The House Jan. 6 committee held its ninth public hearing today after a nearly three-month hiatus. The hearing recapped former President Donald Trump's central role in efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election. At the end of the nearly three-hour hearing, the committee unanimously voted to subpoena Trump.
Our contributors today were The ReidOut Blog writer Ja'han Jones; MSNBC Daily writer and editor Hayes Brown; MSNBC Daily columnists Jessica Levinson and Noah Rothman; and legal analyst for "The Rachel Maddow Show" Lisa Rubin.
Another reason for the surprise subpoena to Trump
My colleague Jessica Levinson has noted already that the committee’s surprise subpoena to former Trump was necessary because so many of his close associates and allies avoided testifying through a combination of invoking the Fifth Amendment, ongoing litigation and Trump’s own assertion of executive privilege.
But there’s another likely reason as well. As calls mount for the committee to issue criminal referrals to the Justice Department after it completes its work, the members must be thinking seriously about how to demonstrate that it has been fair to Trump, especially given the committee’s composition. One way to demonstrate its good faith is to give the president due process. By providing Trump a public, official opportunity to testify, in no uncertain terms, the committee can shield its eventual report, and potential referrals, from criticism that the results were always a foregone conclusion.
That said, there’s no indication Trump will comply with the subpoena, nor any indication that the committee has the time, much less the will, to litigate its enforcement. Although the committee has obtained substantial evidence through subpoenas, count on this subpoena remaining a symbol more than a useful investigative tool.
The GOP’s anti-democratic tactics aren’t confined to Jan. 6
These hearings have demonstrated the willingness of Trump and his followers to use the threat of violence, and sometimes actual violence, to intimidate and impose their political will.
A lot needs to be done in the wake of all we’ve seen: holding Trump personally accountable for his role in the Jan. 6 plot, as well as passing laws to shore up the loopholes that Trump and his followers sought to exploit to overturn the election.
But the GOP is still invested in voter intimidation tactics — including violent intimidation — and that’s worthy of congressional attention, too. For instance, Florida’s right-wing governor, Ron DeSantis, has thrown his weight behind armed groups he has authorized to police elections for purported widespread fraud.
There have also been plenty of reports on the GOP’s strategy of recruiting thousands of activists to serve as poll watchers during the upcoming midterms in search of supposedly fraudulent voters.
It’s a reminder that the threats to American democracy aren’t confined to Jan. 6, or even centered around Trump in particular. For the foreseeable future, the GOP will be driven by anti-democratic sentiment whether he’s leading their movement or not.
Pelosi, Schumer didn't know AG had just averted his own crisis
The footage the committee showed today of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders attempting to wrangle additional law enforcement resources is stunning. Even as she watches live footage of the rioters shattering Capitol windows, Pelosi is unflappable both as the de facto wartime general and a real-time analyst, noting that everything unfolding was “all at the instigation of the president of the United States.”
But by the time Pelosi and her counterpart, then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, get then-Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen on the phone, they are more skittish. Pelosi tells Rosen, with a sense of urgency, that while the concern about the personal safety of those in the building transcends everything, he should be alarmed about the “many different ways” that the law was being broken. Schumer then pipes up, more angrily: “Why don’t you get the president to tell them to leave the Capitol, Mr. Attorney General?”
What we know, of course, that Pelosi and Schumer didn’t know is that three days earlier, Rosen had barely survived a version of “The Apprentice,” live from the Oval Office. On Jan. 3, Trump had forced Rosen to go head to head with the then-acting head of the DOJ's civil division, Jeffrey Bossart Clark, whom Trump intended to name as attorney general until he was faced with a unified revolt from senior DOJ leaders and the White House counsel’s office. By Jan. 6, Rosen was likely whiplashed, exhausted and in no position to ask Trump for anything.
Why the committee had no choice but to subpoena Trump
Rep. Liz Cheney ended the meeting by explaining why we need to hear from Trump himself. The reason is that many of his loyalists have refused to cooperate.
Cheney played video of Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump’s former legal adviser John Eastman, and former Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark all invoking their right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment, rather than answer the committee’s questions.
Cheney also explained that former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, Trump’s former trade adviser Peter Navaro and former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows have all refused to cooperate on some level for various — and largely illegitimate — reasons.
