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    Seditious conspiracy is rarely proven. The Oath Keepers trial is a litmus test

    Seditious conspiracy is rarely proven. The Oath Keepers trial is a litmus testExtensive planning and tangible action by the far-right militia group’s members provide ‘strong grounds’ for case, experts say Later this year the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers militia and nine alleged co-conspirators will be the first to face trial on seditious conspiracy charges related to the insurrection at the US Capitol.Outrage as Newt Gingrich says Capitol attack investigators could be jailedRead moreThe charges are significant because they allege that the January 6 attack went beyond disorderly conduct and assaults on law enforcement, instead constituting an organized and violent attempt to stop the democratic transfer of power.But because sedition charges so rarely go to trial, there isn’t a great deal of precedent for how such trials proceed, experts say. And US prosecutors have a checkered history in securing sedition convictions. “It’s been used in ways that have been absurd and has been used in ways that were slam dunks,” said Joshua Braver, an assistant professor of law at the University of Wisconsin.But unlike some previous uses of seditious conspiracy, many experts say the case against the Oath Keepers is strong. “This case is different. This case is a plan that was executed and the federal government is on much stronger grounds,” Braver said. “If anything is seditious conspiracy, this is it.”The checkered history of seditious conspiracy trialsSeditious conspiracy is a broad statute that concerns attempts to overthrow the government, levy war against it or prevent, hinder or delay the execution of any law. It also can be applied in cases where suspects seize any government property and carries up to 20 years in prison if convicted.Partly because seditious conspiracy allegations carry so much political weight, prosecutors have generally been hesitant to bring such charges in the past.“Seditious conspiracy charges are rarely used in American jurisprudence,” said Jeffrey Ian Ross, a criminologist and expert on political crime at the University of Baltimore. Prosecutors can be wary of issuing such charges, even in cases that may fall under its broad statute, he added.The last successfully prosecuted seditious conspiracy case came in the mid-1990s, when authorities charged Islamist extremist Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and nine co-conspirators with seditious conspiracy. Prosecutors alleged that Abdel-Rahman and his followers plotted to bomb the United Nations, the FBI building and several other landmarks around New York City.During the trial, prosecutors presented the jury with speeches of Abdel-Rahman and a recording from an FBI informant in which Abdel-Rahman discussed attacking military installations. The defense, meanwhile, argued that Abdel-Rahman’s speech was constitutionally protected and that he never directly planned attacks. After a week of deliberation, jury members convicted the group of seditious conspiracy along with numerous other charges. Abdel-Rahman died in prison in 2017.Decades before the Abdel-Rahman trial, prosecutors secured a seditious conspiracy conviction against Puerto Rican nationalists who stormed the Capitol building. The Puerto Rican independence activist Lolita Lebrón and three accomplices entered the House floor and fired dozens of bullets around the chamber, wounding five legislators. The group, along with numerous people charged as co-conspirators, were convicted of seditious conspiracy and spent over two decades in jail until Jimmy Carter commuted their sentence in 1979.Other seditious conspiracy cases have fallen apart once they have gone to trial, including the most recent attempt at the charge in 2012. Prosecutors alleged that nine members of the Christian far-right Hutaree militia committed seditious conspiracy through a plot to kill a police officer and then attack their funeral in order to incite an uprising against the government. The defense successfully argued that militia members’ discussion of violent rebellion was essentially fantastical boasting, protected by the first amendment and that any specific plots were instigated by an FBI informant who had infiltrated the group. The militia members were ultimately acquitted of sedition, albeit with several pleading guilty to less severe weapons charges.A 1988 seditious conspiracy trial involving 13 white supremacists accused of plotting to overthrow the government and assassinate a federal judge provided an even more severe cautionary tale. Prosecutors in the case cut a plea deal with a white supremacist leader, Glenn Miller, who potentially faced decades in prison for other crimes, agreeing to reduce his charges in exchange for him testifying in the sedition trial. But Miller’s testimony turned out to be weak and unreliable, leading to an all-white jury acquitting all 13 white supremacists. The national chaplain of the Ku Klux Klan hugged several defendants following the verdict and touted it as a victory for white nationalism.In the years after the trial, Miller was released from prison and once again became active in the white supremacist movement despite being in the federal witness protection program. In 2014, he killed three people, including a 14-year-old boy, at a Jewish community center and retirement home in Kansas. He died in prison last May.The case against the Oath KeepersThe case against Rhodes and the Oath Keepers is more straightforward than past seditious conspiracy charges against the far right, experts say, both because there appears to be extensive evidence of planning before the Capitol attack and because numerous members took tangible actions to breach the Capitol.Even Rhodes, who is not believed to have actually stormed the building, is alleged to have plotted to bring weapons to the area and coordinate militia movements.In the weeks before the insurrection, Rhodes allegedly purchased tens of thousands of dollars worth of weapons and began communicating to other Oath Keepers in an encrypted group chat. “We aren’t getting through this without a civil war,” he messaged days after the presidential election. One Oath Keeper admitted as part of a plea deal last year that he brought an M4 rifle to a Comfort Inn hotel near the Capitol, while Rhodes and others allegedly discussed “quick reaction force” teams that could move into Washington DC with firearms. Once inside the Capitol, prosecutors state in their indictment that one group of Oath Keepers moved in a military “stack” formation and went in search of the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.The Oath Keepers “coordinated travel across the country to enter Washington, DC, equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and were prepared to answer Rhodes’s call to take up arms”, the charging documents against Rhodes state.Rhodes this week pleaded not guilty to the charges and has repeatedly denied that he has done anything wrong or broken any laws. After federal agents used a warrant to seize his phone in May last year, Rhodes stated that he sat for a nearly three-hour interview with authorities and claimed he had nothing to hide. He claims that Oath Keepers who entered the Capitol went “totally off mission” and that he was only there to prevent his militia members from getting into trouble. At a Texas rally in the months following the insurrection, he told a crowd that he may go to jail for “made-up crimes”.Rhodes was denied bail, in part because the federal judge overseeing his detention hearing stated that the militia leader had installed “elaborate escape tunnels” on his property and posed a flight risk.As one of the most prominent leaders in the far-right movement over the past decade, Rhodes’s trial is set to be the highest-profile case so far in the investigation and one of the most significant domestic extremism cases in years.More than 700 people are charged with crimes related to the insurrection, but the majority of those cases have involved less complex charges that don’t require proving the type of coordination and planning that seditious conspiracy indictments involve. Meanwhile, most of the more than 150 people who have so far pleaded guilty in the investigation have received relatively short sentences or no jail time at all.“They’ve gone for the low-hanging fruit first and things are going to get more interesting as the days go by,” Ross said.TopicsUS Capitol attackUS politicsWashington DCLaw (US)featuresReuse this content More

