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Forensic News Roundup: Jan. 6 Committee

August 3, 2021 6:34 am By

First hearing

The House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack kicked off last week with testimony from four law enforcement officers who helped defend the Capitol. D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges called the attackers “terrorists” and recounted the ideology of the crowd:

The sea of people was punctuated throughout by flags, mostly variations of American flags and Trump flags. There was Gadson flags. It was clear the terrorists perceived themselves to be Christians. I saw the Christian flag directly to my front. Another read, “Jesus is my savior. Trump is my president.” Another, “Jesus is king.” One flag read, “Don’t give up the ship.” Another had crossed rifles beneath a skull, emblazoned with the pattern of the American flag. To my perpetual confusion, I saw the thin blue line flag, the symbol of support for law enforcement, more than once being carried by the terrorists as they ignored our commands and continued to assault us. (Time stamp).

U.S. Capitol Police Pfc. Harry Dunn placed the blame for the insurrection at Trump’s feet:

As the morning progressed, and the crowd of protestors began to swell on the east side of the Capitol, many displaying Trump flags, the crowd was chanting slogans like, “Stop the steal,” and, “We want Trump”…

More and more insurrectionists were pouring into the area by the Speaker’s Lobby near the Rotunda, and some wearing MAGA hats and shirts that said, “Trump 2020.” I told them to just leave the Capitol, and in response they yelled, “No, man, this is our house. President Trump invited us here. We’re here to stop the steal. Joe Biden is not the president. Nobody voted for Joe Biden.” I’m a law enforcement officer, and I do my best to keep politics out of my job, but in this circumstance, I responded, “Well, I voted for Joe Biden. Does my vote not count? Am I nobody?” That prompted a torrent of racial epithets. One woman in a pink MAGA shirt yelled, “You hear that guys? This nigger voted for Joe Biden.” Then the crowd, perhaps around 20 people, joined in screaming, “Boo, fucking nigger.” No one had ever, ever called me a nigger while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer. (Time stamp).

  • More: Twitter thread of notable clips from the hearing.

DOJ officials

The Department of Justice cleared multiple former officials, including former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, to testify before the Committee. Letters (PDF) sent to former officials from Associate Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinsheimer instruct them to provide “unrestricted testimony,” “irrespective of potential privilege,” on “any efforts by President Trump or any DOJ officials to advance unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud, challenge the 2020 election results, stop Congress’s count of the Electoral College vote, or overturn President Biden’s certified victory.”

In addition to Rosen, the Committee has also requested transcribed interviews from former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, former Associate Deputy Attorney General Patrick Hovakimian, former U.S. Attorney Byung Jin Pak, former U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine, and former acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Jeffrey Clark.

What we know about these officials:

  • In early January 2021, Trump attempted to oust Rosen and replace him with Clark after the former refused to pursue Trump’s unfounded allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 election.
  • Donoghue threatened to resign if Rosen was replaced. He also took notes documenting Trump’s pressure on DOJ officials like Rosen.
  • Hovakimian convened a telephone conference with Donoghue and other top DOJ officials to discuss and rebuff Trump’s attempt to fire Rosen.
  • Pak served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. He was reportedly forced to resign after refusing to investigate Trump’s lies about election fraud in Atlanta and Fulton County.
  • Christine was appointed by Trump as the acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia after Pak was forced out. Christine then resigned weeks later.

Subpoenas

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) pledged to subpoena everyone with information on the insurrection, including members of Congress and the former president. “If the facts themselves lead us to any individual, we will not hesitate to bring them before the committee,” Thompson said. The two Republicans on the Committee, Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Liz Cheney (R-WY), also expressed support for a wide range of subpoenas:

“I would support subpoenas to anybody that can shed light on that, if that’s the leader that’s the leader,” Kinzinger told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl. “Anybody with parts of that information, with inside knowledge, can probably expect to be talking to the committee.”

Cheney directly named Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) as a potential target for subpoenas from the Committee. I think that Congressman Jordan may well be a material witness. He’s somebody who was involved in a number of meetings in the lead-up to what happened on Jan. 6, involved in planning for Jan. 6, certainly for the objections that day…We will, on this committee, follow the facts wherever they go,” Cheney told Good Morning America.

She also said that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Trump could be subpoenaed: “I think that the American people deserve to know what happened every minute of that day. They deserve to know every phone call that was made in and out of the White House, every meeting, every discussion that was had that day in the White House as the Capitol building was under attack.”

Important note: Members of Congress have never had to be forced to testify before a Congressional committee before. According to the Washington Post, this lack of precedent may make it difficult to quickly resolve any legal battle that arises.

“I don’t recall a case where members of Congress were subpoenaed to an oversight hearing,” said Stanley Brand, an expert on congressional ethics investigations and the former House counsel from 1976 to 1983.

“The House rules say that members shall reflect credibly on the House,” Brand said. “I’m sure that somebody could formulate a theory that says you’re duty bound to respond to a subpoena.” Members who exhaust their legal options and are forced to testify could invoke their right against self-incrimination, according to legal experts, but that could be a politically damaging stance to take, particularly during a public hearing.


Jim Jordan

Spurred by Cheney naming Jordan as a material witness, Fox News’ Bret Baier asked the Ohio lawmaker if he spoke to Trump on Jan. 6. At first, Jordan dodged the question, saying he’s “talked to the former president umpteen times…I continue to talk to the president since he left office.” Baier clarifies, “No, I mean on January 6, congressman.”

