At the Willard and the White House, the January 6 panel expands its network
WASHINGTON – “We are essentially in a national emergency,” Michael T. Flynn said on Jan.5, in an interview with internet conspiracy theorist Alex Jones recorded in a luxurious suite at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel near the White House .
“The truth will come out,” said Mr. Flynn, the former three-star national security and general counsel. “Donald Trump will continue to be President of the United States for the next four years.”
In another room of the five-star hotel, a phalanx of lawyers and Mr. Trump’s political advisers – including Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer; Bernard B. Kerik, former New York City Police Commissioner; and John Eastman, an academic feverishly working on a legal strategy to prevent Joseph R. Biden Jr. from assuming the presidency – had set up some sort of command post. On the front steps of the hotel, Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime Trump adviser, was blinking his Nixon victory sign to fans as members of the Oath Keepers, an activist group, protected him.
What happened at the Willard Hotel in the hours leading up to the Capitol Riot has become a primary focus of the House committee investigating the January 6 attack as the panel intensifies its scrutiny to determine if there was any coordination or connection between those pushing a legal strategy to overturn the election results and those who stormed the Capitol that day as Congress met to count the electoral votes in order to formalize Mr. Biden’s victory.
This week, the committee issued subpoenas to several of Mr. Trump’s advisers who met there – including Mr. Flynn, Mr. Eastman and Mr. Kerik – and communications with Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Stone are among the documents investigators have requested from the former president, who is blocking the investigation.
On Tuesday, the committee announced 10 new subpoenas that appeared to widen the opening of the investigation even further, seeking information from senior officials in Mr. Trump’s White House, including Stephen Miller, his senior adviser; Keith Kellogg, National Security Advisor to Vice President Mike Pence; Johnny McEntee, the former chief of staff to the former president; and others.
In the past two days alone, the panel has nearly doubled the number of subpoenas it issued, bringing the total to 35.
In recent weeks, the committee has hired new investigators, reviewed thousands of documents, and privately heard from a flood of willing witnesses, from rally planners and former Trump officials to the rioters themselves.
More than 150 witnesses were interviewed, some of whom surprised investigators by proactively contacting the committee to testify, according to two people familiar with the investigation who described the confidential investigation on condition of anonymity.
The panel learned details of how the organizers of the “Stop the Steal” rally used deception to obtain permits from the Capitol Police to organize rallies near the Capitol; how Mr. Trump and White House officials coordinated with the organizers of the rally whose attendees were later to storm Capitol Hill; and how Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has been involved in spreading false allegations of widespread electoral fraud.
Working in a nondescript office building at the bottom of Capitol Hill, the committee’s investigators split into color-coded teams to pursue multiple investigative leads. They study :
The money trail. Investigators are scrutinizing groups that funded the protests leading up to the violence, which involved rioters from at least 44 states, and promoted and spread lies online that helped radicalize the mob.
Planning meetings. The panel is pushing for answers on rallies at the Willard and other Washington hotels where allies of Mr. Trump who participated in the effort to overturn the election, including Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Eastman, met in the hours leading up to the riot.
Awareness of violence. The hardest part of the investigation is uncovering evidence that Mr. Trump or someone around him knew in advance that violence was a possibility on January 6 and whether they took any steps to encourage or discourage the storming of the Capitol. Mr. Bannon, whom the House voted for criminal contempt of Congress for defying a committee subpoena, predicted on his podcast a day before the riot that “hell is going to break loose tomorrow”.
The committee wishes to question Mr. Bannon about his attendance at a meeting at the Willard on January 5, where plans were discussed to attempt to block Congressional formalization of the elections the next day.
“Sir. Bannon was in the Willard War Room on January 6,” Representative Liz Cheney, Republican from Wyoming and vice-chair of the committee, said at a recent hearing.
Mr Stone, who was pictured with Mr Flynn on January 5, claimed he left his room at the Willard to leave town as rioters stormed the Capitol, after deciding not to want to ” lead a walk “from the Ellipse from the White House to the Capitol, according to the video posted on social networks.
But the Willard was only a hub of Trump’s activity before the January 6 riot, when members of the former president’s inner circle also gathered at Trump International and other hotels in proximity to plan their attempt to invalidate the election results.
Mr. Flynn was also in attendance at the Trump International Hotel on January 5 for a meeting that included about 15 people, where the discussion centered on “how to pressure more members of Congress to oppose the results of the Electoral College, “said participant Charles Herbster, a Republican candidate for governor of Nebraska.
Among those present, according to Mr. Herbster, were Mr. Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald Jr .; Mr. Giuliani; Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama; Trump advisers Peter Navarro, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie; and Mike Lindell, MyPillow executive and conspiracy theorist.
Unlike Mr. Bannon, many witnesses who received subpoenas began to comply with the committee to varying degrees.
“We have a lot of people who are cooperating,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and committee member. “We conduct interviews and testimonies almost every day. “
But some who have agreed to speak are unlikely to help the committee find evidence of a conspiracy it is looking for. Mr Kerik, for example, said he was eager to present investigators with examples of electoral fraud he claimed to have uncovered.
He said he hoped to be “able to present the evidence we obtained on voting irregularities so that government officials could follow up”, but became angry when the committee described him. as “involved in efforts to promote false allegations of electoral fraud” and to work “to promote unfounded litigation”.
The committee has yet to send a summons to any member of Congress, even the far-right Republicans who have fueled the flames of conspiracy and anger with election lies and inflammatory rhetoric in preparation for the riot.
The FBI said in March it had no evidence of communications between rioters and members of Congress during the deadly attack.
“With respect to the evidence of member involvement, we are still at a very early stage in our investigation,” said Mr Schiff.
Tom Van Flein, the chief of staff of Rep. Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, who was deeply involved in the “Stop the Steal” effort, said he had not yet been asked to run for a interview, although it was named in a document. committee request.
Mr Van Flein has denied that he or his boss was involved in planning the events of January 6 beyond the House’s objections to Mr Biden’s victory.
“Congressman Gosar and other members of Congress have and had every right to attend rallies and speeches,” Van Flein wrote in an email. “None of the members could have predicted what happened later.”
At the center of the investigation is Mr. Trump himself, who has filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the publication of documents related to January 6 and ordered his associates to refuse to cooperate with the committee, citing the executive privilege.
The latest round of summons reflected the panel’s efforts to verify every move the former president made on the day of the riot. He demands testimony from Nicholas Luna, one of Mr. Trump’s “body men” who was in the Oval Office as the former president pressured Mr. Pence to refuse to certify the election.
Mr McEntee, who was reportedly in the Oval Office during a meeting with Mr Trump and Mr Pence when Mr Giuliani suggested seizing the Dominion voting machines, and Kayleigh McEnany, the former press secretary of the White House who would have been with Mr. Trump at times as he watched the attack.
The committee also wants to hear from Ben Williamson, one of Mr. Meadows’ top aides who the committee said tried unsuccessfully to get Mr. Trump to issue a statement on Jan.6 condemning the violence on Capitol Hill. Christopher Liddell, a former White House deputy chief of staff who investigators said tried to resign on the day of the riot but was persuaded not to do so, has also been subpoenaed.
In its order to Mr Miller, the committee said it had helped spread false allegations of voter fraud in elections and encouraged state legislatures to nominate alternative voters lists in an attempt to invalidate Mr. Biden’s victory.
Those scheduled to receive a subpoena on Tuesday did not respond to a request for comment or could not be reached.