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    Man who wore ‘Camp Auschwitz’ shirt admits joining US Capitol rioters

    Man who wore ‘Camp Auschwitz’ shirt admits joining US Capitol rioters Robert Keith Packer of Virginia pleads guilty to parading, demonstrating or picketing in Capitol building A Virginia man who wore a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt at the US Capitol during last year’s riot pleaded guilty on Wednesday to joining the mob of people who stormed the building. Photographs of Robert Keith Packer wearing the sweatshirt with the antisemitic message went viral after the 6 January 2021 insurrection. The words “Camp Auschwitz” were above an image of a human skull. Packer’s sweatshirt also bore the phrase “work brings freedom”, a rough translation of the German words above the entrance gate to Auschwitz, the concentration camp in Poland where Nazis killed more than 1 million men, women and children.Packer’s guilty plea came one day before Holocaust Memorial Day.Packer, 57, of Newport News, Virginia, pleaded guilty to parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment. The US district judge Carl Nichols is scheduled to sentence him on 7 April. FBI agents arrested Packer a week after the riot. He remains free pending his sentencing hearing. A witness who contacted law enforcement recognized Packer as a regular customer at a store near Newport News. A surveillance camera captured an image of him wearing the same sweatshirt in the store in December 2020. Packer’s sweatshirt “appears to be a symbol of Nazi hate ideology”, an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit. The assistant US attorney Mona Furst said Packer entered the Capitol despite seeing broken glass and police officers using teargas. Packer was in the area where a police officer shot a rioter, Ashli Babbitt, and he left the building after that fatal shooting, Furst said. A photograph of Packer inside the Capitol shows him near people holding a broken nameplate from the office of the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. More than 730 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. About 200 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors.TopicsUS Capitol attackUS politicsThe far rightnewsReuse this content More