Jordan: “Yes, I mean I’ve talked to the president — I’ve talked to the president so many — I can’t remember all the days I’ve talked to him, but I’ve certainly talked to the president.” (Clip)

Two days later, Spectrum News’ Taylor Popielarz tried to nail Jordan down on the timeline of his conversations with Trump, leading to the following rambling response:

Popielarz: Yes or no, did you speak with President Trump on January 6th?

Jordan: Yeah I mean I speak… I spoke with the President last week. I speak with the President all the time. I spoke with him on January 6th. I mean, I talk with President Trump all the time. And that’s, that’s… I don’t think that’s unusual. I would expect members of Congress to talk with the President of the United States when they’re trying to get done the things they told the voters in their district to do. I’m actually kind of amazed sometimes that people keep asking this question. Of course, I talk to the President all the time. I talked –like I said, I talked with him last week.

Popielarz: On January 6th did you speak with him before, during, or after the Capitol was attacked?

Jordan: Ahhh, I’d have to go… I’d-I-I… I spoke with him that day after? I think after. I don’t know if I spoke with him in the morning or not. I just don’t know. I’d have to go back and…. I mean I don’t, I don’t, I don’t know… Uhhh, that…when those conversations happened. But what I know is that I spoke with him all the time. (Clip)

While we don’t know what Jordan said to Trump on Jan. 6, we can look back at his public words and actions surrounding the insurrection:

October 19, 2020: Jordan tweeted his opposition to a Supreme Court decision extending the time for election officials in Pennsylvania to count ballots. “Democrats are trying to steal the election, after the election. Chief Justice Roberts is letting them do it,” he said.

December 7, 2020: In a preview of the events of Jan. 6, Jordan told CNN he is contesting the validity of the election results in key battleground states.

Asked if Trump should concede next Monday, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said bluntly: “No. No way, no way, no way.”

“We should still try to figure out exactly what took place here. And as I said that includes, I think, debates on the House floor — potentially on January 6,” Jordan, a trusted Trump confidant, told CNN…

“I know we have members who feel that way, feel very strongly about we should be debating what took place in Pennsylvania,” Jordan said. “But, you know, you had all kinds of crazy things happening in Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, all these in Nevada… So everything you look at doesn’t make sense.”

December 9, 2020: Jordan invoked countless lies on Fox News Radio to argue Biden did not win the election. “We have a third of the electorate who thinks the election was stolen. Now whether they’re right or not, I think there are big problems with this. I don’t know how you can ever convince me that President Trump didn’t actually win this thing based on all the things you see, the eleven million more votes. He won nineteen-to-twenty bellwether counties. He won Ohio by eight, Iowa by eight… And if for no other reason than those fifty-some million who think there’s a major problem with this election, we should do everything we can to get to the bottom of [it].”

December 21, 2020: Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) organized multiple meetings at the White House “concerning the planning and strategy for January the 6th.” Jordan attended, along with Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA.), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

During Monday’s meeting at the White House — where lawmakers noshed on a mid-afternoon snack of meatballs and pigs in a blanket — Trump talked with members for over an hour about how Jan. 6 will play out. They discussed logistics, such as what the objection language for each state would look like and how the floor proceedings will work.

December 27, 2020: According to contemporaneous notes taken by Deputy AG Donoghue, Trump pressured AG Rosen to “say that the election was corrupt” so he and his allies in Congress could more effectively challenge the certification of Biden’s win on Jan. 6. During this phone call, Trump brought up Jordan by name, implicating him in an illegal scheme to falsify voting results and attempting to overturn the election.

January 2, 2021: Brooks and Jordan participated in a conference call with 48 other lawmakers, Trump, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows “to address their goal of overturning certain states’ Electoral College results on” January 6.

Related note: Brooks knew of the potential danger ahead of the Jan. 6 rally and took it so seriously that he wore body armor while delivering his speech.

“I was warned on Monday [Jan. 4] that there might be risks associated with the next few days,” he said. “And as a consequence of those warnings, I did not go to my condo. Instead, I slept on the floor of my office. And when I gave my speech at the Ellipse, I was wearing body armor.

“That’s why I was wearing that nice little windbreaker,” he told me with a grin. “To cover up the body armor.”


Swalwell lawsuit

Last Tuesday, the Department of Justice declined to represent Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) in a lawsuit for his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Brooks had sought to have the federal government replace him as a defendant, claiming that he was acting in his official capacity as a government employee during the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol.

The record indicates that Brooks’s appearance at the Jan. 6 rally was campaign activity, and it is no part of the business of the United States to pick sides among candidates in federal elections. Members of Congress are subject to a host of restrictions that carefully distinguish between their official functions, on the one hand, and campaign functions, on the other. The conduct at issue here thus is not the kind a Member of Congress holds office to perform, or substantially within the authorized time and space limits, as required by governing law…

Alleged action to attack Congress and disrupt its official functions is not conduct a Member of Congress is employed to perform and is not “actuated . . . by a purpose to serve” the employer, as required by District of Columbia law to fall within the scope of employment. (PDF)

The DOJ points to Brooks’ own comments to prove that his speech on the 6th was a campaign function, not within the scope of his job description:

With respect to future elections, moreover, Brooks highlighted that “the 2022 and 2024 elections are right around the corner,” and has asserted in his petition that his statements expressed his “desire to beat offending Republicans in those elections.” …He thus concedes that another basic feature of his participation in the rally was to influence the 2022 and 2024 elections… But garnering partisan support for future elections is no less an electioneering or campaign activity, and the United States has no institutional interest in which candidates are elected then either.



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