The 16 Trump aides subpoenaed last week
A federal grand jury indicted former Trump advisor Steve Bannon on Friday for failing to comply with a congressional subpoena. Charged with two counts of contempt of Congress (pdf), Bannon has turned himself in on Monday and will be arraigned tomorrow.
Bannon was issued a subpoena on Sept. 23, 2021, from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, seeking information regarding his involvement in the insurrection (pdf):
The Select Committee has reason to believe that you have information relevant to understanding important activities that led to and informed the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. For example, you have been identified as present at the Willard Hotel on January 5, 2021, during an effort to persuade Members of Congress to block the certification of the election the next day, and in relation to other activities on January 6. You are also described as communicating with then-President Trump…urging him to plan for and focus his efforts on January 6. Moreover, you are quoted as stating, on January 5, 2021, that “[a]ll hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” Accordingly, the Select Committee seeks both documents and your deposition testimony regarding these and multiple other matters that are within the scope of the Select Committee’s inquiry.
Bannon defaulted on the October 7 deadline, claiming he would not comply with the subpoena because former President Donald Trump had claimed executive privilege over the records and testimony sought by the Committee. This was a flimsy excuse considering the fact that Bannon did not work for the federal government during the time frame in question. Executive privilege does not extend to actions conducted as a private citizen.
On Oct. 19, 2021, the Committee voted 9-0 recommending that the House of Representatives cite Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress. Vice Chair Liz Cheney said at the time that Bannon’s and Trump’s weak privilege arguments “suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6th.”
Cheney: “I ask my colleagues, please consider the fundamental questions of right and wrong here. The American people must know what happened. They must know the truth. All of us who are elected officials must do our duty to prevent the dismantling of the rule of law, and to ensure nothing like that dark day in January ever happens again.”
Two days later, the House voted 229-202 in favor of holding Bannon in contempt. Seven Republicans not on the Committee voted with the majority: Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), Anthony Gonzalez (OH), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA), John Katko (NY), Nancy Mace (SC), Peter Meijer (MI), and Fred Upton (MI).
“Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”
Each count of contempt carries a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail, plus a fine of $100-1000.
Like Bannon, other attendees of the Jan. 5 Willard Hotel meeting have also been subpoenaed by the Committee. According to the Washington Post, Donald Trump set up a series of rooms and suites at the hotel, just a block away from the White House, to act as a “command center” for the president’s team. Led by Rudy Giuliani, the group first convened in early November, plotting strategies to keep Trump in office past Biden’s inauguration day. They called legislature members in swing states, urging them to convene special sessions and reassign electoral college votes from Biden to Trump.
Giuliani’s earliest “command center” accomplice, Bernard Kerik, was subpoenaed by the Committee last Monday. Kerik served as Police Commissioner of New York City during 9/11 and later plead guilty to eight felonies, including tax fraud and lying to the White House while being vetted to lead the Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. He served four years in prison and was later pardoned by Trump in 2020.
On Jan. 8, Kerik billed the Trump campaign for $66,371.54 in travel expenses, including $55,295 on rooms for legal team members at the Willard from Dec. 18 to Jan. 8, according to Kerik and documents reviewed by The Post…Kerik initially sought reimbursement from the Republican National Committee, but said he was told the party would not foot the bills. The bills were eventually submitted to the Trump campaign, which agreed to pay them.
A later edition to the team, conservative attorney John Eastman, was also subpoenaed last Monday (pdf). Eastman authored two late December memos that laid out a supposed legal strategy for Vice President Pence to get Trump re-elected by throwing out electors from seven states. On Jan. 2, he took part in a conference call with 300 state legislators, during which he told them that it was “the duty of the legislatures to fix this, this egregious conduct, and make sure that we’re not putting in the White House some guy who didn’t get elected.”
At the White House’s request, Eastman met with Trump and Pence on Jan. 4:
“It started with the president talking about how some of the legal scholarship that had been done, saying under the 12th Amendment, the vice president has the ultimate authority to reject invalid electoral votes and he asked me what I thought about it,” Mr. Eastman said…
“What we asked [Pence] to do was delay the proceedings at the request of these state legislatures so they could look into the matter,” Mr. Eastman said.
During a later interview, Eastman indicated that he was at the hotel with Giuliani on the morning of Jan. 6. “We had a war room at the Willard…kind of coordinating all of the communications.”
Then, mere hours before insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, Eastman spoke at Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally (clip):
We know there was fraud, traditional fraud, that occurred. We know that dead people voted but now we know because we caught it live last time, in real time, how the machines contributed to that fraud… And all that we are demanding of Vice President Pence is this afternoon, at one o’clock, he let the legislatures of the state look into this so we get to the bottom of it and the American people know whether we have control of the direction of our government or not…
This is bigger than President Trump. It is the very essence of our Republican form of government and it has to be done. And anybody that is not willing to stand up to do it does not deserve to be in the office. It is that simple.
