Posts tagged with "2021"

DOJ seeks to speak with Pence as part of January 6 investigation

November 25, 2022

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking testimony from former Vice President Mike Pence for its investigation into Donald Trump’s attempts to stay in power after losing the 2020 presidential election, reports HuffPost.

Sources familiar with the matter confirmed the DOJ’s efforts to The New York TimesCNN, and ABC News on Wednesday, November 23. All reported that Pence, who has developed a fraught relationship with Trump after refusing to support his election fraud claims, is open to the request.

DOJ investigators reportedly contacted Pence before Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel―Jack Smith, who once led the public integrity section―to take over the probe last week. As of now, Pence has not been subpoenaed.

Although he is reportedly open to testifying before the DOJ, Pence has refused to participate in a similar investigation led by a House select committee, saying last week that Congress “has no right to my testimony.”

But that doesn’t mean that Trump is happy about it: Indeed, according to HuffPost, the former president may seek legal avenues to stop Pence from testifying by invoking executive privilege, which at the very least, could stall the DOJ’s efforts to convene with him.

Pence could be a key witness in the investigations into the efforts by Trump and his allies to subvert democracy, including a plan to create a fake slate of pro-Trump electors in several states Biden won in 2020, because of his close communications with the ex-president in the days leading up to January 6, 2021, when an angry mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol with Trump’s encouragement.

Pence detailed many of their exchanges in his recently released book, saying Trump summoned him to meet with attorney John Eastman, who then pressured Pence to block the electoral college certification process in Congress.

Wednesday’s news comes the week after Pence shared that he’s giving “prayerful consideration” to running for president in 2024―a race for which Trump already has announced his candidacy. Pence said there are “better choices” than Trump for president last week when asked if he’d be a good presidential candidate again.

Research contact: @HuffPost

McConnell signals support for Electoral Count Act changes

September 29, 2022

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has offered qualified support for a Senate bill that would overhaul a 19th-century law that governs the way Congress counts and ratifies presidential elector votes, giving the bipartisan effort a boost, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The House passed its own version last week, 229-203. Both measures are a response to efforts by then-President Donald Trump and his supporters to try to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

“I strongly support the modest changes that our colleagues in the working group have fleshed out after literally months of detailed discussions,” McConnell said on the Senate floor on Tuesday, September 27, before the Senate Rules Committee voted to advance the bill. He said he would “proudly support the legislation, provided nothing more than technical changes are made to its current form.”

The 1887 Electoral Count Act requires Congress to convene for a joint session after a presidential election, on January 6 at 1 p.m., to count and ratify the electoral votes certified by the 50 states and District of Columbia. The vice president, serving as president of the Senate, has the duty to count the votes. Last year, Trump pressured then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject some electors unilaterally, which Pence refused to do.

McConnell said he was convinced of the need for an update to the law following the “chaos that came to a head on January 6 of last year,” when Trump supporters overran the Capitol—temporarily halting the ratification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College win.

The Senate bill already has public support from 11 Republican senators—enough to overcome the chamber’s 60-vote filibuster threshold, if all 50 members of the Democratic caucus vote yes. Negotiations over the measure have been led by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia).

The legislation would raise the threshold for lawmakers to object to the electoral count to one-fifth of each chamber. The House bill would raise the threshold higher, to one-third.

Both thresholds are higher than the current law, which only requires one House member and one senator to raise an objection, which both chambers then have to debate and vote on.

The Senate bill would clarify that the vice president is merely tasked with a ministerial role of counting the votes publicly and doesn’t have the power to determine the outcome of the election.

Research contact: @WSJ

January 6 Committee returns with another public hearing on Wednesday, September 28

September 27, 2022

“If he is the nominee, I won’t be a Republican.” That’s how Wyoming GOP Representative Liz Cheney framed the danger of another Donald Trump presidency—vowing on Saturday, “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure he is not the nominee,” should he run again,” reports CNN.

Her pointed comments come ahead of what’s likely to be the final public hearing from the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, before it releases its final report.

The 1 p.m. (EDT) start time on Wednesday is perhaps more calculated than meets the eye. Discussing the timing on CNN Sunday, Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren noted, “In the past, Fox News does play our hearings if the hearing is in the daytime.”

“So that’s a factor in reaching an audience that is not watching CNN,” the California Democrat added.

As Cheney’s fate last month showed, the committee is up against the clock. Neither she nor Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger—the only two Republicans on the panel—will be returning to Congress next year, when a possible House GOP majority could look much different

What will the committee present this week? Panel members are keeping this close to the chest.

