Select House committee digging into GOP lawmaker roles in Trump coup attempt
U.S. Capitol Attack | Photographer Lev Radin | Sipa USA via AP

WASHINGTON—The seven lawmakers on the special committee probing the Jan. 6 Trumpite insurrection at the U.S. Capitol are digging into Republican colleagues’ complicity in former GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump’s coup attempt.

And once they get done with depositions and closed-door testimony—and, where needed, subpoenaing witnesses—they’ll hold public hearings and issue a report and recommendations before the end of this Congress. Then they’ll turn their evidence over to the Justice Department for prosecution, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., adds.

Schiff, one of the five Democrats on the panel and leader of the first, unsuccessful impeachment try against Trump, did not name lawmakers the committee is probing.

But video of the fatal insurrection show complicity by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and subsequent statements from extreme-right GOP House members add to it. Other lawmakers are seen giving tours of D.C. buildings with access to the Capitol to groups of insurrectionists. And complicity extends beyond those few individuals to every lawmaker who toed and still toes Trump’s “election fraud,” line Schiff said.

“If the investigation leads to fellow members of Congress, we’ll follow the evidence” and then make it public through hearings at the end to educate the entire U.S. “But what happens after that” to lawmakers “will be up to the Justice Department to determine if any of them has broken a criminal law and should be prosecuted.

“And if they continue to push the big lie” by Trump about a “stolen election” and fraud in key states—Trump singled out states and cities with high numbers of voters of color—“even after seeing the violence it brought, then their responsibility” for endangering and potentially destroying democracy “is even greater,” Schiff said.

The House, however, can also exert its own punishment on lawmakers who aided and abetted the insurrection, ranging from censure to expulsion, he noted.

Judge nixes Trump claims of privilege

Rep. Adam Schiff | AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Schiff’s analysis preceded, by a week, a boost the committee got from U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in D.C. She ruled on Nov. 9 Trump cannot invoke executive privilege to withhold his papers and evidence from the panel, since he isn’t president now.

“His (Trump’s) position appears to be…premised on the notion that his executive power exists in perpetuity,” Judge Chutkan wrote. “But presidents are not kings, and plaintiff”—Trump—“is not president.”

“Executive privilege is not for the benefit of an individual, but for the benefit of the republic” and applies only within set limits, such as national security, the judge ruled.

As for Trump, or complicit lawmakers, the Constitution’s 14th amendment can bar them from office, the judge noted.

Trump also argued, in essence, that the committee is on a fishing expedition against him. The judge rejected that, too. She said its final report and legislative recommendations could include legislation to uphold the constitutional ban on future officeholding by “an executive officer or member of Congress who engaged in insurrection or rebellion.”

The House panel “could reasonably expect” records from Trump, including communications with his aides and with the Trump coup war room in the Willard Hotel “to shed light on White House planning and strategies for public messaging, any efforts to halt or delay the electoral (vote) count and preparations for and responses to” Jan. 6.

But it’s not just those lawmakers such as Hawley and Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., or Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who are responsible for the insurrection, Schiff said in a Nov. 3 interview hosted by Los Angeles-based Jews United for Democracy and Justice. Video of the 75-minute session is at www.jewsunitedfordemocracy.org/past-events.

It’s every lawmaker—which means a majority of the GOP on both sides of Capitol Hill—who continues to swallow Trump’s big lie that the 2020 election was stolen, Schiff said. And he’s not the only one.

In a recent discussion on voting rights with the Rev. William Barber II, the Poor People’s Coalition co-founder, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a constitutional law professor and leader of the second Trump impeachment prosecution—the one covering Jan. 6—discussed the same issue.

“The question is ‘will we be a government of men and women or a government of a president who uses his office to entrench himself and then refuses to accept the result?” of the election he lost in 2020, Raskin asked. Raskin also sits on the seven-member panel.

That’s also one big topic of the subpoenas it issued the last two days to at least ten Trump aides and acolytes, including to GOP lawyer, John Eastman, who hatched the plan to have Trump Vice President Mike Pence arbitrarily toss out the electoral votes of the key pro-Biden swing states of Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Wisconsin.

Doing so would have thrown the election into the House, which constitutionally would vote for a president state-by-state, with each state getting one vote. There the GOP controls 24 states, most of them small, such as Idaho, Kansas, and Utah. Three state delegations—Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—are tied.

Eastman participated in the briefing

“In the days before January 6th, Eastman is reported to have participated in a briefing for nearly 300 state legislators regarding purported election fraud, during which he told the group that it was ‘the duty of the legislatures to fix this, this egregious conduct, and make sure that we’re not putting in the White House some guy that didn’t get elected,’” the panel explained.

“Eastman reportedly participated in the Jan. 5, 2021 meeting” of top Trumpites in the post-election pre-invasion Willard Hotel “war room,” the committee explained. Eastman definitely spoke to the Trumpite mob at the Jan. 6 rally where Trump incited them to attack the Capitol, it added.

It also subpoenaed other top Trump aides and their records of meetings and communications with both Trump and the war room. Recipients included Trump campaign manager William Stepien and noted bigot and top Trump advisor Jason Miller—who, with presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Trump confidante Stephen Bannon met in the war room on Jan. 5 to discuss how to overturn the election.

Other subpoenas went to former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, a Giuliani confidante and business partner. Both participated in the war room meetings on “stop the steal” and throwing out electoral votes. Kerik also paid for suites in the pricey Willard, though news reports show the Trump campaign repaid him.

“This conservative lawyer wrote a 6-page memo which was a blueprint for a coup,” Washington Post reporter Robert Costa said about Eastman in an Oct. 28 roundtable with Chicago Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet.

“On Jan. 5, Trump is in the Oval Office pressuring Pence to throw the election,” Costa continued. Pence resisted and his continued resistance the next day led the invaders to try to hunt him down. They narrowly missed, due to the bravery of one Capitol Police officer, who led them away from Pence and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.

“Then he (Trump) calls the war room in the Willard” on Jan. 5 to talk with Giuliani and Bannon about issuing a statement saying Pence would agree “though it was a lie,” said Costa, co-author with Bob Woodward of the book about Trump’s last days, Peril.

The panel also must tackle how to prevent a future Trumpite takeover of what is now “our fragile democracy,” say both Costa and Schiff, in his book, Midnight in Washington and in the interview.

The “peril” of Trump “is about his ascendancy to the presidency again,” Costa warned. By the end of his term, Trump had learned how to manipulate the government to his own ends, which include authoritarianism. “He’s endangered American democracy to the extreme,” said Costa.

And Trump’s ensured that “the anti-vaxxers are also the election deniers. Faith in institutions has eroded to the raw bone” as people ignore “facts and reality.”

Schiff also warned about the Trump threat, though he believes the nation will ultimately work through it.

“If we are forced to endure another four years of Donald Trump as president”—along with two years of Trump clone Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., running the House if the GOP wins control in 2022—“this country and its democracy will look nothing like it does today.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

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