Those in Trump world left the committee with no choice but to ask for Trump.
New footage shows Congress at the wheel on Jan. 6
There wasn’t a lot of new footage screened today, but the most interesting was of members of Congress struggling to wrap their arms around the crisis confronting them.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are featured prominently, trying to get additional assistance from police and the National Guard. As Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., pointed out, Republican leadership in the room was also engaged in trying to get the Capitol cleared out in Trump’s absence.
There are a number of questions this footage raises, including: Who decided that it was necessary to document what Congress was doing during the attack? Also: What were some of the Trump fans in Congress busy doing in some of that footage? And, as NBC News’ Ginger Gibson asked on Twitter, what happened to the full, unedited footage from that time? It’s my hope that we can hopefully see it all at some point, bearing in mind the security concerns at play.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court rejects Trump request in docs case
No one will ever say today was a slow news day. The conservatively leaning Supreme Court just ruled against Trump's latest request regarding special master access to the classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago in August.
The brief decision was unsigned, with no recorded dissents. Read more from NBC News:
In major step forward, committee votes to subpoena Trump
The question of what to do about Trump himself has hung over the Jan. 6 committee’s work for months now. On Thursday, the panel voted unanimously to subpoena the former president to testify before the panel about the attack on the Capitol.
“The need for this committee to hear from Donald Trump goes beyond our fact-finding,” Chair Bennie Thompson said, saying it is a matter of accountability. “He is required to answer for his actions, he is required to answer to those police officers who put their lives on the line to defend our democracy. He is required to answer to those millions of Americans whose votes he wanted to throw out to ensure his remaining in office.”
It’s a major escalation that has been discussed — and at times dismissed — among committee members for months. Thompson said in April that “the concern is whether or not he would add any more value with his testimony.” The knowledge that Trump has waged lengthy legal battles against any subpoena against him, both during his term and after, likely also gave the committee pause because of the distraction it would provide.
Now, with the committee’s work wrapping up, the decision has been made to pull the trigger. Whether Trump refuses to comply or not, the committee is now on the record as believing that Trump should have to explain to Congress his actions that put lawmakers at risk on Jan. 6, 2021.
Tony Ornato, please call your lawyer
As Lisa Rubin just noted, the Secret Service testimony that the committee has obtained definitely bolsters the claims from Cassidy Hutchinson. She told the committee that the president was “irate” on his ride to the White House after his Jan. 6 speech and being told that he could not join the mob. That story had been relayed to her via deputy White House chief of staff Tony Ornato, Hutchinson testified.
After her testimony, unnamed sources in the Secret Service tried to discredit her testimony — but the new material that the Jan. 6 committee has received since then has borne out her claims. Rep. Pete Aguilar made clear that the new information from the Secret Service means that “the committee will be calling additional witnesses and conducting investigations regarding that material.”
Importantly, “the committee is reviewing testimony regarding additional obstruction on this issue,” the California Democrat said, “including testimony about advice given not to tell the committee about the specific topic.” That can’t be good news for Ornato, who spoke with the committee before Hutchinson’s testimony, according to a Secret Service spokesperson.
(Ornato, it’s also worth noting, was a Secret Service official before being named to his White House role and returned to the agency after Trump’s term ended — and may have been leading the efforts to discredit Hutchinson while there.)
Trump lit a match and then watched the building burn
Having already covered how Trump set the events of Jan. 6 into motion, Rep. Jamie Raskin detailed how Trump affirmatively refused to call off his supporters.
Raskin explained that people “begged him to disperse his supporters and tell him to go home.” He did nothing but watch the violence play out on TV. This wasn’t just a few people asking the president to stop what he started. This included Fox News host Sean Hannity, members of his family, members of his Cabinet, and members of Congress.”
Raskin detailed Trump’s “chilling and steady passivity that day.” That may be an understatement.
Next, Raskin played videos showing the elected leaders of our country begging for help. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for help, explaining it was a matter not just of property damage or inconvenience, but of safety.
But all of these leaders, including then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, knew the same thing: Trump was the one who could restore order. Trump was the one who could denounce his mob. Trump abdicated his responsibility.
Having done everything but walk to the Capitol and light a match on its steps, Trump simply sat back and watched the building burn.
