Posts tagged with "January 6 select committee"

How the January 6 panel’s star witness drew a roadmap for Trump’s culpability

CasJune 30, 2022

Cassidy Hutchinson wasn’t a household name before her testimony at the January 6 select committee’s hearing on Tuesday, June 28, but it seems unlikely she’ll remain in obscurity now, reports Politico.

With what may prove the most damning testimony about a sitting president’s actions in American history, the former right hand of ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stitched together every element of the panel’s case against former President Donald Trump, Politico says.

The Capitol riot committee has painted the former president’s potential criminal culpability for his effort to overturn the election in stark hues: investigators have portrayed Trump fuming atop an increasingly conspiracy-addled West Wing and working to corrupt the peaceful transfer of power at any cost.

Yet it was their sixth hearing that most clearly cast Trump as a uniquely pernicious force, thanks to a soft-spoken but bell-clear witness.

“I was disgusted,” Hutchinson said of Trump’s behavior on January 6, particularly after he tweeted an attack on Mike Pence as the then-vice president was fleeing rioters who’d called for his execution. “It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”

And, while Trump and his allies rejected her assertions as “hearsay”—or, in Trump’s case, simply false—the former president’s allies have offered limited pushback so far to any of the specific evidence and recollections she presented. In fact, much of what she described has been corroborated by others.

Among her recollections, part of a succession of shocking details from inside the White House:

  • Trump was informed that members of the crowd during the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6, 2021, carried weapons. He asked the Secret Service to dismantle metal detectors to let them into the Ellipse,  so that his audience would appear larger on TV. Those rallygoers would later march to the Capitol and mount a violent siege aimed at disrupting Congress’ certification of Trump’s loss.
  • Trump lunged at the steering wheel of his presidential vehicle after he was informed that the Secret Service would not permit him to travel to the Capitol following his speech at that Ellipse rally.
  • Trump told aides that he agreed with those who had stormed the Capitol and thought they were “right” to call for Pence’s hanging.
  • Meadows and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani sought pardons from the then-president for their actions on that date related to challenging the election.

Hutchinson shared her sworn narrative just as federal prosecutors appear to be closing in on several of Trump’s top supporters/aides in his effort to stay in power. FBI agents last week seized the cell phone of attorney John Eastman, who devised a January 6 strategy to pressure Pence to overturn the election; they also searched the Lorton, Virginia, residence of Jeffery Clark, a former Justice Department official whom Trump nearly appointed acting attorney general to aid his election subversion push.

Meanwhile, Trump was also watching. The former president uncorked an 11-post tirade against Hutchinson on the Truth Social platform he created after getting booted from Twitter post-Capitol riot. He called her a “third-rate social climber,” denying her accounts of his comments about Pence as well as his apparent physical confrontation with his Secret Service leader—and even suggested her handwriting was indicative of a “whacko.”

Some Trump allies sought to puncture Hutchinson’s credibility by casting doubt on the notion that Trump could have lunged at the wheel of his car, given the layout of the presidential limousine known as “The Beast.” However, he was not riding in the beast; but in an SUV he often used.

Former security aide Tony Ornato relayed to her the details of what took place in Trump’s Secret Service vehicle, as she explained to the select panel.

Yet Hutchinson laid out a road map for the committee to test her own credibility. She showed that, time and again, she was a go-to for Trump backers looking to connect with Meadows and, ultimately, the former president himself.

McCarthy called her to vent about Trump’s rally speech on January 6, she recalled. Cipollone complained to her that White House aides could be on the hook for crimes if Trump traveled to the Capitol on Jan. 6, she said. And former national intelligence director John Ratcliffe told Hutchinson he was concerned about Trump’s effort to overturn the election, she testified.

Even when Hutchinson wasn’t dropping bombshells, she was helping paint a granular picture of Trump’s West Wing and how it operated. She described top officials as falling into three camps during the riot: those who pleaded with Trump to call off the rioters; those who stayed “neutral,” knowing that Trump didn’t want to act; and those who wanted to “deflect” blame for the violence away from Trump supporters.

Hutchinson described the layout of the West Wing, the way information flowed among officials in Trump’s chaotic offices, and the way Meadows was the connective tissue for Trump among a slew of disparate factions within his orbit.

