Was White House talking to insurrectionists as they trashed the Capitol?
The Jan. 6 Committee may hear testimony tomorrow about alleged ongoing phone contact between the White House and insurrectionists as they trashed the Capitol that day. | AP

Editor’s Note: This article was published before it was announced the House Select Committee hearing scheduled for Sept. 28 has been postponed due to Hurricane Ian.

WASHINGTON—The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Donald Trump-directed insurrection, invasion and coup d’état attempt at the U.S. Capitol will fill in more blanks in that overall story at its latest open investigative hearing, on September 28 at 1 pm, Eastern time.

Those blanks could include the report in a new book by Denver Riggleman, a former  one-term Republican congressman and a former panel investigator, that a White House staffer was on the phone with the Trumpite invaders as they trashed the Capitol.

“When you see that the White House switchboard had connected to a rioter’s phone while it’s happening, that’s a pretty big a-ha moment,” Riggleman told NBC interviewer Bill Whitaker in a taped interview played on Meet The Press.

“And that’s really what all of our hearings have been about,” panel member Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told the program’s host, Chuck Todd, while painting the big picture of Republican Trump’s coup plans and goal of staying in the White House—thus trashing the U.S. Constitution—even though he lost the 2020 presidential election to Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

The hearings have other potential topics, including Secret Service text messages and emails, since recovered, showing advance knowledge agents had of the coup plans, and their response, or lack of it.

And, Raskin, a constitutional law professor on leave told a top CBS correspondent on September 23 the hearing could cover top Trump aides Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon “interfacing with domestic violence extremists” before the coup try Trump pushed.

The panel’s September 28 hearing could be its last public investigative hearing. But it won’t be an end of the revelations, either that day or beyond:

  • Responding to a Fulton County, Ga. (Atlanta) grand jury subpoena, Trump’s last chief of staff, Mark Meadows, testified September 27 behind closed doors about his role in Trump’s tries to subvert the electoral vote count in the key swing state of Georgia.

Biden turned Georgia “purple” by beating Trump by 11,379 votes out of five million cast. With Meadows listening in, Trump pressured the state’s top elections official, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, “to find” 11,380 Trump votes to reverse the outcome.

In essence, Trump asked Raffensperger, a conservative Republican, to steal the election. Raffensperger refused. Meadows later traveled to Georgia with the same intent. The grand jury, directed by DA Fani Willis, wants to quiz him about both tries. Willis expects a report from the jurors late this year.

  • Five members of the violent white nationalist Oath Keepers group, including leader Stewart Rhodes, go on trial for “seditious conspiracy” in U.S. District Court in D.C., starting with jury selection on September 27. The Oath Keepers, along with the Proud Boys, led the actual invasion after Trump urged them to march on the Capitol in an inflammatory pre-invasion rally on January 6. Justice Department prosecutors plan to tell jurors the Oath Keepers openly tried to start “a civil war” to keep Trump in power. Three Oath Keepers have already pleaded guilty to the same charges and may be called among up to 40 witnesses at the scheduled five-week trial.
  • Raskin confirmed the phone call Riggleman discussed, though neither could say who in the White House made it. He also told Meet The Press host Chuck Todd it wasn’t the only one.

Can’t say anything specific

“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,” Raskin said.

“And that’s really what all of our hearings have been about,” said Raskin—painting the big picture of Trump’s coup plans and goal of staying in the White House even though he lost to Biden, thus trashing the U.S. Constitution and the peaceful handover of power.

More than 1,000 Trumpites, white nationalists and neo-Nazis invaded the Capitol, sending lawmakers, staffers and reporters running for their lives and temporarily stopping the electoral vote count that confirmed Biden won the 2020 balloting.

Five people—four of them police officers defending the Capitol—subsequently died, and another 140 officers were injured. Some were so injured, or so traumatized by their failure to stop the invaders, they had to retire on disability.

The House later impeached Trump for his planning of the coup, and named Raskin the lead prosecutor. But the Senate refused to convict him. The 57-43 vote in the evenly split Senate included seven Republicans. But 67 votes are needed for conviction.

That big picture will also come out in both an interim report from the committee and its final report, both scheduled before the end of the 117th Congress at noon on Jan. 3, 2023. The final report is expected to cover other topics as well, notably who paid the costs of the invasion. It will also include detailed recommendations to Congress on how to prevent future coup tries and insurrections.

Those costs aren’t cheap, though no dollar figures have circulated yet. But they include airfare for invaders traveling from as far away as San Diego, buses chartered to bring dozens from Florida and elsewhere on the East Coast, and the huge cache of weapons they stored in nearby suburban Virginia.

And they include costly hotel bills. Many invaders booked rooms in the Capitol Hilton, a convention hotel just blocks from the White House. And Trump’s top coup plotters among his staff, including Flynn, Bannon and personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, established a  “war room” in the Willard Hotel, an even more expensive hostelry even closer to the White House than the Hilton.

Finally, even if the January 6 committee goes out of business, its findings will be completely public—and the investigations will continue. Raskin, for one, expects the Senate to stay Democratic after the November election, even if the Trumpite-dominated Republicans take over the House and shut his committee down. So the panel, he says, will just send all its evidence to both the Justice Department and the Senate Judiciary Committee.


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 tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.