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    Outrage as Newt Gingrich says Capitol attack investigators could be jailed

    Outrage as Newt Gingrich says Capitol attack investigators could be jailed
    Committee member Zoe Lofgren: ‘I think Newt has really lost it’
    ‘Walls closing in’: Trump reels from week of political setbacks
    Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, stoked outrage on Sunday by predicting members of the House committee investigating the Capitol attack will be imprisoned if Republicans retake the chamber this year.Capitol attack committee has spoken to Trump AG William Barr, chairman saysRead moreOne of two Republicans on the committee, Liz Cheney, said: “A former speaker of the House is threatening jail time for members of Congress who are investigating the violent attack on our Capitol and our constitution. This is what it looks like when the rule of law unravels.”Gingrich made his name with scorched-earth opposition to Bill Clinton in the 1990s and ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. He is now a prominent Trump supporter, rightwing gadfly and adviser to House Republican leaders.He made his prediction on Fox News, for which he is a contributor.Calling the members of the 6 January committee “wolves [who] are going to find out that they’re now sheep”, he said that if Republicans take Congress in November, “this is all going to come crashing down … they’re the ones who in fact, I think, face a real risk of jail for the kinds of laws they’re breaking”.The 6 January committee has recommended criminal charges for the former White House adviser Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows, Trump’s final chief of staff. Both refused to comply with subpoenas.Bannon has pleaded not guilty to contempt of Congress, a charge that carries a year in jail, with a trial set for the summer. The Department of Justice has not acted regarding Meadows.Gingrich said: “You have, both with Attorney General [Merrick] Garland and this select committee on 6 January, people who have run amok … they’re running over people’s civil liberties.“And what they need to understand is on 4 January next year, you’re going to have a Republican majority in the House and a Republican majority in the Senate. And all these people who have been so tough, and so mean, and so nasty are going to be delivered subpoenas for every document, every conversation, every tweet, every email.”Gingrich also said the committee was “basically a lynch mob”.Another member of the committee, the Democrat Zoe Lofgren, told CNN Gingrich’s comments were “just bizarre. I think Newt has really lost it. You know, it leaves me speechless.”Alluding to Trump’s attempt to overturn his defeat in part through the Capitol putsch, Lofgren added: “I mean, unless he is assuming that the government does get overthrown and there’s no system of justice.”Most observers expect Republicans to at least retake the House in November and to turn their sights on Democrats, who impeached Trump twice, and Joe Biden.But some see a legal net closing on Trump himself. Last week it emerged that the 6 January committee has requested interviews with figures including Ivanka Trump, a move that prompted the former president to complain about “vicious people” who “go after children”.Ivanka Trump is 40. Furthermore, Donald Trump’s niece was among observers to point out that Trump himself has no problem going after other people’s children.Speaking to MSNBC, Mary Trump accused her uncle of “enormous hypocrisy”, for going after Hunter Biden, the president’s son, “who last I checked never worked for the federal government, so his double standard is grotesque on its face”.Mary Trump also had a warning for her cousin, saying Trump “will throw anybody under the bus if he believes it’s in his best interest to do so”.Ivanka Trump asked to cooperate with Capitol attack committeeRead moreAlso on Sunday, the chair of the House committee, the Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, told CBS the panel has spoken to William Barr, Trump’s second attorney general.Barr stoked criticism by overseeing investigation of Trump’s claims of electoral fraud in his defeat by Biden but infuriated the president when he said no evidence was found. He resigned before 6 January.Cheney and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois defied Republican leadership to join the select committee. Kinzinger will retire at the midterms. Cheney faces a Trump-endorsed challenger.Other senior Republicans, including Trump allies Jim Jordan and Scott Perry and the minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, have refused requests to co-operate with the House committee.TopicsRepublicansUS Capitol attacknewsReuse this content More

