the godly and the godless, between good and evil. And we will win this fight or America will step off into a thousand years of darkness. We dare not fail. I will be with you tomorrow, shoulder-to-shoulder.”
The crowd also heard from the Stop the Steal rally organizer Ali Alexander: “Those of you who are feeling weak tonight… Tomorrow we will not stand for a lie. I want them to know that 1776 is always an option. These degenerates in the Deep State are going to give us what we want or we will shut this country down!”
Advisors played Whack-a-Mole against Trump’s lies
The hearing then focused on how Trump repeatedly claimed election fraud despite his claims being found baseless in courts of law. One witness likened the situation of countering lies as being like playing Whack-a-Mole.
Richard Donoghue, former Deputy Attorney General under Trump, testified about his blunt explanation to Trump that the allegations weren’t true. He talked about spending 90 minutes with Trump on January 3rd to review cases and explain why their claims were baseless.
Eventually Donoghue started taking notes about what Trump was asking specifically. For example, Trump asked “Where is the DOJ?” (In other words, “Why isn’t the DOJ overturning the election?”) Donoghue explained the separate roles of the states, the Justice Department, and Congress regarding election proceedings. Trump replied verbatim, “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.”
Trump insisted that the DOJ was “obligated” to tell the public that the 2020 presidential election was corrupt, despite Donoghue’s explaining in multiple conversations that the outcome was accurate in every state.
Trump wanted Jeffrey Clark to become Attorney General
Jeffrey Rosen, former acting Attorney General, testified about his own 15 or 20 minute conversation with Trump. In this conversation Trump mentioned Jeffrey Clark, whom Representative Scott Perry (Republican, Pennsylvania) had brought to a meeting about leading the Department of Justice although Clark did not have a history of conducting election oversight.
The committee showed that Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuiliani had stated that Clark was someone who “wouldn’t worry about his own reputation when making decisions,” implying that those currently overseeing the election were biased by personal concerns.
Donoghue testified that Perry had asked the DOJ to look into a claim of approximately 200,000 fraudulent ballot certifications in Pennsylvania. The DOJ explained to Perry how his concern had been investigated, and that the Department had concluded that no, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State had not fraudulently certified votes.
Trump threatened Georgia’s Secretary of State
Brad Raffensberger, Georgia’s Secretary of State, testified before the Select Committee next. He stated that Georgia’s election had run smoothly, and also that Joe Biden “carried the state of Georgia by approximately 12,000 votes.”
Raffensberger talked about the recounting of Georgia’s roughly 5 million ballots. After three recounts, which all had outcomes “remarkably” close to the original tally, it was clear that Biden was still the winner. Nonetheless Trump pressed Raffensberger to “find” votes to make him appear to be the winner.
Representative Adam Schiff (Democrat, California) now testified about having passionately spoken out against the claims of fraud, saying he’d feared that someone would be shot. Schiff had seen a meme with a noose that made him especially concerned. He talked about Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani putting forth false claims in public about “suitcases of ballots” being used for voter fraud in Georgia’s Fulton County.
Testimony from a Mr. Sterling followed about how security footage clearly disputed Giuliani’s claim. “And what’s really frustrating,” he added, was that Trump’s team had access to the footage yet chose to claim that fraud had taken place in order to rile up Trump’s fans. Sterling talked about how exhausting it was to keep countering Trump’s false claims, akin to trying to empty the ocean with a shovel.
The court’s attention then returned to Schiff, who showed that Trump’s attorney Bill Barr had likewise stated that the allegations about fraud in Fulton County had no merit. Schiff continued that Trump’s team had nonetheless contacted Raffensberger’s office 18 times in order to set up a call about the need to find votes in Georgia. The committee then played a recording of the phone call that Trump had made to Raffensberger, telling him “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.” The Secretary of State responded that the count was accurate and had been certified, and there had been no shredding of ballots despite Trump’s claim. Trump said, “I think it’s very dangerous for you to say that.” Raffensberger later wrote in his book that he interpreted this statement as a threat, and that clearly Trump’s followers viewed it as a threat too. The Secretary, his wife and his widowed daughter-in-law were all harassed by Trump’s fans, even to the point of a home invasion.
Four days later, Trump spoke to a crowd at the Ellipse in Washington, DC and stated that the election in Georgia involved fraudulent “suitcases of ballots,” and that the election needed to be overturned.
Court discusses Mark Meadows and treason
Discussion then turned to criminal charges against Mark Meadows for defying his subpoena related to the proceedings. Representative Michael Burgess (Republican, Texas) inquired about why the charges were criminal rather than civil. The committee chairman simply replied that a committee vote had been taken. Representative Liz Cheney (Republican, Wyoming) added that for legislative purposes the committee has a right to information from Meadows.
Shortly thereafter, a dictionary definition of “treason” was read aloud; it is “the crime of attacking a state authority to which one owes allegiance.” Allegiance needs to be pledged to the USA, not to Trump, the committee noted, and the penalty for treason is death, or else imprisonment with a fine.
Next, urgent texts on January 6 to Mark Meadows were read aloud. These texts came from Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and other Trump loyalists, all urging Trump to take actions against the storming of the Capitol underway.
Cheney raised the question again, “Why did they want Clark to be Attorney General? What plans were they making?” She continued that Meadows has a duty under the Constitution and “under God” to come forth and testify.
Representative Joe Morelle (Democrat, NY) then opined that it was disturbing that Meadows would publish a book to profit financially from his time with Trump, yet refuse to testify before Congress when called. Morelle says that the claim of executive privilege cannot be granted here, or it could mean the end of US democracy.