For some Republicans, there was no way to know that the events of Jan. 6 would turn into insurrectionist violence. Donald Trump had summoned rabid followers to Washington, D.C., and assured them the developments would be “wild,” but, the argument goes, the then-president and his team weren’t in a position to recognize the prospect of a riot.
There’s fresh evidence to suggest these assertions are wrong. NBC News reported over the weekend:
A former White House official warned Mark Meadows, who served as former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, that the events of Jan. 6, 2021, could turn violent, according to a court filing from the House panel investigating the Capitol riot.
Just to help put this in context, Meadows was originally prepared to cooperate with the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, and provided the bipartisan panel with thousands of messages relevant to the probe. But the Republican soon after reversed course, defied a subpoena, and filed a lawsuit.
Late Friday, the committee’s lawyers submitted this 248-page filing, urging a federal court to reject Meadows’ claims and direct him to testify. It’s likely that the panel didn’t intend for the document to be a Friday night news dump, but it certainly turned into one.
Broadly speaking, there are three main elements to this that are worth keeping in mind.
1. The Trump White House was reportedly warned about violence.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a White House aide who worked with the then-chief of staff, told congressional investigators that Meadows received a briefing on Jan. 5 from Anthony Ornato, a Secret Service official who also served as a political adviser. She said she remembers Ornato referencing “intel” that “indicated that there could be violence.”
Hutchinson added, “I know that there were concerns brought forward to Mr. Meadows,” though she was unsure if he “perceived them as genuine concerns.” She said she didn’t know “what he did with that information internally.”
This matters, of course, because it suggests that Team Trump was made explicitly aware of the prospect of violence, but proceeded with its plans anyway.
2. The Trump White House was reportedly warned that its legal gambit was illegitimate.
The same court filing noted that Hutchinson also told congressional investigators that she heard lawyers from the White House Counsel’s Office say the plan for fake electors was not “legally sound.” We now know, of course, that those warnings were also ignored.
3. Republican members of Congress were reportedly directly involved.
According to the court filing, Meadows communicated frequently with a variety of far-right House Republicans, including Pennsylvania’s Scott Perry, Ohio’s Jim Jordan, Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Colorado’s Lauren Boebert, who explored ways to derail certification of the election results.
Hutchinson also referenced a Dec. 21, 2020, strategy meeting that also included other House Republicans, including Georgia’s Jody Hice, Arizona’s Paul Gosar, Arizona’s Debbie Lesko, Arizona’s Andy Biggs, Alabama’s Mo Brooks, and Florida’s Matt Gaetz.
Of particular interest were conversations in which White House officials and members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus strategized about, as The New York Times put it, “a plan to direct thousands of angry marchers” to the U.S. Capitol. From the Times’ article:
The idea was endorsed by Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, who now leads the Freedom Caucus, according to testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Mr. Meadows, and no one on the call spoke out against the idea. “I don’t think there’s a participant on the call that had necessarily discouraged the idea,” Ms. Hutchinson told the committee’s investigators.
When an investigator asked Hutchinson whether Perry supported “the idea of sending people to the Capitol on January the 6th,” the former White House aide replied, “He did.”
Perry, of course, was the first member of Congress that the Jan. 6 committee asked to voluntarily answer questions about the attack. He refused.
It’s difficult to say with any confidence when the committee will hold public hearings or release a report on its findings, but as Friday night’s court filing reminds us, there can be no doubt that congressional investigators are building a striking case. Watch this space.