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    Capitol attack committee has spoken to Trump AG William Barr, chairman says

    Capitol attack committee has spoken to Trump AG William Barr, chairman says
    Bennie Thompson reveals attorney general interviews
    Trump complains panel is going after his children
    ’Walls closing in’: Trump reels from week of political setbacks
    The chairman of the congressional committee investigating the US Capitol attack and Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election revealed on Sunday that the panel has spoken to the former attorney general William Barr, a further indication that the inquiry has moved closer to the ex-president’s inner circle.‘House of Trump is crumbling’: why ex-president’s legal net is tighteningRead moreBennie Thompson told CBS’s Face the Nation that Barr, who was accused of making the justice department Trump’s tool but who resigned before Trump left office, had spoken more than once with the panel.“To be honest with you, we’ve had conversations with the former attorney general already,” Thompson said.His host, Margaret Brennan, asked if the panel would seek answers from Barr over the discovery of a draft executive order for the US military to seize voting machines in contested states.“We have talked to Department of Defense individuals,” Thompson said. “We are concerned that our military was part of this big lie on promoting that the election was false. If you are using the military to potentially seize voting machines, even though it’s a discussion, the public needs to know.”News of the interviews with Barr, who angered Trump by insisting there was no evidence to support his lies of a stolen election, dealt another blow to the former president, whose political and legal woes escalated significantly this week.Unlike other Trumpworld insiders who have refused to cooperate with the January 6 committee, such as the former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, strategist Steve Bannon and national security adviser Michael Flynn, Barr appears to have spoken willingly.It reflects moves by the House panel to focus more closely on Trump’s actions following the election, including his inciting of the deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol.This week, the committee asked for the cooperation of Trump’s daughter Ivanka.“Our strategy is to get to all the facts and circumstances that brought about January 6,” Thompson said.“And obviously Ivanka Trump was a major adviser to the president all along, a number of items [are] attributed to what she’s been saying and so we asked her to come in voluntarily and give us the benefit of what she knows.”The inquiry has also subpoenaed phone records of Trump’s son Eric and Kimberly Guilfoyle, partner of Donald Jr.Trump is not pleased, complaining in an interview with the rightwing Washington Examiner that the committee was made up of “vicious people” who “go after children”.Donald Trump Jr is 44, Ivanka Trump is 40 and Eric Trump is 38.TopicsUS Capitol attackDonald TrumpWilliam BarrUS politicsRepublicansnewsReuse this content More

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    ‘The walls are closing in’: Trump reels from week of political setbacks

    ‘The walls are closing in’: Trump reels from week of political setbacks It was a terrible seven days, with major developments in investigations of his election lies and the Capitol riot reaching into his inner circle