A crowd of thousands marched down the street to Congress, carrying Trump flags and attacking Capitol Police officers. They broke windows, scaled walls, and invaded the Capitol buildings. During the chaos and violence, Eastman sent an email to Pence aide Greg Jacob, blaming the insurrection on Pence’s refusal to overturn the election:
The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss did not do what was necessary to allow this to be aired in a public way so that the American people can see for themselves what happened,” Eastman wrote to Jacob, referring to Trump’s claims of voter fraud. Eastman sent the email as Pence, who had been presiding in the Senate, was under guard with Jacob and other advisers in a secure area.
Other participants in the Willard Hotel command center have not yet been subpoenaed. They include former Trump special assistant Boris Epshteyn, One America News Network host Christina Bobb, cybersecurity company co-founder Russell Ramsland, Jr., and retired Army colonel Phil Waldron. Rudy Giuliani has also escaped a subpoena, for the time being.
After the 2020 election, Trump’s re-election campaign focused its efforts on filing legal challenges to the election, finding and publicizing alleged incidents of voter fraud, and fundraising for these efforts. The Select Committee accordingly subpoenaed key Trump campaign individuals last Monday.
First, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien. You may remember him from the infamous New Jersey Bridgegate scandal which resulted in Stepien’s firing from Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign. He refused to work with investigators and invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid complying with a subpoena.
Stepien went on to work for Trump’s 2016 campaign and served as the White House Director of Political Affairs for nearly two years. After Trump demoted Brad Parscale in July 2020, Stepien was named campaign manager. According to the Select Committee (pdf), Stepien “supervised the conversion of the Trump presidential campaign to an effort that focused on ‘Stop the Steal’ messaging and related fundraising.”
Second, Trump campaign Senior Advisor Jason Miller. The day before the 2020 election, Miller claimed that “many smart Democrats…believe that President Trump will be ahead on election night…and then they’re going to try to steal it back after the election. We believe we’ll be over 290 electoral votes on election night. So no matter what they try to do, no matter what kind of hijinks or nonsense they try to pull off, we’ll still have enough electoral votes to get President Trump re-elected.” As the Committee’s letter to Miller correctly points out, those who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 echoed Miller’s claims of a stolen election.
Miller was also present at the Jan. 5 “command center” meeting during which Giuliani, Bannon, and others pressured Pence not to certify the electoral college results, according to the Committee (pdf).
Third, Michael Flynn (pdf). Flynn attended a December 18th, 2020 meeting in the Oval Office with Trump, conspiracy theorist Sydney Powell, and Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne. The group clashed with White House lawyers, trying to convince the president and his aides to declare a national emergency and use the U.S. government to seize Dominion’s voting machines.
Finally, Trump campaign National Executive Assistant Angela McCallum, the lowest-profile individual subpoenaed last Monday. The Committee stated in a letter (pdf) that McCallum is “aware of, and participated in, efforts to spread false information about alleged voter fraud in the November 2020 election.” McCallum confirmed to Michigan’s MLive that she called state legislators ahead of the electoral vote count in December, urging them to defy the popular vote and appoint electors to Trump, instead.
Last Tuesday, the Select Committee issued another set of subpoenas, targeting ten former Trump administration officials.
Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), said the subpoenaed witnesses have insight into “precisely what role the former President and his aides played in efforts to stop the counting of the electoral votes.”
The batch of ten witnesses largely fit into three categories. First, aides to Trump and/or Pence:
John McEntee, White House Personnel Director (pdf). McEntee started his White House career as a Personal Aide to the President in 2017, until he was fired a year later due to gambling debts that threatened his security clearance. He was hired back in 2020, tasked with identifying and removing political appointees and career officials deemed insufficiently loyal to the administration. McEntee was reportedly present in the Oval Office on Nov. 13, 2020, when Giuliani attempted to convince the White House legal team to seize Georgia’s voting machines because he claimed votes for Trump had been deleted. This set up a raucous screaming match between those present, during which Giuliani told Trump and Pence that his aides were “lying” to him (“I Alone Can Fix It,” Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker).
Kayleigh McEnany, White House Press Secretary (pdf). McEnany spread Trump’s false claims of election fraud from the White House podium, granting outright lies a veneer of official respectability. The Committee specifically cites a Nov. 20, 2020, White House press briefing during which McEnany claimed “there are very real claims” of voter fraud and cast doubt on the security of mail-in ballots. Just a couple of weeks earlier, McEnany appeared alongside RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and accused Democrats of “welcoming fraud and illegal voting.”