“I think it’ll be potentially more sweeping than some of the other hearings, but it too will be in a very thematic—it will tell the story about a key element of Donald Trump’s plot to overturn the election,” Democratic Representative Adam Schiff of California told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” Sunday.

The chairman of the committee, Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, said last week, “We have substantial footage of what occurred that we haven’t used.”

Thompson also said there was “significant witness testimony that we haven’t used in other hearings,” calling it “an opportunity” to get it in front of the American people.

And, while Cheney said on Saturday she believes former Vice President Mike Pence has an “obligation” to speak with the committee, Lofgren was pessimistic on Sunday that the committee would hear from either the former President or former vice president.

“The vice president had said publicly that he thought he might want to come in, and so we were very encouraged by that. But since that time, his people have walked it back,” Lofgren said on CNN.

“And to be honest, given that select committees of this Congress—not just this select committee but all the select committees—exist only for the life of the Congress, if we were trying to get into a subpoena fight with either the former vice president or the former president, that litigation could not be concluded during the life of this Congress.”

One person who may be showing up for an interview in the coming weeks, though? Ginni Thomas. The House committee has come to an agreement with the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, CNN first reported last week.

Research contact: @CNN

CNN exclusive: Mark Meadows has complied with DOJ subpoena in January 6 probe

September 16, 2022

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has complied with a subpoena from the Justice Department’s investigation into events surrounding the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, sources familiar with the matter have told CNN—making him the highest-ranking Trump official known to have responded to a subpoena in the federal investigation.

Meadows turned over the same materials he provided to the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack, one source said, meeting the obligations of the Justice Department subpoena, which has not been previously reported.

Last year, Meadows turned over thousands of text messages and emails to the House committee, before he stopped cooperating. The texts he handed over between Election Day 2020 and Joe Biden’s inauguration, which CNN previously obtained, provided a window into his dealings at the White House, though he withheld hundreds of messages, citing executive privilege.

In addition to Trump’s former chief of staff, one of Meadows’ top deputies in the White House, Ben Williamson, also recently received a grand jury subpoena, another source familiar with the matter has informed CNN.

That subpoena was similar to what others in Trump’s orbit received. It asked for testimony and records relating to January 6 and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Williamson previously cooperated with the January 6 committee. He declined to comment to CNN.

Meadows’ compliance with the subpoena comes as the Justice Department has ramped up its investigation related to January 6, which now touches nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss—including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts, CNN reported this week.

An attorney for Meadows declined comment. The Justice Department did not respond to CNN requests for comment.

As White House chief of staff, Meadows was in the middle of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election in the two months between Election Day and Biden’s inauguration. Meadows communicated with numerous officials who tried to find election fraud and pushed various schemes to try to overturn the election, according to text messages obtained by CNN that Meadows turned over to the House select committee.

Meadows also shared baseless conspiracy theories with Justice Department leaders, as Trump tried to enlist DOJ’s help in his push to claim the election was stolen from him.

After Meadows stopped cooperating with the House committee, Congress referred him to the Justice Department for contempt of Congress. DOJ declined to prosecute him for contempt earlier this year.

It’s not yet clear whether the Justice Department will seek more materials from Meadows as part of the ongoing criminal investigation, which could lead to a legal fight over executive privilege.

Following last month’s FBI search of Trump’s Florida residence and resort, the Ma-a-Lago Club, Meadows handed over texts and emails to the National Archivesv that he had not previously turned over from his time in the administration, CNN previously reported. Last year, Meadows spoke with Trump about the documents he brought to Mar-a-Lago that the National Archives wanted returned.

Trump has been counseled to cut contact with Meadows—and some of Trump’s attorneys believe Meadows could also be in investigators’ crosshairs and are concerned he could become a fact witness if he’s pushed to cooperate, CNN reported last month. Still, Trump and Meadows have spoken a number of times, according to a source familiar with their relationship.

Another source described their relationship as “not the same as it once was” while in the White House, but said they still have maintained a relationship, even as Trump has complained about Meadows to others.

Research contact: @CNN

ADL: Hundreds of police and military officers, and public officials are members of the Oath Keepers

September 8, 2022

The names of hundreds of U.S. law enforcement officers, elected officials, and military members appear on the leaked membership rolls of a far-right extremist group that’s accused of playing a key role in the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to a report released on Wednesday, September 7, reports HuffPost.