    ‘House of Trump is crumbling’: why the legal net is tightening
    The last time Donald Trump heard such hammer blows, they were from renovations at Mar-a-Lago that displeased the former president. But not even that sound would have left his ears ringing like last week’s avalanche of bad news that some believe nudged a criminal indictment one step closer.Rudy Giuliani and Michael Flynn to see honorary university degrees revokedRead moreNo single week in the year since Trump left the White House has been as dramatic, or for him as potentially catastrophic, as the one just passed.It included a rebuke from the supreme court over documents related to the 6 January insurrection which Trump incited; news that the congressional committee investigating the riot was closing in on Trump’s inner circle; evidence from New York’s attorney general of alleged tax fraud; and, perhaps most damaging of all, a request from a Georgia prosecutor for a grand jury in her investigation of Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election.The week ended with the leaking of a document showing that Trump at least pondered harnessing the military in his attempts to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.It all left the former president with plenty to ponder.“He’s Teflon Don, he said he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and survive it, his supporters are going to support him no matter what, but I’m starting to think more and more that the walls are closing in on this guy,” said Kimberley Wehle, a respected legal analyst and professor of law at the University of Baltimore.“The most immediate thing is the grand jury in Georgia because there’s audio of him trying to get [secretary of state] Brad Raffensperger to ‘find’ votes. Under Georgia election laws as I read them that is potentially a crime.“The looming question is whether Trump will be indicted along with 11 others so far for seditious conspiracy [over the 6 January Capitol attack]. To me that’s the biggest turn of events … the justice department believes they have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt of an agreement, a meeting of minds to overturn a legitimate election.“And that there are a lot of high-level people that are looped into it, including potentially Donald Trump himself, and of course he’s not president, so he’s not immune from prosecution any more.”It is that Department of Justice investigation into the deadly Capitol assault, parallel but separate to the 6 January House committee, which harbors the most legal peril for Trump. Some believe sedition charges for members of the Oath Keepers militia indicate that the inquiry has moved into a higher gear.Others, most recently Preet Bharara, former district attorney for the southern district of New York, have questioned why it appears members of Trump’s inner guard, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows, have not yet been questioned.“It’s just not a possibility they’ve tried to interview, you know, a dozen of the top people at and around the White House like the [6 January] committee has [because] they squeal like stuck pigs when people approach them,” Bharara told The New Abnormal podcast, a Daily Beast podcast.“It’s odd to have allowed all this testimony to be collected, all these documents to be subpoenaed and compiled, and they don’t look like they’ve done any of these interviews. There are some lower-level people who breached the doors to the Capitol, but I don’t think those people are giving it up in a straight line to Trump.”At a rare press conference earlier this month, the attorney general, Merrick Garland, did not mention Trump by name but sought to reassure critics of his investigation.“The justice department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law – whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy,” he said in a carefully worded address.The objectives of the House committee are easier to divine and more likely in the immediate term to cause political harm to Trump as he mulls another White House run.Thursday’s request for testimony from his daughter Ivanka, a former White House adviser, brings the investigation to the heart of Trump’s inner circle. Trump’s actions are also set to be explored in primetime TV hearings that Jamie Raskin, a Democratic member of the committee, has promised will “blow the roof off the House”.The panel also scored a big victory on Wednesday when the supreme court ended Trump’s efforts to shield more than 700 pages of White House records. The treasure trove of documents included a draft executive order directing the Department of Defense to seize voting machines, and appointing a special counsel to look into the election, in support of Trump’s “big lie” that the election was stolen.“Documents don’t die, they don’t lie,” Wehle said. “A witness can say, ‘Oh, I don’t recall,’ and dance around it. Documents cannot. Secondly, the documents will lead to more people to discuss what happened, including Ivanka Trump.”Trump himself has been uncharacteristically quiet about his week of setbacks, other than two statements attacking Fani Willis, the Democratic district attorney for Fulton county, Georgia, for requesting a grand jury to assist her investigation into his election interference.Draft Trump order told defense chief to seize swing-state voting machinesRead more“The people looking for the crime are being hounded and the people who committed the crime are being protected,” he said. “This is not the American way.”To Wehle, the week’s developments have significance not only for Trump but for November midterm elections in which Republicans are tipped to reclaim Congress.“We have to think about the January 6th committee as getting information to voters before November about sitting members who might be up for reelection,” she said.“The question is not so much whether Trump will be indicted, but who in a seat of power in the US Congress was potentially involved in this conspiracy.“Frankly, if American democracy is to be saved from single-party minority rule, November is absolutely vital.”TopicsDonald TrumpUS Capitol attackUS politicsUS elections 2020US midterm elections 2022US elections 2024US CongressfeaturesReuse this content More