This election is not over, far from it. We have only begun the process of obtaining an accurate, honest account. We are fighting for the rights of all Americans who want to have faith and confidence not only in this election but in the many elections to come. There is only one party in America that opposes voter ID. One party in America that opposes verifying signatures, citizenship, residency eligibility. There’s only one party in America trying to keep observers out of the count room and that party is the Democrat party. You don’t take these positions because you want an honest election. You don’t oppose an audit of the votes because you want an accurate count. You don’t oppose efforts at sunlight and transparency because you have nothing to hide. You take these positions because you are welcoming fraud and illegal voting.
Stephen Miller, Senior Advisor to Trump (pdf). In addition to his close proximity to the former president during key events, Miller appeared on Fox and Friends in December where he alluded to his work appointing alternate electors to challenge the Jan. 6 electoral votes (clip):
The only date in the Constitution is Jan. 20. So we have more than enough time to right the wrong of this fraudulent election result and certify Donald Trump as the winner of the election. As we speak, today, an alternate slate of electors in the contested states is going to vote and we’re going to send those results up to Congress. This will ensure that all of our legal remedies remain open. That means that if we win these cases in the courts, that we can direct that the alternate state of electors be certified.
Miller also helped write Trump’s remarks for the rally on the Ellipse on Jan. 6 and accompanied him to and from the White House.
Nicholas Luna, Trump’s personal assistant (pdf). Luna was reportedly in the room on Jan. 6 when Trump called Pence to pressure him to refuse to count the elector votes of seven key states. ”[W]hen I go to the Capitol, I’ll do my job,” Pence told the former president. Trump was reportedly visibly outraged (“Peril,” by Woodward and Costa).
“Mike, this is not right!” Trump said… “Mike, you can do this. I’m counting on you to do it. If you don’t do it, I picked the wrong man four years ago.”
Molly Michael, Oval Office Operations Coordinator (pdf). Michael was not only in regular contact with Trump, she also assisted the former president in sending election fraud conspiracies to Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in December. For instance, on December 14, 2020—the day electors in each state certified the Electoral College votes—Michael sent an email at Trump’s direction to then-Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. The email attached materials about alleged voter fraud in Antrim County, Michigan, including “talking points” that asserted, “a Cover-up is Happening regarding the voting machines in Michigan,” and, “Michigan cannot certify for Biden.”
Keith Kellogg, National Security Advisor to Pence (pdf). Kellogg was reportedly present when White House Chief Counsel Pat Cipollone tried to convince Trump that Pence could not legally refuse to certify the election (“I Alone Can Fix It,” Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker). He accompanied Trump during his preparation for his Jan. 6 speech at the Ellipse and tried to convince the former president to use a forceful condemnation of the violence during the insurrection:
”You need to tweet something,” Kellogg told Trump. “Nobody’s going to be watching TV out there, but they will be looking at their phones. You need to tweet something…you’ve got to get on top of this and say something.”
Three of the individuals subpoenaed on Tuesday worked for Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who himself was issued a subpoena in September.
Cassidy Hutchinson, Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs (pdf). Hutchinson spoke to Georgia Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs on Meadows’ behalf in December, attempting to “show appreciation” for the people conducting the audit. According to Reuters, a source said Meadows wanted to “smooth over” Trump’s criticism of the auditors.
Ben Williamson, Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (pdf). Due to his position, the Committee believes that Williamson knows about Meadows’ communications with organizers of the Jan. 6 rallies, his interference in Georgia’s election audit, and his discussions with officials during the insurrection. Williamson fielded calls during the panic at the Capitol. Former White House communication director Alyssa Farah and deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews both called asking Meadows to get Trump to condemn the violence.
Christopher Liddell, White House Deputy Chief of Staff (pdf). Due to his position, the Committee believes that Liddell knows about Meadows’ communications with organizers of the Jan. 6 rallies, his interference in Georgia’s election audit, and his discussions with officials during the insurrection.
The final witness subpoenaed last week was Kenneth Klukowski, Senior Counsel to Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark (pdf). Klukowski helped Clark, who has also been subpoenaed, write a proposed letter to Georgia state officials with the goal of ultimately overturning the election result. Acting AG Rosen and Deputy AG Richard Donoghue refused to go through with the plan.
The letter would have informed state officials that DOJ had “taken notice” of election irregularities in their state and recommended calling a special legislative session to evaluate these irregularities, determine who “won the most legal votes,” and consider appointing a new slate of Electors. Clark’s proposal to wield DOJ’s power to override the already-certified popular vote reflected a stunning distortion of DOJ’s authority: DOJ protects ballot access and ballot integrity, but has no role in determining which candidate won a particular election. (pdf)