Jan. 6 committee's August plan: More interviews with Trump aides and studying the 25th Amendment
The Jan. 6 committee continues gathering information from witnesses including Trump Cabinet secretaries while drafting fixes to prevent another attack and a final report about what happened.
- Mick Mulvaney and Steve Mnuchin testified, but panel has sites on Mike Pompeo, Ginni Thomas.
- Lawmakers aim to update Electoral Count Act and perhaps create panel for invoking 25th Amendment.
- The committee continues to press for Secret Service texts erased from Jan. 6, 2021.
WASHINGTON – After a series of eight hearings in June and July, the House committee investigating the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, will work during August to interview more witnesses, draft recommendations for legislation and begin writing a report about what happened that day and why.
The committee is exploring how members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet considered whether to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office during the final two weeks of his term.
The panel will discuss legislative recommendations based on its findings, such as how to overhaul the Electoral Count Act, which lays out how Electoral College votes in presidential elections should be counted, and whether to set up a congressional body as an option to the Cabinet for invoking the 25th Amendment.
Panel members also will deal with missing evidence such as Secret Service texts from Jan. 6 that were erased.
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“In some sense, we have more work to do in August because we continue an aggressive investigation into the facts of the insurrection, and we also have to look into now some questions of vanishing evidence, like with the text messages,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said on the Capitol steps Friday. “We also need to be really zeroing in on a report and on what our consensus recommendations are going to be about how America can equip itself against insurrections, coups, political violence and attempts to usurp the will of the people."
More hearings are likely in September, although the committee hasn't revealed the subjects. The committee overcame Trump's claims of executive privilege and immunity in federal court cases while more witnesses stepped forward.
"Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued, and the dam has begun to break," the vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said at the committee's hearing July 21.
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Mick Mulvaney, Steve Mnuchin reportedly among the latest Jan. 6 witnesses
Former Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who resigned as Trump’s special envoy to Northern Ireland after the riot, gave a taped deposition Thursday, according to NBC News.
Former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also gave a deposition recently, according to ABC News.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in negotiations to become another witness, according to CNN and The Washington Post.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified about calls in the aftermath of the riot such as when Pompeo called Mark Meadows, then White House chief of staff, to ask how Trump was doing. “Meadows would say, ‘Well, he’s in a really dark place,’” Milley said in videotaped testimony presented at the hearing July 21.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a Meadows aide, testified Pompeo warned Meadows that Cabinet secretaries discussed whether to invoke the 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of an unfit president from office by the vice president and a majority of either the Cabinet or a congressional panel.
"You're technically the boss of all the Cabinet secretaries," Hutchinson quoted Pompeo telling Meadows. "And you know if the conversations progressed, you should be ready to take action on this."
Pompeo denied the conversation took place.
“Members of the Cabinet are obviously integrally involved in different aspects of the events,” Raskin said.
The committee hasn’t made any decision about whether to subpoena Trump or former Vice President Mike Pence. Another potential witness is Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote Meadows texts about fighting the election results. Ginni Thomas has not been subpoenaed.
What is the VP's role? Lawmakers want to overhaul the Electoral Count Act
Lawmakers in the Senate and House are drafting legislation to overhaul the 1887 Electoral Count Act, a statute written in archaic language at the heart of Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.
Trump lawyer John Eastman proposed that Pence single-handedly reject electors from seven states Joe Biden won in the presidential election in 2020, under a reading of the act a federal judge called unlawful.
A bipartisan Senate proposal led by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., aims to make clear in the statute the vice president is merely ceremonial in overseeing the counting of Electoral College votes. The bill would raise the threshold to challenge electors from one lawmaker in each chamber to 20% of lawmakers in each chamber. The bill calls for governors to certify state electors to Congress, rather than potentially multiple state officials, to prevent alternate slates of fake electors.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a member of the investigative committee, said Thursday her version of the legislation could be introduced within weeks but would have to be reconciled with the Senate version. She developed the legislation as head of the House Administration Committee, which oversees federal elections.
“We have been working on a bill as well that is not quite done but should be introduced in the next couple of weeks,” Lofgren said. “We’ll be discussing with our Senate counterparts how to reach consensus. I am sure that we will come to a meeting of the minds in a very cordial way.”
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Some in Congress wanted to remove Trump using the 25th Amendment. What role does it have?
The 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967, allowed for a vice president to work with either a majority of a president’s Cabinet or the majority of a panel of lawmakers to remove an unfit president from office. Congress never created such a panel, and the subject is often criticized as political.
“I think we need to act to set up that body and for it to be a standing, permanent body," Raskin said.
Cheney said Fox News host Sean Hannity sent Meadows a text at 8:42 p.m. on Jan. 6, 2021, with a link to a tweet that reported "Cabinet secretaries were considering invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office."
"President Trump's supporters were worried," Cheney said at the hearing June 28.
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Eugene Scalia, Trump’s labor secretary, testified to the committee that he wanted Trump to convene a Cabinet meeting. Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, recommended Trump “no longer publicly question the election results” because “no one can deny this is harmful.”
Others quit. In the chaotic days after the riot, Cabinet members such as Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos resigned within a day of the riot, along with other administration officials.
Days after the attack, House Republicans blocked consideration of a resolution calling on Pence to work with the Cabinet to remove Trump. The House then impeached Trump a second time, charging him with inciting the insurrection. The Senate acquitted him.
“Obviously, there were serious concerns within Donald Trump’s Cabinet, but they were not able to get it together because there were so many acting people and so many people who were compromised in different ways," Raskin said. "People just started resigning.”
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Justice Department continues investigation
The Justice Department asked for transcripts of interviews the committee collected to become part of the criminal investigation into Jan. 6. The department has charged more than 800 defendants, and Democratic lawmakers urged charges against Trump.
The committee shared 20 transcripts from unnamed witnesses with the department.
“Donald Trump was not an innocent bystander to these events. He was at the center of a lot of the action,” Raskin said. “I imagine if you’re the Department of Justice and you’re investigating criminal offenses against the United States, his name would be coming up.”
The Jan. 6 committee presses for missing Secret Service texts
The committee presses for Secret Service texts the day of the riot to be recovered and sent to it. Texts for 24 staffers were erased as part a phone transfer – after four House committees wrote to departments and agencies to remind them to preserve records from that date.
Two lawmakers – Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., head of the investigative committee and the Homeland Security Committee, and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., head of the Oversight and Reform Committee – urged the removal of the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general for not investigating the Secret Service aggressively enough.
“I just don’t know why everybody’s texts and emails are suddenly disappearing all over the place,” Raskin said. “I assume it’s not just a technological problem. But we’ll get to the bottom of it.”
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