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    Texts show Fox News host Hannity’s pleas to Trump aide after Capitol attack

    Texts show Fox News host Hannity’s pleas to Trump aide after Capitol attackMessages said there should be ‘no more stolen election talk’ and ‘no more crazy people’ should be admitted to president’s orbit

    US politics – live coverage
    In the aftermath of the deadly attack on the US Capitol last year, the rightwing Fox News host Sean Hannity pleaded with a top aide to Donald Trump that there should be “no more stolen election talk” and “no more crazy people” should be admitted to the president’s orbit.Michael Flynn allies allegedly plotted to lean on Republicans to back vote auditsRead moreKayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, agreed – but to little effect.More than a year after the riot, around which seven people died as Trump supporters sought to stop certification of electoral college results, Trump continues to lie that the 2020 election was stolen by Joe Biden.He also continues to keep company with far-right conspiracy theorists including Mike Lindell, the MyPillow founder who in a lawsuit this week was accused of being “crazy like a fox”.Hannity has also long been close to Trump, as an informal adviser and sometime rally guest. Though he has been revealed to have been shaken by the attack on the Capitol, he has spent the year since the riot supporting Trump’s version of events.The House committee investigating January 6 has asked for Hannity’s cooperation, a request a lawyer for the host said raises “first amendment concerns regarding freedom of the press”.Hannity has previously said he does not claim to be a journalist.Excerpts of his messages to McEnany on 7 January 2021 were included in a letter from the January 6 committee to Ivanka Trump, the former president’s daughter and adviser whom the panel also wishes to question.“First,” the letter said, “on 7 January, Mr Hannity texted Ms McEnany, laying out a five-point approach for conversations with President Trump. Items one and two of that plan read as follows:“1 – No more stolen election talk.“2 – Yes, impeachment and 25th amendment are real, and many people will quit… ”McEnany, the letter said, responded: “Love that. Thank you. That is the playbook. I will help reinforce… ”If McEnany did follow Hannity’s playbook, it did not produce a touchdown or even a reasonable punt.It has been widely reported that invoking the 25th amendment, which provides for the removal of a president deemed incapable of carrying out his or her duties, was seriously discussed among cabinet and White House officials.That came to nothing but Trump was impeached a second time. He was acquitted when enough Senate Republicans stayed loyal.On Friday, Politico published the text of a draft executive order for the seizure of voting machines and the text of a speech in which Trump would have condemned the Capitol rioters – but which he never gave.According to the January 6 committee, Hannity also told McEnany: “Key now. No more crazy people.”McEnany said: “Yes. 100%.”A footnote to the letter says Katrina Pierson, another rightwing commentator, “also uses the term ‘crazies’ in her text messages, apparently to describe a number of the president’s supporters”.Lindell continues to insist he has evidence the 2020 election was stolen, recently claiming his work could lead to the imprisonment for life of “300 and some million people”.That prompted the Washington Post to ask: “Are you one of the one in 11 Americans Mike Lindell doesn’t want to arrest?”In remarks at a Trump rally in Arizona last weekend, Lindell took aim at Hannity’s employer.MyPillow CEO faces defamation lawsuit from second voting machine makerRead more“When was the last time you saw anyone on Fox talk about the 2020 election?” he asked.Fox News has continued to stoke conspiracy theories about the Capitol riot but Fox Corporation faces lawsuits regarding claims of a stolen election.This week, Lindell joined Fox in being sued by Smartmatic, a maker of election machines.In the suit, the company accused Lindell of knowing what he was doing – namely, trying to sell pillows – when spreading election lies.He was, the company said, “crazy like a fox”.TopicsUS Capitol attackUS politicsFox NewsUS television industryRepublicansTrump administrationDonald TrumpnewsReuse this content More

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    Ivanka Trump asked to cooperate with Capitol attack committee

