The Jan. 6th Committee is considering a “series of criminal referrals” to the Department of Justice concerning the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) declared on Thursday.
“Our Nation Cannot Only Punish the Foot Soldiers”
Such referrals, which would carry no legal weight, reportedly have been a divisive issue within the committee. According to a Politico report earlier this year, certain members of the panel have feared that referrals would give former President Donald Trump ammunition to attack any potential prosecution as political. Cheney’s remark, delivered during opening statements, suggests even conservatives on the committee may be warming to the idea.
“Our nation cannot only punish the foot soldiers who stormed our Capitol,” Cheney said.
Unveiling new evidence collected by the committee, the proceedings on Thursday were not a hearing but a business meeting, meaning that the panel is empowered to vote to take certain actions. It played out, however, similarly to past public hearings, with bombshell clips from videotaped depositions and internal communications obtained from the National Archives and Trump allies.
One former Trump insider, the former president’s campaign manager Bill Stepien, said that he advised the incumbent that it was too early to declare victory during the early returns, before mail-in ballots were counted.
“Ballots were still being counted,” Stepien reflected in the deposition. “Ballots were still gonna be counted for days and it was far too early for a proclamation like that.”
“He’s Not Going Out Easy”
Internal documents obtained by the committee showed Trump allies planning for the incumbent to declare victory — even if he lost.
In a message dated Oct. 31, 2020, days before Election Day, right-wing activist Tom Fitton from the group Judicial Watch appeared to prepare Trump’s announcement: “We had an election today — and I won.”
The committee also played a tape of Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon predicting mayhem if the 45th president lost.
“He’s not going out easy,” Bannon could be heard saying. “Trump is going to do some crazy shit.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), the only other Republican on the Committee, noted that Trump’s own actions also showed that he knew that he lost. He said that the committee learned that Trump signed a memo shortly after his defeat that called for large-scale troop withdrawals from Somalia and Afghanistan before Inauguration Day.
Keith Kellogg, who was the National Security Advisor to Vice President Mike Pence, told the committee that the precipitous withdrawal would have been “catastrophic.”
Evidence of Trump’s private knowledge of his defeat pervaded the hearing.
“Please Please Take This Tip Seriously”
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows who delivered damaging testimony in a prior hearing, produced more fireworks through deposition clips released by the committee. She said that the former president was “just raging” after the Supreme Court rejected his allies’ case.
According to Hutchinson, Trump asked: “Why didn’t we make more calls?”
Trump also told Meadows: “I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing,” according to her testimony.
Later in the proceedings, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) revealed a series of reports, memos and messages obtained from the U.S. Secret Service, indicating that the agency received alarming threats well in advance of the attack on the Capitol and did not appear to act on them.
“Their plan is to literally kill people,” an email from Dec. 26, 2020, quoted one tipster as reporting. “Please please take this tip seriously and investigate further.”
The email noted that the Proud Boys detailed their plans on a pro-Trump website, which was linked to the message.
“Let’s pause here: The Secret Service had advance information more than 10 days beforehand, regarding the Proud Boys planning for January 6,” Schiff said. “We know now, of course, that the Proud Boys and others did lead the assault on our Capitol building.”
The current leaders of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers and their high-ranking members have been charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and other members have been standing trial in a federal court in Washington, a short distance away from the congressional proceedings.
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