Riggleman at center of new Jan. 6 controversy
Former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), who previously worked as an adviser to the Jan. 6 select committee, is at the center of a new controversy engulfing the panel after he dropped a bombshell revelation while promoting his forthcoming book.
In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” teasing his book, Riggleman said someone at the White House placed a late-afternoon call to a Capitol rioter while the attack was still underway.
“You get a real ‘aha!’ moment when you see that the White House switchboard had connected to a rioter’s phone while it’s happening,” he told Bill Whitaker of “60 Minutes.”
Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) speaks during House debates regarding articles of impeachment against former President Trump following Trump’s actions leading up to and during the Capitol riot.
The revelation about the committee’s largely-private investigation drew swift pushback from committee members, who are downplaying Riggleman’s knowledge of the panel’s operation and brushing away the significance of the call.
It was an unwelcome distraction just days ahead of what may be the committee’s final public hearing on Wednesday, when panel members will seek to wrap up their case against former President Trump and his allies weeks before the midterm elections.
“I don’t know what Mr. Riggleman is doing, really,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a member of the Jan. 6 committee, told CNN during an interview Sunday when asked if he is a credible source when it comes to Jan. 6, 2021.
“I only saw him a few times when he was on the staff, and he did leave. He said he was going off to help Afghanistan refugees. So, you know, he does not know what happened after April, and a lot has happened in our investigation,” she said.
The California Democrat noted that all matters Riggleman brought up before his departure were looked into but “in some cases didn’t really [pan] out.”
“I will say this, that everything that he was able to relay prior to his departure has been followed up on and in some cases didn’t really [pan] out, or there might have been a decision that suggested that there was a connection between one number or one email and a person that turned out not to pan out,” Lofgren said. “So, we follow up on everything.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who also sits on the Jan. 6 panel, tried to trivialize Riggleman’s claims about the call during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
“Well, that’s one of thousands of details that obviously the committee is aware of,” Raskin said of the reported White House rioter call.
“I can’t say anything specific about that particular call, but we are aware of it. And we are aware of lots of contacts between the people in the White House and different people that were involved obviously in the coup attempt and the insurrection. And that’s really what all of our hearings have been about,” he said after being pressed on the matter.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) has been a leading figure among the Jan. 6 House committee investigating the Capitol riot.
CNN has since identified the rioter as Anton Lunyk, a 26-year-old Trump supporter. The Brooklyn native pleaded guilty to a charge associated with the Capitol riot and was sentenced to 12 months of probation. The call reportedly came after he and two friends left the Capitol.
But the individual who placed the call from the White House, shortly after Trump told his supporters to go home at 4:17 p.m., remains unknown. Call logs show the publicly available number for the White House without the relevant extension.
Riggleman’s publishing company has pegged the book — “The Breach: The Untold Story of the Investigations into January 6th” — as “an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation” and teases knowledge of the almost eight-hour period at the White House where they “supposedly had no phone calls.”
But the panel sees matters differently.
“In his role on the Select Committee staff, Mr. Riggleman had limited knowledge of the committee’s investigation. He departed from the staff in April prior to our hearings and much of our most important investigative work,” select committee spokesperson Tim Mulvey told multiple outlets in a statement.
“The committee has run down all the leads and digested and analyzed all the information that arose from his work. We will be presenting additional evidence to the public in our next hearing this coming Wednesday, and a thorough report will be published by the end of the year,” Mulvey added.
Riggleman’s book tour isn’t the first time the ex-adviser has alarmed his former employer. A TV hit shortly after he left the committee spurred an email to staff that his appearance was “in direct contravention to his employment agreement.”
“His specific discussion about the content of subpoenaed records, our contracts, contractors and methodologies, and your hard work is unnerving,” the panel’s staff director wrote, according to The Washington Post.
Riggleman appeared to nod to that dynamic in his book.
“I continually called for us to push the envelope and use the toughest approach possible. This ruffled some feathers on the committee,” he wrote.
At another point he questioned the panel’s strategy of dealing with the media.
“The committee had other fears too: leaks. We were obsessed with them, and the fear of leaks led the committee to compartmentalize the various teams of investigators… I wondered sometimes if there was an overabundance of caution — whether in the desire to thwart the press, we deprived the overall investigation of coordinated information. Was that a necessary trade-off?” he asked.
On his book tour, Riggleman has also weighed in on some ongoing matters before the committee, including Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
His comments come just days after the committee was able to secure an interview with Ginni Thomas after months of negotiations.
Riggleman said it was an “open secret” that her views had gotten more extreme.
Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has agreed to be interviewed by the Jan. 6 House panel.
“What really shook me was the fact that if Clarence agreed with or was even aware of his wife’s efforts, all three branches of government would be tied to the Stop the Steal movement,” Riggleman wrote in his book.
“For me in intelligence, there[‘s] always the possible and the probable,” Riggleman said. “Is it possible that Clarence Thomas had no idea of the activities of Ginni Thomas over decades as a Republican activist? Possible. Had no idea about what was going on during the election and Biden and Trump and her connections to the administration? Possible. Is it probable? I just can’t even get my arms [around] that being probable,” he added in the “60 Minutes” interview.
Asked on Sunday if he sees the reported call between the White House and a rioter as significant to the panel’s probe, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the Jan. 6 select committee, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that relevant information will be presented before the public at Wednesday’s hearing.
“I can’t comment on the particulars. I can say that each of the issues that Mr. Riggleman raised during the period he was with the committee, which ended quite some time ago, we looked into,” Schiff said.
“So, we have looked into all of these issues. Some of the information we have found on various issues, we will be presenting it to the public for the first time in the hearing coming up. It will be the usual mix of information in the public domain and new information woven together to tell the story about one key thematic element of Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the election,” he added.
Judy Kurtz contributed.