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Capitol attack panel expects to hear how militia groups coordinated plans before insurrection | US Capitol attack

Behind closed doors in a nondescript conference room at the foot of Capitol Hill, the House select committee investigating 6 January next week expects to hear testimony about the connections between the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys militia groups and the Capitol attack.

The panel expects to hear how the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys coordinated their plans and movements in the days before the insurrection to the same level of detail secured by the justice department and referenced in recent prosecutions for seditious conspiracy.

And the select committee hopes to also hear in the 5 April deposition – arranged by a senior counsel for the panel – private conversations between the leaders of the two militia groups and whether they might have communicated with any Trump advisers.

The panel should get the evidence both on the record and under oath, according to two sources familiar with the arrangement, to add to raw video footage of a meeting between the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys leaders in a garage across from the Capitol on the eve of 6 January.

The expected testimony and materials represent another significant breakthrough for the investigation and could play a major role in establishing for the select committee whether Donald Trump oversaw a criminal conspiracy as part of his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Most crucially for the panel, it could form part of the evidence to connect the militia groups that stormed the Capitol on 6 January to the organizers of the Save America rally that immediately preceded the attack – who in turn are slowly being linked to the Trump White House.

As the select committee moves closer to Trump – who House investigators alleged in a recent court filing that the former president violated federal laws including obstructing Congress and conspiring to defraud the United States as he sought to return himself to power – it is redoubling its efforts.

The information that Sean Tonolli, the senior investigative counsel who set up the deposition, should obtain about the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys in the first week of April means the panel has managed to get all the major evidence for all the big moments.

Members of the Oath Keepers on the Capitol on 6 January 2021, in Washington.
Members of the Oath Keepers on the Capitol on 6 January 2021, in Washington. Photograph: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

In December, the select committee revealed that it had in its possession 2,320 text messages from Trump’s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, emails such as one with a PowerPoint presentation on staging a coup, and other documents he had turned over to the inquiry.

That alone has been seen as a treasure trove of materials, including messages to and from House Republicans who apologized for not being able to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win, and more recently, messages with Ginni Thomas, the wife of supreme court justice Clarence Thomas.

In January, the panel got from the National Archives thousands of pages of Trump White House documents that the former president unsuccessfully sought to shield over claims of executive privilege in a case that Justice Thomas reviewed and emerged as the sole dissenter.

Those included documents in the files of Meadows and former deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin, among others, and Trump’s private schedule for 6 January that showed he gave the crowd a false pretense to go to the Capitol perhaps in the hope that they might stop Biden’s certification.

Then the select committee learned of the fake electors ploy – a scheme to send “alternate” slates of Trump electors to Congress in states won by Biden – that ensnared the White House and showed the involvement of some of Trump’s most senior aides.

Earlier this month, the panel also revealed in separate litigation that Trump lawyer John Eastman knew that his plan to have then-vice president Mike Pence reject Biden’s wins in select battleground states and return Trump to office was an unlawful violation of the Electoral Count Act.

The panel has so far conducted the vast majority of its investigation in private, conducting nearly 750 depositions behind closed doors, amassing more than 84,000 documents and pursuing more than 430 tips that have come through on its website tip line.

But notwithstanding the secrecy, the select committee has uncovered extraordinary information that have put them several steps closer to potentially forcing them to make criminal referrals to the justice department once the inquiry is complete, the sources said.

What the panel has found and made public so far, the sources said, could also lay the groundwork to sketch out a criminal conspiracy that connects Trump’s political plan to return himself to office with the attack itself – its ultimate suspicion, the Guardian first reported.

From its nondescript offices boarded up with beige boards and wood-paneled conference rooms with blinds always drawn, the select committee has spent the last eight months working in color-coded teams in an attempt to untangle Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election results.

The gold team is examining Trump’s plans to stop the certification of Biden’s election win with the help of Republican members of Congress, and his pressure campaign on state, local and justice department officials to return himself to office.

The red team is looking at the Save America rally organizers and the Stop the Steal Movement, while the purple team is scrutinizing the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, the 1st Amendment Praetorian and how militia groups helped lead the Trump mob into the Capitol building.

As the panel moves into the second phase of its investigation, its members have said they want to release in narrative form the evidence of wrongdoing in a series of public hearings that are likely to be delayed from April to May but still focus on how Trump broke the law.

The select committee’s purpose remains to recommend legislative reforms to prevent a repeat of 6 January, but the evidence collected by the panel is fast hurtling it towards a conclusion of criminal behavior that could implicate Trump – and necessitate a referral – the sources said.

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