Testimony shows how close Trump was to physically leading mob
We just got some chilling testimony from a White House security official, whom Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said reported to national security officials during Jan. 6, that illustrates how American democracy was teetering on a knife’s edge that day.
The anonymous official explained how it felt after learning Trump wanted to join members of the armed, pro-Trump mob as they descended upon the Capitol: “To be honest, we were all in a state of shock.”
The official continued:
“We all knew what that implicated and what that meant. That this was no longer a rally, that this was going to move to something else if he physically walked to the Capitol. I don’t know if you want to use the word ‘insurrection,’ ‘coup’ — whatever. We all knew that this would move from a normal, democratic, you know, public event into something else.”
Did Secret Service drop the ball on security ... or worse?
It's become increasingly clear that the Secret Service and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, were both aware of the threats made ahead of and during the Jan. 6 violence.
MSNBC columnist Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI, suggested it was shocking that the Secret Service did not evacuate Trump from the rally at the Ellipse preceding the Capitol attack — especially since agents knew many attendees were armed.
The people who were not at all surprised by the Capitol riot
While many U.S. citizens watched with horror and shock as an angry mob stormed the Capitol, there were others, in addition to the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, who seem to have known exactly what was happening.
Each new meeting of the Jan. 6 committee highlights why the insurrection at the Capitol was not a sudden and organic political protest. As Rep. Adam Schiff just outlined, again, the evidence indicates that this was a premeditated attack that Trump, his allies and advisers and even some members of Congress and law enforcement knew was being planned. We, the millions of Americans watching at home, were the ones left in the dark.
Secret Service docs bolster Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony
One of the most explosive moments of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony to the committee in June was her revelations about the security issues at the Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse.
Hutchinson alleged then-White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato, who previously had been on Trump’s Secret Service detail, had told him the rally was not more crowded because many of the attendees had “weapons that they don’t want confiscated by the Secret Service,” and therefore, would not go through the magnetometers the Secret Service had set up. Trump’s response, Hutchinson relayed, was “[s]omething to the effect of take the effing mags away. They’re not here to hurt me. Let them in. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol after the rallies are over.” The committee replayed that testimony today during Rep. Pete Aguilar’s presentation.
But before the committee recessed, Rep. Adam Schiff too went back to that moment in time, but from the Secret Service’s perspective, and that account was not flattering to the agency. Rather, documents the committee obtained from the Secret Service, Schiff said, “make clear that the crowd outside the magnetometers was armed, and agents knew it.”
In fact, the Secret Service knew as early as the night before — based on arrests throughout D.C. — that protestors would show up armed and dangerous at the Ellipse rally. And Ornato was allegedly advised of those dangers by one of the agents on Trump’s protective detail, Bobby Engel.
Score one for the credibility of one Cassidy Hutchinson.
What may have to happen before Trump would testify before the Jan. 6 committee
Former acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and current MSNBC analyst Chuck Rosenberg broke down the potential next steps if Trump is indeed subpoenaed by the committee today.
The TL;DR? Trump is almost certainly going to make any subpoena effort as difficult as possible.
Let's be clear: Jan. 6 wasn't a spontaneous uprising
When the president’s defenders aren’t insisting that Trump might have genuinely believed his own lies (which we now know he did not), they can also be seen insisting that the violence on Jan. 6 was the result of an entirely spontaneous uprising. That, too, is false.
According to evidence presented during today’s hearing, multiple memos outlining with eerie specificity the threat to the Capitol circulated well before the day the 2020 electoral count was certified.
One Jan. 4 intelligence summary noted that the president’s supporters had issued “calls to occupy federal buildings,” and were making preparations to “invade the Capitol building.” Gen. Mark Milley recalls one Trump adviser’s “clairvoyant” warning that “the greatest threat is a direct assault on the Capitol.”
The Secret Service issued a similar memo warning of the Proud Boys’ plan to march armed into Washington.
“They think that they will have a large enough group to march into D.C. armed and will outnumber the police so they can’t be stopped,” said Rep. Adam Schiff.
One tipster is quoted in the Secret Service memo begging to be taken seriously because “their plan is to literally kill people.” Indeed, Trump “supporters have a plan to occupy Capitol Hill,” the memo read.
No one can say they weren’t warned.
