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House Select Committee probe of Capitol riot: revelations so far

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House Select Committee probe of Capitol riot: revelations so far
President Donald Trump delivers remarks to supporters gathered to protest Congress' certification of Joe Biden's election prior to the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. File Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI | License Photo

April 26 (UPI) -- The House Select Committee investigating the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is expected to release its report by early fall after more hearings in June. But the probe has already uncovered several bombshell revelations about the violence and the events leading up to it.

The committee, which began its investigation in July, had conducted more than 830 interviews and depositions as of early April and subpoenaed dozens of former President Donald Trump's top advisers, including Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro.

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Major revelations from such interviews and documents obtained by the committee include that former Trump administration officials had discussed a plan with members of the House Freedom Caucus to direct the president's supporters to the Capitol.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said at an event Thursday that the upcoming hearings are expected to "really blow the roof off the House."

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"No president has ever come close to doing what happened here in terms of trying to organize an inside coup to overthrow an election and bypass the constitutional order," Raskin said.

"And then also use a violent insurrection made up of domestic violent extremist groups, White nationalist and racist, fascist groups in order to support the coup."

The House Select Committee will present evidence during the upcoming hearings that Trump and his advisers coordinated with his supporters to attack the Capitol in a bid to overthrow the results of the election, Raskin said.

RELATED House votes to find two former Trump aides in criminal contempt

At the time of the insurrection, the U.S. Congress was in the process of certifying the results of the Electoral College vote by which Joe Biden won the presidency.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who was at the U.S. Capitol to certify the vote, was taken to a secure room and ultimately evacuated as rioters chanted for him to be hanged.

Raskin revealed Thursday that Pence uttered "the six most chilling words" surrounding the insurrection when Secret Service agents tried to evacuate him from the Capitol before the vote had been certified.

RELATED Ivanka Trump testifies in Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection investigation

"'I'm not getting in that car,'" Pence said, according to Raskin.

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Mark Meadows involvement

Raskin's comments came as the committee's Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., and Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., issued a statement following a motion for summary judgment that the committee filed relating to a lawsuit from Mark Meadows, who served as Trump's chief of staff.

Meadows has sued House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of the select committee for injunctive relief to "prohibit the enforcement of two overly broad and unduly burdensome subpoenas," according to court documents.

He was held in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with the committee's investigation in December and said in court documents that the Select Committee "wrongly seeks to compel" him to provide information."

Meadows has refused to provide the documents and reneged on appearing for a deposition he had agreed to in December.

"The Select Committee's filing today urges the court to reject Mark Meadows' baseless claims and put an end to his obstruction of our investigation," Thompson and Cheney said in a statement Friday.

"Mr. Meadows is hiding behind broad claims of executive privilege even though much of the information we're seeking couldn't possibly be covered by privilege and courts have rejected similar claims because the committee's interest in getting to the truth is so compelling."

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The lawmakers said the subpoenas are "essential" for the public to "fully understand Mr. Meadows' role in events before, on and after Jan. 6" and filed a motion Friday for a summary judgement on the litigation seeking a dismissal.

The committee's motion revealed testimony from Cassidy Hutchison, an aide to Meadows, that Meadows had participated in calls planning to encourage Trump's supporters to march on the Capitol.

Others on the call included Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as well as Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., and other members of the House Freedom Caucus.

"I don't think there's a participant on the call that had necessarily discouraged the idea," Hutchinson said, adding that Perry had supported sending people to the Capitol.

Hutchison said that, on similar calls, meeting participants had "come in prepared with information about ways that they think the vice president could approach certifying the Electoral College votes."

Her testimony also disputed claims from Meadows that Trump aides knew his supporters would be "going to go up to the Capitol" before Trump delivered a line in his speech before the riot encouraging them to march.

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Others held in contempt

Besides Meadows, the U.S. House voted earlier this month to find Dan Scavino, the former White House deputy chief of staff for communications, and former trade adviser Peter Navarro in contempt of Congress for not complying with subpoenas to investigate their roles in efforts to overturn the election.

"They told us to buzz off. Not a single record. No-shows for their deposition," Thompson said before the House floor vote.

Thompson said Scavino and Navarro, as former White House employees, argue they are shielded from complying by the president's executive privilege. The Select Committee has noted in court documents that it is for current President Joe Biden to guard executive privilege and that he has declined.