 The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism pored over more than 38,000 names on leaked Oath Keepers membership lists and identified more than 370 people it believes currently work in law enforcement agencies—including as police chiefs and sheriffs—and more than 100 people who are currently members of the military.

 It also identified more than 80 people who were running for or serving in public office as of early August. The membership information was compiled into a database published by the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets.

 The data raise fresh concerns about the presence of extremists in law enforcement and the military who are tasked with enforcing laws and protecting the USA. It’s especially problematic for public servants to be associated with extremists at a time when lies about the 2020 election are fueling threats of violence against lawmakers and institutions.

“Even for those who claimed to have left the organization when it began to employ more aggressive tactics in 2014, it is important to remember that the Oath Keepers have espoused extremism since their founding, and this fact was not enough to deter these individuals from signing up,” the report says.

Appearing in the Oath Keepers’ database doesn’t prove that a person was ever an active member of the group or shares its ideology. Some people on the list contacted by The Associated Press said they were briefly members years ago and are no longer affiliated with the group. Some said they were never dues-paying members.

 “Their views are far too extreme for me,” said Shawn Mobley, sheriff of Otero County, Colorado. Mobley told the AP in an email that he distanced himself from the Oath Keepers years ago over concerns about its involvement in the standoff against the federal government at Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, among other things.

 The Oath Keepers, founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, is a loosely organized conspiracy theory-fueled group that recruits current and former military, police, and first responders. It asks its members to vow to defend the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” promotes the belief that the federal government is out to strip citizens of their civil liberties, and paints its followers as defenders against tyranny.

 More than two dozen people associated with the Oath Keepers—including Rhodes—have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Rhodes and four other Oath Keeper members or associates are heading to trial this month on seditious conspiracy charges for what prosecutors have described as a weekslong plot to keep President Donald Trump in power. Rhodes and the other Oath Keepers say they are innocent and that there was no plan to attack the Capitol.

 Among the elected officials whose names appears on the membership lists is South Dakota state Representative Phil Jensen, who won a June Republican primary in his bid for reelection. Jensen told the AP he paid for a one-year membership in 2014, never received any Oath Keepers’ literature, attended any meetings, or renewed his membership.

 Jensen said he felt compelled to join because he “believed in the oath that we took to support the U.S. Constitution and to defend it against enemies foreign and domestic.” He wouldn’t say whether he now disavows the Oath Keepers, saying he doesn’t have enough information about the group today.

 “Back in 2014, they appeared to be a pretty solid conservative group, I can’t speak to them now,” he said.

 ADL said it found the names of at least ten people who now work as police chiefs and 11 sheriffs. All of the police chiefs and sheriffs who responded to the AP said they no longer have any ties to the group.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Biden: Trump and allies threaten America’s democracy

Seeptember 5, 2022

Speaking in Philadelphia on Thursday, September 1, President Joe Biden warned that former President Donald Trump and his allies are threatening to undermine the nation’s democracy—using a prime-time address to lay out his concerns for the country’s future when millions of Americans have questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Standing in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, Biden directly condemned what he called “MAGA Republicans”—citing the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters and saying, “As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault.”

The speech came just before the traditional Labor Day start of the midterm election campaign season and was delivered from a key battleground state.

“Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal,” he said. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic.”

Biden sought to draw a distinction between Republicans allied with Trump and others in the party. He called people from all parties to “unite behind the single purpose of defending our democracy regardless of your ideology.”

Democrats hold narrow majorities in both the House and Senate, and Biden is seeking to turn the elections into a choice for voters between his party and that of Republicans, who have criticized his leadership and have said Democrats are trying to distract from the more central issues of inflation and economic unrest.

The speech came during one of three visits that Biden is making to Pennsylvaniain the course of a week. Trump is scheduled to hold a rally in the state for GOP candidates Saturday.

Responding after the speech, Trump posted the following message on Truth Social: “Someone should explain to Joe Biden, slowly but passionately, that MAGA means, as powerfully as mere words can get, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! If he doesn’t want to Make America Great Again, which through words, action, and thought, he doesn’t, then he certainly should not be representing the United States of America!”

Research contact: @WSJ

Liz Cheney says new political group will target Trump allies

August 23, 2022

Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) said on Sunday, August 21, that her political focus after leaving Congress would go beyond challenging former President Donald Trump’s hold on the Republican Party to include opposing candidates who promote Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen, reports The Wall Street Journal.

 “I’m going to be very focused on working to ensure that we do everything we can not to elect election deniers,” Cheney said on ABC. “We’ve got election deniers that have been nominated for really important positions all across the country. And I’m going to work against those people. I’m going to work to support their opponents.”