Committee puts new gloss on old evidence: Trump’s state of mind
It was the call heard around the world: Trump’s Jan. 2, 2021, call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he literally begged the Georgia official to just find the 11,780 votes Trump needed to change the Georgia results of the 2020 presidential election. Did Trump actually believe the various allegations of fraud streaming from his mouth? That wasn’t clear.
And that is partly what has made today’s hearing so clever. Yes, it’s a review of some of the most well-trod evidence against Trump, a sort of greatest hits of his promotion of the “big lie” and his incitement of the violence at the Capitol. But it’s also an opportunity to revisit events we all know well and have long seen as evidence of Trump’s wrongful actions through a different kind of evidence: that reflecting his state of mind.
As Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., reminded us today, when Trump called Raffensperger, he was not just spouting a litany of unproven allegations; he was repeating details about the supposed fraud that a variety of sources — DOJ leadership, campaign officials and senior White House aides, including lawyers — had repeatedly advised him were simply false. And it’s precisely that knowledge that turns Trump’s conduct from merely outrageous to seemingly criminal.
Bannon previewed Trump's anti-democratic plans in October 2020
The committee shared a recording of Trump confidante Steve Bannon declaring in late October 2020 that Trump was going to "just declare victory" in the presidential election — regardless of whether he was the actual winner.
It's worth repeating: Trump didn’t believe his own lies
It has been over and over again, but it apparently needs to be repeated if only because Donald Trump’s defenders keep insisting otherwise: There is no evidence the former president genuinely believed that he won the 2020 election. Indeed, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest he knew he didn’t. Or, at least, he had no rational reason to maintain otherwise.
On Thursday, the Jan. 6 committee produced some of that evidence, and it’s compelling.
“Of course, he was informed about the network decision,” one Trump adviser said in deposition when asked if the president’s team informed him of his loss. “That afternoon at some point, my self and a handful of other folks went down and sat with the president and communicated that the odds of us prevailing in legal challenges were very small.”
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed his belief that the president was fully appraised of his own political position.
“Can you believe I lost to this f—ing guy?” former Pence aide Alyssa Farrah said the president had complained to her after the 2020 election. Though she said she heard it second hand, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson added that people around the president said that he “pretty much has acknowledged that he has lost.”
This matters, in part, because some of Trump’s defenders continue to maintain that the president’s belief in his own victory was an honest belief. If Trump did believe his own lies, they insist, it would be impossible to prove criminal intent on his part.
“I thought, boy, if he really believes this stuff, he has, you know, lost contact with, become detached from reality,” said Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr.
As it turns out, he didn’t.
As Hutchinson testified, Trump told his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, that he didn’t “want people to know that we lost” because it “is embarrassing.”
New clips destroy GOP talking points about Afghanistan
To demonstrate that Trump was fully aware he had lost the 2020 election and taken administrative steps as though he was preparing to leave the White House, the committee shared clips of multiple Defense Department officials talking about how Trump authorized pulling troops out of Afghanistan to coincide with the time Biden was set to take the reins.
Multiple officials, including Gen. Mark Milley, spoke about thinking the plan was poorly conceived. Their remarks didn’t just destroy Trump’s claims that he truly believed he was the 2020 election winner — they destroy GOP talking points attacking Biden for the withdrawal, in which 13 U.S. service members were killed by a bomb set at Kabul airport.
Former White House aide John McEntee admitted to the committee that he wrote — and Trump signed — a memo calling for troops to be withdrawn from Somalia and Afghanistan by Jan. 15, against the advice of top Defense Department officials.
Right-wing lawmakers, such as Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, have crazily said Biden should resign or be impeached for how the withdrawal played out, despite it being Trump’s plan to begin with. Today’s testimony should quiet that noise: It has brought Trump’s responsibility for the withdrawal into clearer view.
Committee to vote today on whether to subpoena Trump
The Jan. 6 committee is planning to vote on whether to subpoena Donald Trump during today's hearing, NBC News' Haley Talbot and Ali Vitali reported.
Architect of Trump’s records strategy drafted victory statement
As a lawyer watching the investigations of Jan. 6 and classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, one of the things that has struck me this week is how frequently those worlds and characters are converging.
