Here’s what happened this week
Members of the select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection frequently portray the panel as a well-oiled machine. But The New York Times reported this week that committee members may not be in lockstep over whether to issue a criminal referral to the Justice Department, fearing it may complicate the agency’s wide-ranging investigation. Committee members denied any internal dissension. “There’s not really a dispute on the committee,” Representative Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair, told CNN.
In other committee news, former Trump aide Stephen Miller testified virtually before the panel on January 6. Miller sued the committee last month to prevent it from gaining access to his records. The committee will also soon have access to additional records from former President Donald Trump, as President Joe Biden waived executive privilege claims so the National Archives could release another tranche of documents.
The New York Times reported this week that an aide to Roger Stone joined a conference call with Trump supporters the week before the insurrection and encouraged them to “descend on the Capitol,” although he also claimed that he was “not inciting violence or any kind of riots.”
Meanwhile, former Trump attorney John Eastman—whom regular readers will recognize as a frequent main character of these recaps—was pushing to overturn the election as recently as last month. ABC News reported that Eastman and a cadre of Trump allies visited Robin Vos, the Republican leader of the Wisconsin Assembly, in March, in an effort to convince him to nullify Biden’s victory in the state and reclaim the state’s electors. (Vos reiterated to Eastman that decertifying the election is impossible, according to ABC News.)
In other news regarding unsuccessful efforts to overturn the election, CNN reported details of a private phone call between former President Donald Trump and then–Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. According to reporting from a new book by New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Trump outlined to McConnell his plans to stay in power. McConnell stayed quiet, according to Martin and Burns, worrying that if he angered Trump, the president would sabotage the runoff campaigns of Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia. (Of course, Perdue and Loeffler both lost their races anyway, and McConnell his majority.)
Whom to watch?
Stephen Miller, who testified Thursday before the committee. Miller is reportedly the latest of Trump’s inner circle to talk with the committee. Last week Ivanka Trump spent eight hours with the committee.
In the near term: The committee is discussing what witnesses it wants to call. It seems to be taking its good old time—a while ago, members were saying hearings would begin in April, and now they’re saying, actually, May. The clock is ticking.
Which brings us to the long term: We have all worked under the assumption that should Republicans retake the House, they will immediately disband the committee. Well, maybe. Politico reported this week that Republicans are weighing keeping the committee intact but turning it on Democrats. From the article: “While the panel’s demise at the end of the year has often seemed a foregone conclusion, Trump’s biggest backers in the House have begun floating another idea: refashioning it into a weapon to pursue baseless claims about government involvement in the riot. Doing so would allow conservatives to use the House’s procedural weapons against Pelosi, whom Trump has also increasingly blamed—without basis—for security breakdowns that enabled his supporters to breach the Capitol.” That’s probably not going to happen, several GOPers said, but it’s hardly beyond imagining.
- An alleged rioter is invoking a Trump-made-me-do-it defense at his criminal trial.
- An organizer of the rally that preceded the insurrection owes almost $50,000 to the Federal Elections Commission.
Best quote of the week on January 6
“The president has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States and therefore is not justified,” White House counsel Dana Remus said, referring to the new batch of documents that will be released from the National Archives.