"In other words: They're arguing that their roles in trying to overturn an election had to stay secret because they had official roles as advisers to ex-President," Thompson said.

"If they want to make those claims -- ridiculous as they sound -- here's what the law requires: They need to show up and make those claims on the record. Under oath. They refused to do that. That alone means they're in contempt of Congress."

In November, the Justice Department announced that a grand jury had indicted Steve Bannon on two counts of contempt of Congress stemming from his failure to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Select Committee.

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"Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law," Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

Bannon, who was pardoned by Trump on the day he left the White House after he was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering for a border wall fundraiser, filed a motion to dismiss his contempt case last Tuesday, court documents show.

Ginni Thomas interview

The House Select Committee may seek to interview Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, after CNN reported that she had admitted attending a pro-Trump rally on Jan. 6, 2021, and was in contact with Meadows before the insurrection.

CNN reported last month that it had obtained 29 text messages from her to Meadows asking him to continue to fight to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

Raskin told CNN Thomas had "obviously interacted frequently with the president's chief of staff and was actively involved with the effort to overturn the election."

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"So, speaking as one member, I think it's important that we hear from her," Raskin said.

Trump family subpoenaed

Others who have been subpoenaed in the investigation include the former president's son Eric Trump, as well as Kimberly Guilfoyle, the fiancée of Donald Trump Jr.

The select committee said in a statement in March that it had evidence that Guilfoyle, a former Trump adviser, was "in direct contact with key individuals, raised funds for the rally immediately preceding the violent attack on the United States Capitol, and participated in that event."

"President Trump met with you, several members of his family, and others in the Oval Office on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, which was also when he last spoke with Vice President Pence (by phone) prior to the joint session of Congress to certify the results of the presidential election," the committee's letter to Guilfoyle reads.

The committee noted that Guilfoyle had spoken at the rally at the Ellipse and was filmed backstage beforehand telling people to "have the courage to do the right thing, fight."

In January, CNN reported that Eric Trump had also been subpoenaed for playing a prominent role in "Stop the Steal" efforts.

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Invoking Fifth Amendment

Many of Trump's close associates and supporters who have been asked to testify have refused, citing the Fifth Amendment, which provides several protections, including against self-incrimination.

Those who have refused to testify by way of the Fifth Amendment include former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was pardoned by Trump in November 2020 after he pleaded guilty of lying to the FBI.

"Gen. Michael Flynn appeared before the Jan. 6 committee today in compliance with their subpoena and, on advice of counsel, exercised his Fifth Amendment right to decline to answer the committee's questions," his lawyer David Warrington said in a statement in March.

Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, who was pardoned by the former president after he was sentenced to prison for charges stemming from Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation, also invoked the Fifth Amendment.

"I did invoke my Fifth Amendment rights to every question not because I have done anything wrong, but because I am fully aware of the House Democrats' long history of fabricating perjury charges on the basis of comments that are innocuous, material or irrelevant," Stone told reporters afterward.

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Stone had used members of the Oath Keepers as personal body guards, including Roberto Minuta who was indicted for his involvement in the riot at the Capitol. Minuta, a leader of the extremist militia group, has been accused of forcibly attacking the Capitol wearing paramilitary tactical gear.

The Oath Keepers, along with racist Proud Boys hate group, have also been subpoenaed by the House Select Committee.

InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who said he invoked the Fifth Amendment, has said he was "told by the White House" to lead a march from the Ellipse rally to the Capitol, where Donald Trump would meet the group and speak, according to the committee.

Trump criminal referral

Earlier this month, Cheney addressed a report from The New York Times that revealed the committee had concluded that there was enough evidence to refer Trump for criminal charges.

"It's absolutely clear that what President Trump was doing -- what a number of people around him were doing -- that they knew it was unlawful. They did it anyway," Cheney told CNN.

The Republican lawmaker said the committee had seen "a massive and well-organized and well-planned effort" from Trump and his administration to overturn the results of the election.

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"The objective was absolutely to try to stop the kind of electoral votes, to try to interfere with that official proceeding. And it's absolutely clear that they knew what they were doing was wrong," she said.

Donald Trump supporters breach Capitol, riot over election results

Supporters of President Donald Trump riot against the Electoral College vote count on January 6, 2021, in protest of Trump's loss to President-elect Joe Biden, prompting a lockdown of the Capitol Building. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

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