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List of Team Trump insiders who took the Fifth keeps growing

We knew going into this week about some of the Republicans close to Trump who took the Fifth with Jan. 6 investigators. Now, the list is much longer.


When it comes to members of Donald Trump’s inner circle, the list of figures who’ve taken the Fifth is not short. It was just two months ago, for example, that The New York Times reported on Kash Patel asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid answering Justice Department questions about the former president’s classified documents scandal.

On this, Patel’s hardly alone. In a New York investigation into the Trump Organization’s fraudulent business practices, Eric Trump repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment. So did Donald Trump himself. John Eastman, the Republican lawyer who allegedly played a leading role in Trump’s coup scheme, took the Fifth with a Georgia special grand jury investigating election interference.

The number of people close to Trump who asserted the same Fifth Amendment protections with the Jan. 6 committee, however, is considerably longer. We knew going into this week about Roger Stone, Alex Jones, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, Michael Flynn, and Arizona’s Kelli Ward taking the Fifth with congressional investigators.

But thanks to the latest disclosures from the House select panel, that list now features far more names. The New York Times reported:

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol released a batch of 34 transcripts on Wednesday that showed witnesses repeatedly stymying parts of the panel’s inquiry by invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Part of what makes this notable is the context in which assorted Republicans took the Fifth. Stone, for example, asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked about his age. Clark took the Fifth when asked whether he worked at the Justice Department. (He did, in fact, work at the Justice Department.)

Other instances were less amusing. Jenna Ellis, for example, exchanged hundreds of text messages with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the runup to Jan. 6, but she only disclosed a fraction of them in a privilege log. Asked to explain the discrepancy, Ellis took the Fifth.

But I was also struck by the size of the list itself. Kenneth Chesebro, an attorney who worked on Trump’s fake-electors scheme, took the Fifth. So did Phil Waldron, a retired Army colonel also caught up in the Jan. 6 scandal; Bianca Gracia, a co-founder of Latinos for Trump; and Julie Fancelli, heiress to the Publix fortune, who was willing to spend up to $3 million on Jan. 6. Even conservative activist Charlie Kirk and white nationalist Nick Fuentes took the Fifth, over and over again.

As far as congressional investigators were concerned, these responses are more than just a curiousity.

“Trump lawyers and supporters Jenna Ellis, John Eastman, Phil Waldron and Michael Flynn all invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when asked by the select committee what supposed proof they uncovered that the election was stolen,” the committee wrote in its executive summary. “Not a single witness — nor any combination of witnesses — provided the select committee with evidence demonstrating that fraud occurred on a scale even remotely close to changing the outcome in any state.”

I’m reminded of something Trump said in 2016. “The mob takes the Fifth Amendment,” the future president said, deriding those who assert their right against self-incrimination. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”

The relevance of the quote still lingers.