Subpoenas show Jan. 6 panel’s focus on Trump’s plans

A flurry of subpoenas shows the Jan. 6 committee is setting its sights on how former President Trump and his loyalists concocted a plan to spread lies about voter fraud and block Congress from certifying President Biden’s victory, an effort that directly led to the violence at the Capitol.

The special committee on Monday and Tuesday issued 16 new subpoenas for ex-administration officials, top Trump campaign aides and law professor John Eastman, who crafted the now-infamous memo laying out how, in six steps, then-Vice President Mike Pence could take unilateral actions to overturn the election and declare Trump the victor.

The latest subpoenas on Tuesday included demands for testimony from former White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, personnel director John McEntee and deputy chief of staff Christopher Liddell.

“The riots surrounded an insurrection and the insurrection surrounded a coup, and we are going to investigate every level of activity,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a Jan. 6 panel member, told The Hill in a telephone interview on Tuesday in which he explained the latest subpoenas.

“A lot of these subpoenas relate to the core level of support for an attack on democracy and the red-hot center of the activity which was the political coup orchestrated against the vice president,” he said.

“We’re analyzing not just where the violence came from but where the strategy for overthrowing the presidential election came from,” added Raskin, who led Democrats’ impeachment prosecution of Trump after the attack.

Eastman’s memos became a blueprint for the Trump team in seeking avenues to reverse the election, likely igniting Trump’s obsession with having his own vice president buck the purely ceremonial duty of certifying the 2020 election results. Pence rejected the Eastman plot as unconstitutional, tallied the electoral votes and declared Biden the winner.

The subpoenas for Bill Stepien, Trump’s former campaign manager, and Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the campaign, seek information about their messaging surrounding that strategy, including falsely claiming election fraud in states like Arizona and Georgia that Trump narrowly lost. Members of Trump’s inner circle continued pushing those lies despite an internal campaign memo determining such fraud claims were invalid.

The committee on Monday also subpoenaed Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner and associate of Rudy Giuliani, whose firm billed the Trump campaign some $65,000 for rooms at the Willard Hotel, where he, Eastman and others like former Trump White House strategist Stephen Bannon met to coordinate their efforts.

“The Eastman memo really serves as a locus for all of this. What was this plan? Who was involved in it? What were they thinking? What were they discussing? What was the strategy? And so that involves talking to Eastman and talking to all these people who were there at the Willard Hotel command center,” Barbara McQuade, who served as a U.S. attorney during the Obama administration, told The Hill.

“The Trump campaign knew that there wasn’t election fraud at some point. And so that suggests that they had knowledge that what they were doing was fraudulent. It may have even been illegal.”

The Democratic-led select Jan. 6 panel, launched by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in July, has spent months investigating security failures, from interagency communication breakdowns in the lead-up to the attack to the hours-long delay in dispatching reinforcements from the National Guard.

But with the Jan. 6 spotlight shifting to big names in the Trump orbit, the nine-member committee is sending an unmistakable message that it intends to do what the Democratic impeachment team could not: write a sweeping report for historians and future generations of Americans detailing the role that Trump and his inner circle played in trying to undermine a free and fair presidential election to remain in power, including by fomenting a violent assault on Congress and Trump’s own vice president.

Panel Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) have laid blame for the events of Jan. 6 at the feet of Trump. Cheney has stated that Trump instructing allies to defy subpoenas shows that the 45th president was “personally involved in the planning and execution of Jan. 6.”

Thompson personally sued Trump for his role in inciting the riot and has not ruled out subpoenaing Trump himself in the official Jan. 6 probe.

“Nobody’s off-limits,” the chairman recently told reporters.

The committee has already subpoenaed Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff and the former House Freedom Caucus chairman; and Dan Scavino, the communications guru. It has issued subpoenas for a number of Jan. 6 rally organizers along with Bannon, a former Trump strategist and a key figure at the Willard Hotel meetings. It also is seeking testimony from Kash Patel, then the chief of staff to the Defense secretary.

And the committee’s investigators briefly sat down last week with former Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyer Jeffrey Clark, who was at the center of Trump’s pressure campaign to get DOJ to interfere in the election.

Meanwhile, DOJ has been in the process of prosecuting more than 650 people who allegedly unlawfully breached the Capitol or attacked police officers that day.

McQuade said the committee’s strategy also has a legislative purpose — something that could counter a key GOP talking point that the panel’s work can only be valid if it serves such a role.

“Mike Flynn talked about seizing voting machines. Is there any basis to think that that could have been legal? If so, we need a law to say it’s not,” McQuade said.

“I think what Congress is most interested in is if there was a plot to use existing law, or evade existing law, to undermine the outcome of the election. … To simply document it for history is probably a good collateral effect, but I think their mission is to determine whether we need new laws that would make us safer from a future attack.”

One group the Jan. 6 panel has yet to target is Trump-aligned GOP lawmakers in the Freedom Caucus who either spoke at Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse like Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) or made public comments calling that day “our 1776 moment!” like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

But rather than go after those GOP lawmakers directly, the committee could subpoena text message, phone and other electronic records from Trump allies that demonstrates coordination with those Trump loyalists serving in Congress. The committee has already asked a number of telecommunications and social media companies to preserve records, including those of lawmakers.

“I’m afraid that the kind of political violence, the kind of abandonment of the rule of law, the kind of abandonment of the Constitution that we watched, does threaten the foundations of democracy, the foundations of our system,” Cheney said in a new CNN documentary, “Trumping Democracy: An American Coup.”

“And the fact that so many in my party are willing to be silent, are complicit, are enabling it, adds very much to the peril,” she said.

Tags Bennie Thompson Bill Stepien Christopher Liddell Donald Trump Jamie Raskin Joe Biden John McEntee Liz Cheney Marjorie Taylor Greene Mark Meadows Mike Pence Mo Brooks Nancy Pelosi Rudy Giuliani Stephen Miller

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