Monday, December 13, 2021

Latest news from Jan 6 select committee

Here is another block buster in the December 12, 2021 edition of Letters from an American from Heather Cox Richardson.

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Tonight the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol released a report urging Congress to hold Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress after he has refused to honor a congressional subpoena.

It’s quite a document.

First of all, it pieces together a wide range of material from a number of different sources to lay out very clearly Meadows’s actions in the White House leading up to January 6. Anyone out there who is concerned that they have not heard much from the January 6 Committee will take heart from this comprehensive document, concerning, as it does, only one witness. The committee must have an astonishing amount of material and a number of talented personnel to produce such a report.

More specifically, though, the report places Meadows at key junctures in the lead-up to the January 6 insurrection and on January 6 itself. It places him with Trump on January 6.

But what jumps off the page in the report is the discussion of the National Guard’s response to the riot. The report says that “Mr. Meadows reportedly spoke with Kashyap Patel, who was then the chief of staff to former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, ‘nonstop’ throughout the day of January 6. And, among other things, Mr. Meadows apparently knows if and when Mr. Trump was engaged in discussions regarding the National Guard’s response to the Capitol riot.”

The committee also wrote that “Mr. Meadows sent an email to an individual about the events on January 6 and said that the National Guard would be present to ‘protect pro Trump people’ and that many more would be available on standby.”

Why it took more than three hours for the D.C. National Guard to deploy on January 6 remains a central question about what happened that day. Then–U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund began calling for help at 1:49 p.m., but the National Guard, whose chain of command had been reordered on January 5 to require Miller to approve mobilizing the guard, didn’t deploy until 5:08 p.m.

Army officials have said they moved as quickly as possible; National Guard officials have said they were held back by army leaders who complained about the “optics” of deploying the National Guard to the Capitol. As the title of Amanda Carpenter’s December 10 article in The Bulwark notes: “Someone is lying about why it took so long for the National Guard to deploy on January 6.”

The news that Meadows was on the phone “nonstop” to Miller’s chief of staff on January 6, and that he told someone that “the National Guard would be present to ‘protect pro Trump people’ and that many more would be available on standby,” adds more information to that muddled timeline, although still not enough to figure out what was actually going on.

Did the Trump team expect a counter-protest that day that would enable Trump to declare a state of emergency, as it appears all the living defense secretaries feared when they wrote an open letter on January 3 insisting that the military must stay out of the transition? “Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates — political appointees, officers and civil servants—are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly,” the ten living former defense secretaries wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on January 3. “They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.”

If counter-protesters had shown up, muddying the story of what was happening, the day might have played out very differently.

The report from the January 6 Committee also notes that Meadows apparently used an encrypted phone and that he communicated frequently with members of Congress about challenging the election.

The report demolishes Meadows’s argument that he cannot testify because of executive privilege. It notes that President Joe Biden has not asserted executive privilege over the matters about which Meadows would testify, and neither has former president Donald Trump. It appears Meadows is basing his refusal to testify on a letter from “former-President Trump’s counsel, Justin Clark, to Mr. Meadows’s then-counsel, Mr. Gast, expressing former-President Trump’s apparent belief that ‘Mr. Meadows is immune from compelled congressional testimony on matters related to his official responsibilities.’’’ The letter told Meadows not to testify or produce documents.

Such a letter does not officially assert privilege, even if Trump had the authority to do so, which it seems likely he does not (since it is the current president who asserts privilege to protect the office, and Biden has declined to do so).

The January 6 Committee also notes that Meadows is refusing to talk about material that he, himself, produced for the committee, and which he has discussed in his new book, thereby waiving any claims to privilege.

Lawyer Teri Kanefield today put together the timeline for Meadows’s production of documents and then abrupt refusal to testify. She notes that Meadows cooperated with the January 6 Committee over materials from his official work accounts. But then he discovered that the committee had subpoenaed the records from his private cell phone from Verizon, records that he had not transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration, as required by law. He stopped cooperating and sued to have the subpoena to Verizon blocked.

Considering how bad the materials Meadows gave to the committee are—both a PowerPoint outlining how to overturn the election and emails about the National Guard protecting pro-Trump protesters, as well as texts with members of Congress about undermining the election results—one can only wonder what’s in the material he is trying so desperately to protect.

The committee will vote tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. whether to hold Meadows in contempt based on the report; the matter will go to the House on Tuesday.

Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has also refused to comply with a subpoena, this one from the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis for documents concerning the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus. Navarro, who warned the White House in January 2020 that the coronavirus could become “a full-blown pandemic,” said Trump had given him “a direct order that I should not comply with the subpoena.” Navarro’s letter called the chair of the coronavirus committee, Representative James Clyburn (D-SC), “Representative Rayburn.” (The committee works out of the Rayburn House Office Building.)

Trump confirmed his opposition to the subpoena, saying, “The Communist Democrats are engaging in yet another Witch Hunt, this time going after my Administration’s unprecedented and incredible coronavirus response…. The Witch Hunts must end!"

Finally, Fox News Channel reporter Chris Wallace announced tonight that he was leaving FNC to join CNN+, a streaming service launching in 2022. An actual journalist on the channel whose terms of service explicitly announce it is “for your personal enjoyment and entertainment,” rather than news, Wallace lent legitimacy to the channel’s opinion personalities, who have increasingly slid toward right-wing propaganda.

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