 Cheney, the most prominent of the House Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump on a charge of inciting the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, lost her GOP primary election last week.

 Hours after her loss, she filed with the Federal Election Commission to transfer the remaining cash from her federal campaign account to a new political-action committee. She had more than $7 million in cash on hand at the end of July, according to FEC filings.

 Cheney’s stature as a leading critic of Trump and her presumed ability to raise money have generated broad interest in her next steps in politics. If she took action this year, her comments could translate into support for Democratic candidates in some races. In states including Nevada, Pennsylvania and Arizona, Republican nominees running for Congress, as well as for statewide offices such as secretary of state and governor, have promoted the idea that the 2020 election was stolen and that President Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.

Cheney, in the interview on Sunday, cited as potential targets Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, as well as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

, all of whom are Republicans with presidential ambitions. Of the two senators, she said that both “took steps that fundamentally threatened the constitutional order and structure in the aftermath of the last election. So, in my view, they both have made themselves unfit for future office.’’

 The two senators objected in writing to certifying the results of the 2020 presidential contest. A photograph of Hawley with a raised fist earlier that day in solidarity with the Trump supporters surrounding the Capitol has become an iconographic image of January 6.

 A spokesperson for Cruz said, “Senator Cruz doesn’t need or want soon-to-be-former Rep. Liz Cheney’s endorsement, and he wishes her the best of luck in the 2024 Democrat presidential primary.” A spokesman for Hawley said, “We wish her the best.” Representatives for Mr. DeSantis didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Cheney didn’t offer details about the chance that she would run for the presidency in 2024 or, if she did run, whether it would be as a Republican or an Independent. “Any decision that I make about doing something that significant and that serious would be with the intention of winning and because I think I would be the best candidate,” she said.

 

Research contact: @WSJ

Josh Hawley pledges not to‘run,’ after being caught running from Trump mob

July 26, 2022

On Thursday evening, July 21, during a primetime hearing, the January 6 committee played stunning footage  of Senator  Josh Hawley  (R-Missouri) running away from a mob of pro-Trump vigilantes that he had been seen riling up just hours earlier, reports The Daily Beast.

Despite the clip—which clearly showed the Republican lawmaker on the run from the Capitol attackers—nearly 24 hours later, he pledged to a group of young conservative activists that he would not “run” away from a battle.

“Hey, listen, I know what I’m talking about because I had them do it to me,” he proudly declared at Turning Point USA’s summer conference in Tampa on Friday evening—referring to being called a “traitor” over pushing for “election integrity.”

“I objected on January 6 last year to the state of Pennsylvania,” he boasted, adding,

“And I just want to say to all of those liberals out there and the liberal media, just in case you haven’t gotten the message yet, I do not regret it,” Hawley continued. “And I am not backing down. I’m not gonna apologize, I’m not gonna cower, I’m not gonna run from you.”

“I’m not gonna bend the knee,” he concluded.

The remarks come as both Hawley and former President Donald Trump attempt to push back on the bombshell January 6 hearing, The Daily Beast says.

Late Thursday night, Trump had a meltdown on his social media site, Truth Social. “I had an election Rigged and Stolen from me, and our Country. The USA is going to Hell,” he fumed after midnight. “Am I supposed to be happy?”

A source close to the ex-president told The Daily Beast during the hearing that Trump has expressed continued frustration at the “one-sided forum,” which gives no opportunity for “cross-examination” or the ability for Trump to “present [his] side.”

“There’s no courtroom in this country where that would be allowed,” the source, who regularly speaks to Trump, said.

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Mike Pence’s security detail feared for their lives, called family members, during Capitol riot

July 25, 2022

Members of former Vice President Mike Pence’s security detail were so afraid for their lives during the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot that they made calls over radio to say goodbye to their family members, according to testimony given by a former White House national security official to the House committee investigating the attack. The testimony was revealed at a hearing on Thursday, July 21, reports HuffPost.

The official’s identity was withheld for security reasons.

“There was a lot of yelling, a lot of very personal calls over the radio,” the official added. “It was disturbing. I don’t like talking about it, but there were calls to say goodbye to family members. The VP detail thought that this was going to get very ugly.”

After rioters broke into the Capitol, Secret Service rushed Pence to a secure area just off the Senate floor, where he had been presiding over the certification of the Electoral College resultsThe rioters came within 40 feet of Pence before he was evacuated. Some rioters were chanting for Pence to be hanged, and a gallows was erected outside the building.