    Ivanka Trump asked to cooperate with Capitol attack committeeInvestigators seek testimony from former first daughter, with panel increasingly focused on Donald Trump’s inner circle The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack is asking Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the former president, to appear for a voluntary deposition to answer questions about Donald Trump’s efforts to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.Biden warns Russia will ‘pay a heavy price’ if Putin launches Ukraine invasion – liveRead moreThe move by the panel marks an aggressive new phase in its inquiry into the 6 January insurrection, as House investigators seek for the first time testimony from a member of the Trump family about potential criminality on the part of the former president.Congressman Bennie Thompson, the chair of the select committee, said in an 11-page letter to Ivanka Trump that the panel wanted to ask about Trump’s plan to stop the certification, and his response to the Capitol attack, including delays to deploying the national guard.Ivanka Trump was a senior adviser to her father during her presidency, as was her husband Jared Kushner. The two were seen as a power couple very close to the inner workings of the Trump White House.The questions to Ivanka appear directed at a key issue: whether her father oversaw a criminal conspiracy on 6 January that also involved obstructing a congressional proceeding – a crime.The letter said that the panel first wanted to question Ivanka Trump about what she recalled of a heated Oval Office meeting on the morning of the 6 January insurrection when the former president was trying to co-opt Mike Pence into rejecting Biden’s win.The former president was on the phone with the then vice-president in an Oval Office meeting with Ivanka and Keith Kellogg, a top Pence aide, the letter said. When Pence demurred on the former president’s repeated request, Ivanka turned to Kellogg and said Pence was “a good man”.Thompson said in the letter that the panel wanted to learn more about that exchange with Pence she heard, as well as other conversations about impeding the electoral count at the joint session of Congress on 6 January that she may have witnessed or participated in.“The committee has information suggesting that President Trump’s White House counsel may have concluded that the actions President Trump directed Vice-President Pence to take would … otherwise be illegal. Did you discuss these issues?” the letter said.Thompson added House investigators had additional questions about whether Trump could shed light on whether the former president had been told that such an action might be unlawful, and yet nonetheless persisted in pressuring Pence to reinstall him for a second term.The letter said the select committee was also interested in learning more from Trump about her father’s response to the Capitol attack on 6 January, and discussions inside the White House about the former president’s tweet castigating Pence for not adopting his plan.Thompson said the nagging question for Ivanka Trump – who White House aides thought had the best chance of having the former president condemn the rioters – was what she did about the situation and why her father did not call off the rioters in a White House address.The select committee said in the letter that they also wanted to ask her about what she knew with regard to the long delay in deploying the national guard to the Capitol, which allowed the insurrection to overwhelm law enforcement into the afternoon of 6 January.Thompson said that House investigators were curious why there appeared to have been no evidence that Trump issued any order to request the national guard, or called the justice department to request the deployment of personnel to the Capitol.Speaking to the Guardian and a small group of reporters on Thursday, the chairman of the select committee said that the immediate focus for the investigation was on the former president’s daughter and not subpoenas to Republican members of Congress.Thompson said the panel would be “inviting some people to come and talk to us. Not lawmakers right now. Ivanka Trump.”The letter comes after the US supreme court, in another blow to the former president, late on Wednesday rejected his request to block the release of more than 700 of the most sensitive of White House documents he had tried to hide from the select committee.The former president’s defeat means those documents – including presidential diaries, notes and memos from the files of top aides including the former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows – that could shed light on the Capitol attack can now be transferred to Congress.TopicsUS Capitol attackIvanka TrumpUS politicsDonald TrumpHouse of RepresentativesnewsReuse this content More

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    Trump held secret meetings in days before Capitol attack, ex-press secretary tells panel

