Jan. 6 panel discusses fake Trump voters with Justice Department, president says
This is the first time that a member of the committee has publicly indicated the subject of his discussions with the Department of Justice. Thompson’s comments suggest the department is continuing to advance its review of the fake voter system, a key part of former President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election and grab a second term he didn’t have. win. And it shows the panel’s progressive engagement with the Justice Department as prosecutors pursue their own parallel criminal investigation into Trump-related efforts to nullify the election.
The Justice Department first issued a blanket request in April for the select committee’s transcripts of its interviews with more than 1,000 witnesses, but the committee rejected it. The department later agreed to postpone a landmark criminal trial of Proud Boys leaders, citing uncertainty surrounding committee transcripts and the publicity caused by the panel’s public hearings. Thompson told reporters he plans to release all of their information publicly in the fall.
A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, DC, which is handling the bulk of the Jan. 6 investigation, declined to comment.
Trump, together with a group of conservative lawyers advancing fringe constitutional theories, pressed Republican-controlled state legislatures to overrule their constituents and appoint bogus voters, who would then be presented to Congress on January 6, 2021. No state legislature agreed, but the campaign and Trump allies worked directly with pro-Trump activists to push the plan forward anyway, getting them to sign certificates claiming to be the real ones voters in their states and sending them to Congress. Trump relied on then-Vice President Mike Pence — tasked with presiding over Congress when certifying votes on Jan. 6 — to cite “duel” lists and refuse to count the real electoral votes of the President Joe Biden.
Asked if the Justice Department had also expressed any particular interest in witness transcripts related to the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, Thompson said preliminary discussions were still ongoing and focused on establishing a evidence-sharing process, including potentially allowing ministry officials to review in-person evidence.
“We are a legislative committee. We are not a branch of the Department of Justice,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California), a member of the core group. « But we certainly don’t want to be an obstacle for them. »
Thompson also noted that the select committee had still not received documents from Trump ally Steve Bannon, who indicated over the weekend that he would testify before the panel after refusing to do so for more. nine months. Thompson said the panel likely won’t contact Bannon until he provides the far-reaching documents they requested.
An attorney for Bannon, Robert Costello, said he was still awaiting a direct response from the select committee to his letter on Saturday revealing Bannon’s abrupt willingness to testify. It was based on a letter from Trump claiming to waive executive privilege over the testimony of Bannon, who was not working in the White House during Trump’s attempts to void the election.
« Unless you are the official spokesperson for Bennie Thompson and the Select Committee, I have heard no response from the Select Committee and the last line of my letter read, ‘let me know how you wish to proceed' » , Costello said in an email. .
The select committee argued that executive privilege was never properly asserted on Bannon’s testimony.
Bannon is expected to face a jury next week in contempt of Congress for defying a Jan. 6 select committee subpoena in October. He filed a new motion on Wednesday to delay his trial, citing the publicity caused by the Jan. 6 panel’s public hearings. Although U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols denied Bannon’s original motion for delay – saying he would not consider pretrial publicity until after jury selection on Monday – the latest motion de Bannon was citing Tuesday’s select committee hearing.
Panel members played « a very inflammatory video clip of Mr. Bannon’s podcast, » Bannon’s attorneys claimed in the filing.
Speaking to reporters, Thompson also explained a “conversation” the committee had with the Justice Department about an unidentified panel witness, who revealed that Rep. Vice Chair Liz Cheney ( R-Wyo.) had received a phone call from Trump at some point. the last three weeks. The witness declined to answer the call and alerted an attorney, who informed the select committee of Trump’s outreach. Cheney said the panel forwarded the information to the Justice Department.
Describing the committee members’ contact with the Justice Department regarding Trump’s alleged contact with a witness, Thompson said they were having a « conversation, » adding that there was no « referral. » formal ».
« I think, out of an abundance of caution, any attempt to speak to a witness that our committee is engaged with would be a concern, » he said.
Panel members narrowly withheld the identity of the witness even though they repeatedly raised the possibility of witness tampering by the former president. Cheney declined to name the witness Tuesday night, and a Cheney spokesperson declined to comment.
Thompson said the anonymous witness is unlikely to be called to testify publicly.