Christina Bobb, the former One America News anchor who worked with Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and John Eastman on their post-election legal strategy to overturn the election, ended up as Trump’s post-presidential custodian of records — and a witness concerning his potential records-related crimes. Walt Nauta, a Trump employee, reportedly is seen on Mar-a-Lago security footage moving boxes of documents after the DOJ subpoenaed all classified records within Trump’s office, and also may have been, in his former role as a White House valet, involved in episodes on or around Jan. 6, including the famous ketchup incident to which Cassidy Hutchinson testified.
Today, the committee revealed a third person involved in both circles on the Venn diagram of Jan. 6 and the records debacle: Judicial Watch founder Tom Fitton.
According to CNN’s reporting in August, it was Fitton who convinced Trump that records created for and during his presidency were in fact his personal property, based on Fitton’s experience litigating over audio tapes Bill Clinton made of conversations with historian Taylor Branch. (Judicial Watch lost that case; the court found that Clinton was within his rights under the Presidential Records Act to designate the tapes, which were the equivalent of audio diaries, as personal and not presidential.) Now, we learn that it was also Fitton who, days before the election, prepared a statement for Trump, as sent to his personal aide Molly Michael and White House director of social media Dan Scavino, declaring his victory on the basis of ballots counted “before the Election Day deadline.”
The only problem? As Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., recounted, there is no such deadline. Everyone knew, Lofgren explained with the patience of a veteran kindergarten teacher, that ballots can be lawfully counted after Election Day.
Reminder: Bulk of Jan. 6 evidence comes from Republicans
Trump supporters love to pretend the Jan. 6 committee hearings are partisan exercises meant to show their leader in the worst possible light. But Chairman Bennie Thompson reminded viewers today that the vast majority of evidence obtained by the committee has come from Republicans.
Roger Stone was ready for violence. Was Trump?
Political hitman Roger Stone has long been an ally of Donald Trump’s. In footage taken ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Stone is seen walking through an airport saying “f— the voting, let’s get straight to the violence.” He added that it may be time to “smash some pumpkins” to the man he’s walking alongside.
We’ve seen the quote written out before, as well as a clip of Stone saying a similar line off camera. This is the first time though that we’ve seen this footage of Stone himself seeming not just ready, but eager, for violence to break out around the election results. He also seemed confident that Trump supporters — including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, both of which are groups that Stone was in touch with and were present during the attack — would win out in such a fight.
We know that Stone was still in Trump’s orbit. Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson told the Jan. 6 committee that Trump had at one point told Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to get in touch with Stone the day before the attack on the Capitol. The biggest question then is whether Trump was aware of Stone’s giddiness to use violence and the presence of his allies in the crowd on Jan. 6.
Cheney makes a great point: We can’t take progress for granted
“Why would Americans assume that our Constitution and our institutions in our republic are invulnerable to another attack? Why would we assume that those institutions will not falter next time?”
These are important questions posed by Rep. Liz Cheney about our national response to Trump’s effort to undermine the 2020 election results. I think we’re witnessing dangerous failure in one particular area: social media.
Remember: A former Twitter employee previously testified to the Jan. 6 committee about executives at the social media company demurring about holding Trump accountable for disinformation and harassing posts he shared because Trump generated a lot of traffic for the platform. That whistleblower, Anika Collier Navaroli, recently sat down for an interview with The Washington Post, which is worth your time.
With Elon Musk seemingly preparing to take over the reins as Twitter’s largest shareholder, and his vow to welcome Trump and other banned extremists on to the platform, I worry history is about to repeat itself in dangerous ways.
The committee is waiting for Congress to act on one of its biggest suggestions
Rep. Liz Cheney said in her opening statement that the Jan. 6 committee would be proposing reforms to prevent what happened in the lead-up to the attack on the Capitol from ever happening again. Among the changes that are already in the works, Cheney noted, is a series of alterations to the Electoral Count Act, which dictates how Congress validates presidential elections.
The law, which was enacted back in 1887, is vague, which gave room for the sort of bad faith readings Trump’s lawyers circulated in defense of his attempt to overturn the election results. In their view, the ECA allowed for Pence to unilaterally send electoral votes back to key states or reject them outright, installing Trump for a second term.
The House last month passed the Presidential Election Reform Act which clarifies that the vice president has no such powers and raises the bar for members of Congress to raise challenges to electoral votes during the joint session to count the votes. Only nine Republicans voted in favor of that bill though, including Cheney.