Five people died and more than 140 officers were injured in the riot. Witnesses  described a war zone at the scene that looked like a “medieval battleground.”

Lawmakers and their staff who hid as the violence erupted on January 6 also feared for their lives. “I think I was in a state of shock, to be honest. I was absolutely terrified,” Erica Loewe, then a staffer for Represenjtative Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina), told HuffPost. “Looking back at the text messages … to my family and friends, I just asked them all to pray because I really didn’t know what was going to happen. I don’t think I truly understood the gravity of what happened until afterwards, when I saw the images.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

Bipartisan Senate group strikes deal to rewrite Electoral Count Act

July 22, 2022

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators proposed new legislation on Wednesday, July 20, that would modernize the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act—overhauling a law that former President Donald Trump tried to abuse on January 6, 2021, when he attempted to stop Congress’s certification of his election defeat, reports The New York Times.

The legislation aims to guarantee a peaceful transition from one president to the next, after the January 6 attack on the Capitol exposed how the current law could be manipulated to disrupt the process.

According to the Times, one measure would make it more difficult for lawmakers to challenge a state’s electoral votes when Congress meets to count them. It would also clarify that the vice president has no discretion over the results, and it would set out the steps to begin a presidential transition.

A second bill would increase penalties for threats to and intimidation of election officials, seek to improve the Postal Service’s handling of mail-in ballots, and renew for five years an independent federal agency that helps states administer and secure federal elections.

While passage of the legislation cannot guarantee that a repeat of January 6 will not occur in the future, its authors believe that a rewrite of the antiquated law—particularly, of the provisions related to the vice president’s role—could discourage such efforts and make it more difficult to disrupt the vote count.

Alarmed at the events of January 6 that showed longstanding flaws in the law governing the electoral count process, the bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) had been meeting for months to try to agree on the rewrite.

“In four of the past six presidential elections, this process has been abused, with members of both parties raising frivolous objections to electoral votes,” Collins said on Wednesday. “But it took the violent breach of the Capitol on January 6 of 2021 to really shine a spotlight on the urgent need for reform.”

In a joint statement, the 16 senators involved in the talks said they had set out to “fix the flaws” of the Electoral Count Act, which they called “archaic and ambiguous.” The statement said the group believed that, in consultation with election law experts, it had “developed legislation that establishes clear guidelines for our system of certifying and counting electoral votes for president and vice president.”

Although the authors are one short of the ten Republican senators needed to guarantee that the electoral count bill could make it past a filibuster and to final passage if all Democrats support it, they said they hoped to round up sufficient backing for a vote

Collins said she expected the Senate Rules Committee to convene a hearing on the measures before the August recess. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota and the chairwoman of the panel, was consulted in the drafting of the legislation.

The bills were announced on the eve of a prime-time hearing by the House committee investigating the events surrounding the January 6 attack, including Trump’s multilayered effort to invalidate his defeat.

The backers of the legislation were optimistic that they could win passage this year, viewing that time frame as their best opportunity given the prospect that Republicans—many of whom backed challenges to electoral votes for Joe Biden—could control the House next year.

The Electoral Count Act does need to be fixed,” Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and the minority leader, told reporters on Tuesday. He said that Collins had kept him apprised of the bipartisan negotiations and that he was “sympathetic” to the aims of those working on the legislation.

Under the proposal to overhaul the vote count, a state’s governor would be identified as the sole official responsible for submitting a state’s slate of electors following the presidential vote, barring other officials from doing so. That provision was aimed at heading off efforts similar to those employed by Trump and his backers, who sought to put forward their own sets of electors not recognized by the states and not reflective of the popular vote.

In an effort to prevent groundless efforts to object to a state’s electoral count, a minimum of one-fifth of both the House and the Senate would be needed to lodge an objection — a substantial increase from the current threshold of one House member and one senator. Objections still would have to be sustained by a majority of both the House and the Senate.

The bill also would create a new expedited route for a candidate to challenge a state’s slate of electors. Under the proposal, those claims would be heard by a special three-judge panel with a direct appeal to the Supreme Court.

“I think it is significant to make sure that the particulars around Jan. 6, in terms of any kind of question about the role of the vice president, will be cleared up,” said Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, one of the Democrats behind the legislation.

Besides Collins, the other Republican members of the bipartisan group backing the electoral count overhaul are Senators Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Todd Young of Indiana.

In addition to Manchin and Warner, the Democrats are Senators Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, Chris Coons of Delaware, Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Research contact: @nytimes