WASHINGTON – Before the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Trump White House officials and members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus drew up a strategy for a plan to direct thousands of angry marchers to the building, according to a recently released testimony from the House committee. . investigation into the riot and former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overthrow the election.
On a planning call that included Mark Meadows, the White House Chief of Staff; Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer; Representative Jim Jordan, Republican from Ohio; and other Freedom Caucus members, the group discussed the idea of encouraging supporters to march to the Capitol, according to a witness report.
The idea was approved by Representative Scott Perry, the Republican from Pennsylvania who now heads the Freedom Caucus, according to testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Mr. Meadows, and no one on the call spoke against the idea.
“I do not think there is a participant in the call who would necessarily have deterred the idea,” Hutchinson told committee investigators.
The nearly two-kilometer march from the president’s “Stop the Steal” meeting at the Ellipse to the Capitol, where parts of the crowd turned into a violent mob, has become the focus of both the House committee and the Justice Department as they investigate who was responsible for the violence.
Mr. Meadows and members of the Freedom Caucus, who were deeply involved in Mr. Trump’s push to overthrow the 2020 election has condemned the violence on the Capitol on January 6 and defended their role in spreading the lie about a stolen election.
Mrs Hutchinson’s testimony and other material that the committee revealed in a 248-page trial on Friday added new details and texture to what is publicly known about the discussions in Mr. Trump’s inner circle and among his allies in the weeks leading up to January. 6 assaults.
The filing is part of the committee’s efforts to seek dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Mr. Meadows. It revealed testimony that Mr. Meadows was told that plans to try to overthrow the 2020 election with the help of so-called deputies were not “legally sound” and that the events of January 6 could be violent. Still, he pushed himself forward with the rally leading up to the march on the Capitol, according to the archive.
The submission also revealed new details about Mr. Meadows’ involvement in trying to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger over Mr. Trumps loss there.
At rallies in Washington in November and December 2020, Mr. Trump’s supporters did not march to the Capitol and mostly stayed away from violence. But on January 6, Mr. Trump sent a crowd of thousands to march to the building, telling them, “You will never take our country back with weakness. You must show strength.” He did so after the White House chief of operations told Mr. Meadows about “intel reports that there could potentially be violence on the 6th,” according to the archive.
Two convention organizers, Dustin Stockton and his fiancée, Jennifer L. Lawrence, have also provided the committee with evidence that they were concerned that a march to the Capitol on January 6 would mean “possible danger” and that Mr. Stockton’s “urgent concerns” were escalated to Mr. Meadows, according to the committee.
In his book, “The Chief’s Chief,” Mr. Meadows, at Mr. Trump “ad-libred a line no one had seen before” when he asked the audience to march, adding that the president “knew as well as anyone that we would not arrange such a trip at such short notice.”
Mrs Hutchinson’s testimony contradicts those statements.
She said that Mr. Meadows had said “in a casual conversation”: “Oh, we are going to have this big meeting. People are talking about it on social media. They are going up to the Capitol.”
And when we talked about the scheduling call that involved Mr. Meadows and Freedom Caucus members, a committee researcher asked her if Mr. Perry supported “the idea of sending people to the Capitol on January 6.”
“He did,” Mrs. Hutchinson replied.
A spokesman for Mr. Perry, who has refused to speak to the committee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Ministry of Justice and the committee have both investigated the question of how the crowd moved from the Ellipse to the Capitol.
The committee’s investigators have e.g. received draft copies of Mr. Trump’s speech. This month, they pressured its author, Stephen Miller, a former White House top adviser, over whether Mr. Trump’s repeated use of the word “we” had been an attempt to lead his supporters to join him in moving the Capitol to stop Congress from confirming its defeat.
Rally planners, such as prominent “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander, also had a hand in getting people to move from the Ellipse to the Capitol. Sir. Alexander, at the request of helpers to Mr. Trump, left the speech before it was over, marched near the head of a crowd heading toward the building.
With Mr. Alexander that day, Alex Jones was the founder of the conspiracy-driven media Infowars, which encouraged audiences by shouting around 1776.
On Wednesday, Mr. revealed Jones that he had recently asked the Justice Department for an agreement, after which he would give a formal interview to the government about his role in the events of January 6 in return for not being prosecuted.
Capitol Riot’s Aftermath: Key Developments
Signs of progress. The federal investigation into the January 6 attack appears to be gaining momentum. The Justice Department has brought in a reputable new prosecutor to help lead the investigation, while a high-profile witness – far-right Alex Jones – is seeking an immunity deal to provide information.
Two weeks earlier, Mr Alexander had revealed that he had received a summons from a federal grand jury seeking information about a large number of people – rally planners, members of Congress and White House officials – who played a role in the political events that preceded the attack on the Capitol.
Mrs Hutchinson’s testimony indicated that members of the Freedom Caucus were also involved in plans to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to cast electoral votes from states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. and accept false certificates claiming that these states had voted for Mr. Trump.
She said members of Congress involved in the discussions included Mr. Jordan; Mr. Perry; Representatives Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar and Debbie Lesko of Arizona; Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama; Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida; Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jody Hice of Georgia; Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas; and Representative Lauren Boebert from Colorado. (In the end, 147 congressional Republicans voted to protest Mr. Biden’s victory in at least one state.)
“They felt that he had the authority to – excuse me if my wording is not correct on this, but – send votes back to the states or the voters back to the states,” Mrs Hutchinson testified, adding that they had appeared to embrace a plan promoted by conservative lawyer John Eastman, which members of both parties have compared to a plan for a coup.
Ms. Hutchinson suggested that White House lawyers had found that the plan was not “legally sound” but that Mr. Meadows allowed it to move on.
The committee’s filing also contained an email revealing that a pro-Trump lawyer named Cleta Mitchell also played a role in promoting the alternative election system.
The e-mail that Mrs. Mitchell sent to Mr. Meadows, on December 6, 2020, included a list of “key points” about the plan, noting, for example, that “the U.S. Constitution gives authority to state lawmakers to nominate presidential voters.”
Ms. Mitchell had sent a version of the email a day earlier to Senator Mike Braun, a Republican from Indiana, prior to the senator’s appearance on television. When Mrs. Mitchell forwarded the email to Mr. Meadows, she wrote: “This is what I prepared and sent to Sen Braun last night to help prepare him for ABC appearances today. Can WH’s press office come and start using ??”
The archive also shows that Mr. Meadows was in contact with Phil Waldron, a retired army colonel with training in psychological operations, who was among a group of plotters who pushed extreme plans to persuade Mr. Trump to use his national security apparatus to take control of the country’s voting machines in an attempt to stay in power.
In collaboration with others like the pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Mr. Waldron a conspiracy theory that foreign actors had hacked into voting machines made by Dominion Voting Systems in an attempt to turn votes from Mr. Trump to Mr. Biden.
In a recently published email sent to Mr. Meadows on December 22, 2020, included Mr. Waldron an 18-page document that he described as a “National Asset Tasking Request.”
The document was essentially a proposal that sought the president’s approval for agencies such as the FBI and the National Security Agency to search their databases for individuals and Internet addresses associated with Dominion, such as Mr. Waldron believed could have information about the alleged hacking scheme.
Mr. Waldron wrote that he had discussed the plan with Mr. Meadows in his office the day before.