Where the select committee goes from here is a bigger question now, Politico notes. Its chair, Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), floated the possibility of calling then-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone in for a transcribed hearing. The former top Trump White House lawyer already has met informally with the panel but has not sat for the type of on-camera interview that many other former aides have.

The panel also plans to highlight the nexus between Trump’s orbit and the domestic extremist groups that seeded the Capitol riot—including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. And there’s likely to be a further public effort to reconstruct Trump’s movements on January 6, as he watched the violence unfold on TV, but took no actions to help quell the mob.

Research contact: @politico

In wake of Buffalo shooting, Liz Cheney says House GOP leaders ‘enabled white nationalism’

May 18, 2022

Top Republicans in the House of Representatives are facing new scrutiny, as critics, including some within their own party, contend that they have failed to condemn the racist rhetoric espoused by the suspected gunman who killed ten Black people at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket on Saturday, May 14, reports ABC News.

A far-right conspiracy known as the “great replacement theory”—which contends that white Americans are intentionally being replaced by minorities and immigrants—was included in a 180-page screed posted online by the alleged shooter.

On Monday, May 16, Republican Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a frequent critic of her own party, singled out what she called a parallel between those beliefs and the behavior of some fellow conservatives.

“The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism,” she wrote in a tweet. “History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.”

Cheney was notably replaced last year from her number-three post in the House’s Republican leadership after saying she would “not sit back and watch in silence” as former President Donald Trump continued to falsely claim he won the presidential election.

In the wake of the Buffalo shooting, New York Republican Representative Elise Stefanik, Cheney’s successor, has become a primary target of criticism over how members of the GOP have voiced ideas similar to “replacement theory.”

“Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION. Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington,” Stefanik said in a Facebook ad for her reelection, which launched last August. According to Facebook, the ad, pushed out repeatedly, reached hundreds of thousands of people.

When Stefanik first tweeted condolences to her home state on Saturday, Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger, the only other House Republican to sit on the January 6 select committee with Cheney, said in a tweet, “Did you know: @EliseStefanik pushes white replacement theory?”

Fueling the criticism on social media was a 2021 editorial from Stefanik’s hometown newspaper, The Albany Times Union, which blasted her last September in a piece titled “How low, Miss Stefanik?”

According to the ABC News report, the Times Union editorial board had focused on Stefanik’s “despicable” Facebook ads, which echoed elements of “replacement theory.” Her ads didn’t mention the conspiracy theory by name, but they insisted, in part, that Democrats were looking to grant citizenship to immigrants who entered the country illegally in order to somehow gain an enduring majority—or, in Stefanik’s words, a “permanent election insurrection.”

With the piece recirculating on social media in the wake of the shooting, Stefanik and her team are pushing back on the renewed focus on her campaign ads.

Her office said Monday that making any link between her past comments and the shooting was a “new disgusting low” for Democrats and “Never Trump” Republicans as well as the media.

“Despite sickening and false reporting, Congresswoman Stefanik has never advocated for any racist position or made a racist statement,” Alex DeGrasse, a senior adviser, said in a statement. “The shooting was an act of evil and the criminal should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he added.

Stefanik, DeGrasse said, “opposes mass amnesty for illegal immigrants …. She strongly supports legal immigration and is one of the national leaders credited with diversifying the Republican Party through candidate recruitment and messaging.”

What’s more, Stefanik isn’t the only House Republican who has claimed there is a movement to “replace” voters. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) delivered an explicit endorsement of the conspiracy last September.

Gaetz tweeted that Fox News host Tucker Carlson—who has said he believes “the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate”—is “CORRECT about Replacement Theory as he explains what is happening to America;” and called the Anti-Defamation League, which called on Carlson to resign, a “racist organization.”

ABC News previously reported that evidence points to the Buffalo shooting being a calculated, racially-motivated execution by the suspect, an 18-year-old white man, according to multiple sources and a review of FBI cases and testimony. The teen gunman allegedly wanted a race war and livestreamed his attack in an apparent effort to spur others to kill minorities, sources said.

The FBI is investigating the mass shooting as a hate crime and a case of “racially motivated violent extremism” after Erie County Sheriff John Garcia described the attack as a “straight-up racially motivated hate crime.”

The suspect has pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder and is being held without bail.

Research contact: @abcnews