It’s not clear though when a counterpart bill will pass in the Senate — it has the support of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, giving it a strong chance of passage. But if it fails to make it to President Joe Biden’s desk before January, the new Congress will have to try again. And if the GOP retakes the House, the odds of the PERA become law plummet to nearly zero.
Report: Secret Service stopped Trump from going to Capitol
The committee reportedly will produce evidence today that indicates Secret Service agents defied the president during the Capitol siege.
Via The Washington Post, the committee obtained an email from a Secret Service agent asking the head of Donald Trump’s detail, Bobby Engel, if the president’s plan to go to the Capitol had been stopped. “Even with Trump back at the White House, Secret Service headquarters wanted to be sure the president was staying put,” the Post’s report says.
“We don’t have the assets,” Engle reportedly told Trump in the effort to convince him not to join the rioters lashing out in defense of his stolen-election claims. To this, Cassidy Hutchinson testified months ago, the president became enraged and allegedly lunged at Engle. Sources close to Engle say he denies the allegation, though he has yet to do so himself under oath.
These documents corroborate the claim that Trump wanted to be at the Capitol as the riots were unfolding. We can only guess at his intention, but given his reluctance to drop his claims of electoral malfeasance to calm the rioters, we can assume it was not to cool any passions.
Trump’s arrival at the Capitol would have thrown gasoline on an already raging fire. Only for the unwillingness or inability of the Secret Service to act on the president’s claims were we spared that outcome.
Thompson says committee may vote on ‘further investigative steps’ today
Just before concluding his opening remarks, Chairman Bennie Thompson explained that today’s hearing is not, in fact, just a hearing at all, but is instead what congressional committees call a “business meeting,” which allows them to take votes. In particular, Thompson said that today’s business meeting allows the committee to vote on further investigative steps that should be taken.
Whether that means the committee could vote on additional avenues for congressional inquiry or even a referral to the Justice Department is not clear. But what seems like a dull procedural formality could end up being anything but by the non-hearing hearing’s conclusion
As hearing opens, Pence aide Marc Short returns to the grand jury
Former Vice President Mike Pence’s former chief of staff, Marc Short, was an important figure in earlier hearings, confirming that his then-boss had communicated to Trump many times that he did not believe he had any constitutional or legal authority to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Short later testified to a federal grand jury in July.
Since then, reports indicate that lawyers for Trump and the Justice Department have fought, through sealed court proceedings, over the extent to which Trump can block Short and others from testifying about certain events or conversations on grounds of executive privilege. While we do not know how those disputes were resolved, or even if they have been resolved, Short was seen this morning outside the grand jury room at the D.C. federal courthouse. Why and for what purpose are just one more open question about the DOJ’s investigation.
Liz Cheney’s last stand begins
Committee Chair Bennie Thompson has gaveled in. And so begins the panel’s final hearing ahead of the midterm elections.
It’s the last stand for the committee’s vice chair, GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, who lost her Wyoming primary in August to Trump-backed challenger Harriet Hageman.
The committee’s other Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, announced his plans to retire from Congress last year.
5 numbers breaking down the committee’s investigation so far
In the nearly 16 months since the House Jan. 6 committee was formed, the nine-member panel and its staff have sifted through mountains of documents and conducted dozens of interviews. Here’s a breakdown of its investigation so far, according to numbers compiled by NBC News:
- Held eight public hearings (with today being the ninth)
- Received hundreds of thousands of documents
- Received more than 10,000 submissions to its tip line
- Issued at least 100 subpoenas
- Conducted over 1,000 interviews and depositions
Depositions of some of the most high-profile figures in Trump world lasted hours, with Donald Trump, Jr. clocking two hours with the committee, Ivanka Trump with roughly eight hours and Rudy Giuliani with nine hours.
What Ginni Thomas told the committee
Her lawyer said after the Sept. 29 interview that Thomas had told investigators about her “minimal and mainstream activity” surrounding the 2020 presidential election. That activity included, for example, texting with the White House chief of staff about overturning Joe Biden’s victory.
As Steve Benen wrote for MaddowBlog the day after Thomas’ testimony:
“To be sure, there’s some room for debate about what constitutes ‘minimal and mainstream,’ but as we’ve discussed, Thomas’ post-election efforts appear to have been far more ambitious than this statement suggested.
