Here’s what happened this week
In perhaps the biggest news of the week pertaining to the January 6 insurrection, a federal jury on Tuesday convicted the first accused rioter to go on trial, a victory for the Justice Department as it brings a slew of such cases to trial. Guy Reffitt was convicted on five counts, including obstructing Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential election, a charge that could result in up to 20 years in prison. Reffitt’s trial featured dramatic testimony from his son, who had reported his father’s behavior to the FBI. Reffitt was also convicted of threatening his teenage son and daughter to keep them from turning him in to law enforcement.
The same day that Reffitt was convicted, the Justice Department indicted Enrique Tarrio, the former leader of the right-wing group the Proud Boys, with conspiracy for his alleged role in planning the January 6 attack. “Although Tarrio is not accused of physically taking part in the breach of the Capitol, the indictment alleges that he led the advance planning and remained in contact with other members of the Proud Boys during their breach of the Capitol,” the Justice Department said in a statement. Tarrio had been arrested for destruction of property on January 4 after burning a “Black Lives Matter” banner and had been ordered by a judge to stay out of Washington as a condition of his release.
“The indictment alleges that Tarrio nonetheless continued to direct and encourage the Proud Boys prior to and during the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and that he claimed credit for what had happened on social media and in an encrypted chat room during and after the attack,” the Justice Department said. Then on Wednesday the leader of the Alabama chapter of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia group, pleaded guilty to “seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding for his actions before, during and after the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021,” according to the Justice Department.
Meanwhile, the House select committee investigating the assault on the Capitol saw a week of new lawsuits. The Republican National Committee on Wednesday filed suit against the panel, seeking to stop a subpoena for data from the software company Salesforce. The RNC says the subpoena is too broad in scope and “seeks information on vast numbers of Republican donors, volunteers, supporters, and coalition members.”
Committee spokesperson Tim Mulvey said in response to the RNC lawsuit: “The Select Committee issued a subpoena to an email fundraising vendor in order to help investigators understand the impact of false, inflammatory messages in the weeks before January 6th, the flow of funds, and whether contributions were actually directed to the purpose indicated. This action has absolutely nothing to do with getting the private information of voters or donors.”
Former Trump adviser Stephen Miller also filed suit against the committee this week in an attempt to block a subpoena on his cell phone records. Miller also argued that the subpoena issued in February was overly broad and infringed upon his First and Fourth Amendment rights. The suit also revealed that, like many millennials, Miller is still on his parents’ family cell phone plan.
Across the country, in the District Court for the Central District of California, Judge David Carter said in an order on Wednesday that he would personally review 111 emails that former Trump attorney John Eastman wants shielded from the select committee. Eastman claims that the emails, all sent between January 4 and January 7, 2021, should be protected by attorney-client privilege and attorney work-product privilege.
“After reading the emails, the Court will determine for each document whether any privilege existed, whether that privilege was waived, and whether any exceptions apply,” Carter said. He did not indicate what he thought of the committee’s argument in a filing last week that Eastman and Trump may have illegally conspired to obstruct the certification of the election.
Whom to watch?
Given the flurry of lawsuits surrounding the select committee, the judges presiding over these cases are worth watching. This is as true this week as it was last week for Carter, who now has the perhaps unenviable task of reading through Eastman’s emails.
Despite her organization filing suit against the select committee, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel met with the panel on Wednesday, Politico reported. It’s unclear whether McDaniel delivered testimony or just made an initial contact, so it remains to be seen whether she will appear before the committee again.
The committee did not subpoena anyone this week, so readers will continue to await its next activity.
The select committee has designated a “green team” to trace all the funds that were raised and spent based on false claims the election was stolen, The Washington Post reports. A new watchdog report found that the Department of Homeland Security had identified “specific” threats ahead of the January 6 attack but hadn’t shared the intelligence outside the department until after the insurrection. Attorney General Merrick Garland told NPR that the probe into the conspiracies behind the assault is “the most urgent investigation in the history of the Justice Department.” Former Attorney General Bill Barr says in his memoir—out this week, if you want to run to the nearest bookstore to buy it—that the events of January 6 do not “prove that Trump really was the aspiring authoritarian dictator his enemies said he was.” Finally, CNN was the first to report that the death of Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith was declared a line-of-duty death, making his family eligible to receive benefits. Smith died by suicide nine days after he was assaulted by the mob and hit on the head by a metal pole while defending the Capitol on January 6.
Best quote of the week on January 6
“Every FBI office, almost every U.S. attorney’s office in the country, is working on this matter. We’ve issued thousands of subpoenas, seized and examined thousands of electronic devices, examined terabytes of data, thousands of hours of videos. People are working every day, 24-7, and are fully aware of how important this is. This had to do with the interference with the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another. And it doesn’t get more important than that.”—Attorney General Merrick Garland on the scope and importance of the Justice Department’s January 6 investigation.