    Trump held secret meetings in days before Capitol attack, ex-press secretary tells panel Stephanie Grisham gave more significant details than expected about what Trump was doing before 6 January, sources say The former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack that Donald Trump hosted secret meetings in the White House residence in days before 6 January, according to two sources familiar with the matter.The former senior Trump aide also told House investigators that the details of whether Trump actually intended to march to the Capitol after his speech at the Ellipse rally would be memorialized in documents provided to the US Secret Service, the sources said.The select committee’s interview with Grisham, who was Melania Trump’s chief of staff when she resigned on 6 January, was more significant than expected, the sources said, giving the panel new details about the Trump White House and what the former US president was doing before the Capitol attack.Grisham gave House investigators an overview of the chaotic final weeks in the Trump White House in the days leading up to the Capitol attack, recalling how the former president held off-the-books meetings in the White House residence, the sources said.The secret meetings were apparently known by only a small number of aides, the sources said. Grisham recounted that they were mostly scheduled by Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and that the former chief usher, Timothy Harleth, would wave participants upstairs, the sources said.Harleth, the former director of rooms at the Trump International Hotel before moving with the Trumps to the White House in 2017, was once one of the former first family’s most trusted employees, according to a top former White House aide to Melania Trump.But after Harleth sought to ingratiate himself with the Biden transition team after Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election in order to keep his White House role, Trump and Meadows moved to fire him before Melania Trump stepped in to keep him until Biden’s inauguration.Grisham told the select committee she was not sure who exactly Trump met with in the White House residence, but provided Harleth’s name and the identities of other Trump aides in the usher’s office who might know of the meetings, the sources said.The Guardian previously reported that Trump made several phone calls from the Yellow Oval Room and elsewhere in the White House residence to lieutenants at the Willard hotel in Washington the night before the Capitol attack, telling them to stop Joe Biden’s certification.Trump increasingly retreated to the White House residence to conduct work as his presidency progressed, according to another former Trump administration official, as he felt less watched by West Wing aides than in the Oval Office.Towards the end of his presidency, the former Trump administration official said, an aide to former White House adviser Peter Navarro tried at least once to quietly usher into the residence Sidney Powell, a lawyer pushing lies about election fraud, to speak with Trump.A spokesperson for the select committee declined to comment on Grisham’s interview that took place the first week of January. Harleth did not respond to questions about the meetings in the White House residence when reached last week by phone.Over the course of her hours-long interview, Grisham told House investigators that the mystery surrounding Trump’s promise at the Ellipse rally that he would march with his supporters to the Capitol might be resolved in Trump White House documents, the sources said.The former president’s purported intention to go to the Capitol has emerged as a crucial issue for the select committee, as they examine whether Trump oversaw a criminal conspiracy coordinating his political plan to stop Biden’s certification with the insurrection.Trump’s promise is significant as it served as one of the primary motivations for his supporters to march to the Capitol alongside militia groups like the Oath Keepers, and was used by far-right activists like Alex Jones to encourage the crowd along the route.But Trump never went to the Capitol and instead returned to the White House, where he watched the attack unfold on television – after being informed by the Secret Service before the insurrection that they could not guarantee his security if he marched to the Capitol.The select committee is now trying to untangle whether Trump made a promise that he perhaps had no intention of honoring because he hoped to incite an insurrection that stopped the certification – his only remaining play to get a second term – one of the sources said.Grisham told the select committee that Trump’s intentions – and whether the Secret Service had been told Trump had decided not to march to the Capitol – should be reflected in the presidential line-by-line, the document that outlines the president’s movements, the sources said.The chairman of the select committee, Bennie Thompson, has told reporters the panel is already seeking information from the Secret Service about what plans they had for Trump on January 6, as well as what evacuation strategies they had for then-vice president Mike Pence.But the presidential line-by-line, which gets sent to the Secret Service, could also reveal discussions about security concerns and suggest a new line of inquiry into why an assessment about conditions that were too dangerous for the president were not disseminated further.Grisham also told the select committee about the necessary coordination between the Trump White House, the Secret Service and organizers of the “Save America” rally at the Ellipse on 6 January in order to ensure Trump’s appearance, the sources said.The former Trump aide suggested to the select committee that Trump was determined to speak at the rally once he heard about its existence, the sources said, and was constantly on the phone to oversee the event’s optics, the sources said.TopicsUS Capitol attackUS politicsTrump administrationDonald TrumpnewsReuse this content More