“We are, after all, talking about a prominent right-wing activist who contacted dozens of state legislators in battleground states, urging them to ignore vote totals and overturn the results.”
Read Steve’s full story below.
How much did Trump know about Oath Keepers' intentions?
Rep. Zoe Lofgren promised today’s hearing will focus on the “close ties between people in Trump world and some of these extremist groups,” the members of which attacked the Capitol. That wouldn’t be much of a reveal.
Due in part to the work the committee has already done, we know quite a bitabout the extremists orbiting around “Trump world.” In the interim, we’ve learned Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes allegedly had contact with a Secret Service agent ahead of the riot, and may have been speaking to a Trump confidant on the day of the violence. According to the details in former GOP House Rep. Denver Riggleman’s book, convicted Jan. 6 rioter Anton Lunyk received a call from a White House landline at the height of the violence. The details of what was said and to whom remain a mystery, but “Trump world” is already implicated.
What about the former president himself? Lofgren claims the committee will flesh out “what he knew” and “what he did.” If the committee’s intention is to establish that Trump himself was issuing instructions through a third party to rioters, that would be news, indeed.
The committee needs to stick the landing today
This summer, against all odds and expectations, the Jan. 6 committee managed to put on what boils down to an eight-episode documentary series that had America hooked. The kind of narrative coherence on display would make most Hollywood producers jealous. But with that high bar comes a risk that popular TV shows are all too familiar with: ending on a disappointing finale.
I wrote about that challenge this morning and you can read all about it here.
All eyes will soon turn to the DOJ
As the Jan. 6 committee makes what may be its final case to the American public, all eyes will soon turn to the Department of Justice.
The hearings are important. The public must know that Trump attempted to thwart the peaceful transfer of power, that he could have, and likely did, predict and even hope for the violence that occurred at the Capitol. But the hearings alone are not enough.
It is clear that we are living at a moment in our nation’s history in which simply knowing that is not enough for Trump’s supporters to abandon him. These are political hearings, and given that some members of our country appear unwilling to hear the truth, their utility may be limited.
Given all that we have already heard, and all we are likely to hear today, the DOJ must continue to take a serious look at bringing criminal charges against the former president. At this point, the DOJ may owe us an explanation if it doesn’t bring charges, rather than the other way around.
Unsolved mysteries about Secret Service texts are top of mind
Since the “season finale” of the summer hearings, I keep thinking about the many unsolved mysteries of Jan. 6. Who is the White House valet, for example, who allegedly revealed former President Donald Trump’s ketchup tantrum to Cassidy Hutchison after then-Attorney General William Barr said he had seen no evidence of widespread fraud in the election? Who is the witness Trump attempted to call as the hearings were ongoing, prompting committice Vice Chair Liz Cheney to warn Trump world against witness tampering?
Yet the open questions that perhaps intrigue me most concern the Secret Service. How exactly were agents’ texts on and around Jan. 6 lost when oversight officials and congressional committees had already asked had already asked the Secret Service to preserve or produce them? Why did Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari wait months to share the fact of the missing texts with the Jan. 6 committee, especially given his opening of a criminal investigation into the Secret Service’s handling of those texts? Why did the Secret Service confiscate the phones of 24 agents involved Jan. 6 response over the summer, and what evidence, if any, did the committee find there? And finally, what information was discovered among the Secret Service’s 1 million-plus electronic communications that were also recently provided to the committee?
The Washington Post reported that the hearing is “expected to highlight” some of those communications, which reveal how Trump “was repeatedly alerted to brewing violence that day, and he still sought to stoke the conflict” and that Secret Service leadership remained anxious about “the possibility that Trump would get his wish to head to the Capitol — and join a melee in progress” even after agents refused his initial demand to go to the Capitol and returned him to the White House.
As we say in the Maddowverse, watch this space.
Roger Stone documentary footage could make an appearance
Just before last month’s hearing was postponed because of Hurricane Ian, NBC News obtained footage from an upcoming documentary on Trump ally Roger Stone. NBC reported that the committee’s next hearing was likely to include footage from “A Storm Foretold,” a project by filmmaker Christoffer Guldbrandsen.
