The House committee investigating the events of Jan. 6 on Tuesday said former President Trump recklessly stoked a mob to attack the Capitol in a brazen attempt after weeks of desperate efforts to retain presidential power by force and intimidation.
In a bombshell disclosure in the final minutes of the hearing, committee Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said Trump phoned an unnamed witness set to appear at a future hearing. The individual did not take the call and reported it to the committee through a lawyer, and the committee, in turn, reported the contact to the Justice Department, she said (The Hill). Cheney last month referenced witness tampering, a possible crime.
Members of the committee have used words such as conspiracy, plot and sedition in general summations, indicating that investigators believe the former president’s actions tied to the election outcome and Jan. 6 could be criminal based on witness testimony and evidence. The Justice Department has been vague about whether it would pursue criminal referrals from the panel involving Trump.
Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who led the questioning on Tuesday, told reporters after the hearing that they did not have more details about the witness to whom Cheney referred in her closing remarks. He said that as more individuals from Trump’s former inner circle come forward to describe what they saw and heard in 2020 and 2021, the committee wanted to emphasize that witness tampering is a crime and “people should not be approaching witnesses to try to get them to alter their testimony.”
Tuesday’s seventh public hearing relied on videotaped, sworn testimony and communications, including from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, to assert that Trump carefully plotted a closely held plan about Jan. 6 after he was repeatedly advised by senior government officials and campaign aides that he lost the 2020 election.
According to testimony and evidence, Trump rejected the facts and was swayed by loyalists, who had been labeled “the crazies” by some senior advisers, to try to retain power through a combination of force and falsehoods.
Senior Trump administration officials described how Trump personally sought to use the federal government to seize voting machines. In videotaped testimony played on Tuesday, former Attorney General William Barr said Trump asked him to use the Justice Department to seize machines, a request that Barr denied. “Absolutely not,” he said he had replied. “There’s no probable cause, and we’re not going to seize any machines” (The New York Times).
The former White House counsel, in videotaped testimony obtained by the panel on Friday, recounted how he opposed the idea, even as a group of outside allies urged that Trump move ahead.