In a clip obtained by NBC News, Stone declares that the 2020 election “will not be normal.” Seemingly speaking as if he were Trump, Stone adds: “‘Oh, these are the California results? Sorry, we’re not accepting them; we’re challenging them in court. If the electors show up at the Electoral College, armed guards will throw them out. I’m the president.”
Watch the clip below.
Witness testimony at Oath Keepers trial gives reason for hope
The Justice Department is currently prosecuting several members of the Oath Keepers militia on charges of seditious conspiracy. The proceedings have revealed new details about a dark day, such as the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, having said that his only regret about Jan. 6 was that “they should have brought rifles.”
But as MSNBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner wrote Tuesday, three government witnesses — all military veterans who quit the Oath Keepers before the attack on the Capitol — offer some reason for optimism:
“Since the attack on the Capitol, we’ve come to learn that many of those who participated were veterans or active military members, former police, first responders and the like. That revelation can shake one’s understanding of the nature of patriotism and love of country.
“But these three veterans ultimately put patriotism and respect for American democracy above whatever drove them to join an organization like the Oath Keepers.”
Read Glenn’s full story below.
That production value though
Might be a little too inside baseball coming from someone who works in media, but I’m just as excited to see how the committee presents its findings in today’s hearings as I am interested in the findings themselves.
I’ve been very impressed with the ways in which the committee produced the previous hearings, including the 3D maps of the White House and surrounding areas used to give viewers perspective, documentary-style narration of the Jan. 6 plot, and even some carefully-selected moments (like video of a fleeing GOP Sen. Josh Hawley).
These techniques have made the hearings not only informative but digestible and incredibly entertaining as well.
In ‘Meet the Press’ appearance, Kinzinger gave a sneak peek
The Illinois representative, who is one of two Republicans on the House Jan. 6 committee, mentioned the money Trump raised during his “Stop the Steal” efforts in the lead-up to Jan. 6.
“It was all about just raising money, and people were abused that way, so there will be a lot more of that,” said Kinzinger, who added that viewers also can expect to find out more about Secret Service text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 that were erased.
For more on Kinzinger’s appearance, read this story by Ja’han Jones, writer for MSNBC’s The ReidOut Blog.
House GOP largely rejects bill to prevent future coup attempts
More than a century after its passage, the Electoral Count Act of 1887 figured prominently in the events of Jan. 6, as Trump and his allies came to believe the antiquated law could be exploited to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.
Last month, the House voted 229-203 to pass the Presidential Election Reform Act, which is aimed at shoring up the 19th century law and preventing a repeat. Only nine House Republicans voted for passage.
“The good news for democracy advocates is that a majority of the House members agreed. The bad news is that the vast majority of Republicans did not. …
In theory, given the crisis from the recent past, this bipartisan bill is exactly the sort of measure that should pass easily. In practice, House Republican leaders peddled a series of claims in bad faith, demanded that GOP members reject the bill, and largely succeeded in creating a partisan outcome.”
Read Steve’s full story below.
Jan. 6 committee’s Republicans are endorsing Democrats
This week, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois joined his fellow Republican on the committee in seeking to help some Democrats prevail in November. His leadership PAC issued endorsements in several races across the country, including for Democrats running against right-wing election deniers.
As Steve Benen wrote for MaddowBlog on Tuesday:
“I don’t doubt this will lead to another round of partisan accusations about Kinzinger being a ‘RINO’ (Republican In Name Only), but let’s not forget that the Illinois Republican voted with the Trump White House roughly 90% of the time.
“He also apparently thinks voters should elect candidates who accept election results.”
Read Steve’s full story below.
Jan. 6 committee to America: Don’t forget about us
In a world in which legal news about Trump comes at you like water from a fire hydrant, one can be forgiven for putting the committee's work on the back burner.
Today’s hearing is set to focus on the connection between Trump and his allies and the extremist groups that stormed the Capitol, what he knew about their plans, and what he intended to happen the day the Electoral College votes were set to be certified.
So as we follow the latest developments regarding the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago, the New York attorney general’s suit against Trump and the Trump Organization for financial wrongdoing, and investigation into Trump’s election meddling in Georgia, we should also care about today’s hearing and remember that our former president attempted to subvert democracy on January 6, 2021.
The committee may be making the case for its relevance, as much as it is making the case against Trump.