Jan. 6 Committee reveals new text messages from Sean Hannity to White House. Plus, a “smoking gun” document.
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Hannity text messages
The Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol released a letter to Fox News personality Sean Hannity, seeking his voluntary cooperation with their investigation. The letter the Hannity revealed several text messages he sent to Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the lead up to the insurrection (pdf):
On December 31, 2020, Hannity sent Meadows:
“We can’t lose the entire WH counsels office. I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told. After the 6 th. [sic] He should announce will lead the nationwide effort to reform voting integrity. Go to Fl and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks people will listen.”
On Jan. 5:
“Im very worried about the next 48 hours.”
“Pence pressure. WH counsel will leave.”
The Committee adds that after the attack on the Capitol, Hannity “texted to Meadows press coverage relating to a potential effort by members of President Trump’s cabinet to remove him from office under the 25th Amendment.”
On Jan. 10:
“Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days. He can’t mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I’m not sure what is left to do or say, and I don’t like not knowing if it’s truly understood. Ideas?”
Bernard Kerik, the former New York City Police Commissioner, is cooperating with the Select Committee’s investigation pursuant to a subpoena issued in November. Kerik was one of the first members of Giuliani’s “war room” convened to plan Trump’s strategy to overturn the election.
He has reportedly turned over a trove of documents to the Committee, including a log of all the material he is claiming as protected (pdf). Among these withheld documents is a “smoking gun” letter from Trump detailing his plan to seize election equipment in swing states by declaring a false national emergency. The document is titled “DRAFT LETTER FROM POTUS TO SEIZE EVIDENCE IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS” and was withheld due to claimed attorney confidentiality.
- Note, this is similar to the current thinking that Trump hoped to incite counter-protesters to clash with his supporters on the 6th, using the violence as a pretense to invoke the Insurrection Act and stay in power. We know, from the Committee’s investigation, that Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stated in an email on Jan. 5 that the Guard was expected to act to “protect” pro-Trump demonstrators.
An important document (pdf) the Committee has already obtained, however, is a 22-page plan to pressure Republican House and Senate members to vote against certifying the 2020 election results. Talking points include all the hits we saw on Trump’s Twitter and Fox News: dead people voting, people voting numerous times, felons and “illegals” voting, fraudulent ballots, Dominion machine fraud, etc.
Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) told Meet the Press that the panel has evidence of “communication” between members of Congress and people who participated in the insurrection (clip).
We have a lot of information about communication with individuals who came. Now, ‘assisted’ means different things. Some took pictures with people who came to the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally. Some, you know, allowed them to come and associate in their offices and other things during that whole rally week. So, there’s some participation.
We don’t have any real knowledge that I’m aware of people giving tours. We heard a lot of that, but we’re still, to be honest with you, reviewing a lot of the film that the House administration and others have provided the committee.
Separately, Vice Chair Liz Cheney told ABC’s This Week that the Committee has “firsthand testimony” that Ivanka urged Trump to stop the insurrection. Instead, Cheney said, Trump continued to sit and watch the violence unfold on television (clip).
“We are learning much more about what former president Trump was doing while the violent assault was underway. The committee has firsthand testimony now that he was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office watching the attack on television…The briefing room at the White House is just a mere few steps from the Oval Office. The president could have at any moment walked those very few steps into the briefing room, gone on live television, and told his supporters who were assaulting the Capitol to stop…It’s hard to imagine a more significant and more serious dereliction of duty than that.”
“We know as he was sitting there in the dining room next to the Oval Office, members of his staff were pleading with him to go on television to tell people to stop…We have firsthand testimony that his daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence.”
Phone record subpoenas
Twelve witnesses under investigation by the Select Committee have filed lawsuits challenging the legality of subpoenas for their testimony, documents, and/or phone records.
Former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows filed a lawsuit against the Select Committee after a short period of cooperation, during which time he turned over text messages and emails from his private accounts. However, when he learned that the panel issued a subpoena for his phone records from Verizon, Meadows refused to comply with other requests. The House voted to refer Meadows to the DOJ for criminal contempt of Congress on December 15.
The lawsuit filed by Meadows (pdf) relies largely on Trump’s claim of executive privilege, despite the federal DC appellate court ruling weeks earlier that Biden’s choice not to invoke executive privilege outweighs the former president’s assertion.
Because Mr. Meadows as Chief of Staff at the White House was so inextricably involved in the President’s decision-making, “[s]ubjecting [him] to the congressional subpoena power would be akin to requiring the President himself to appear before Congress on matters relating to the performance of his constitutionally assigned executive functions.”
The Verizon subpoena (pdf), issued in early December, seeks subscriber information and cell phone data for Meadows’ personal cell phone that he used during his time at the White House. This information includes subscriber names, contact information, and associated IP addresses.
Meadows asks the court to rule that the Verizon subpoena violates his First and Fourth Amendment rights.
Former Trump national security director Michael Flynn sued the Committee to prevent it from enforcing a subpoena for his testimony and documents. The complaint (pdf) states that Flynn hired a vendor to collect and process documents to submit to the Committee, but requested that the panel “clarify the scope of the subpoena.” After the Committee refused to limit its request, Flynn sued, asking the court to declare the subpoena “unlawful” and “unenforceable.”
Like many Americans in late 2020, and to this day, General Flynn has sincerely held concerns about the integrity of the 2020 elections. It is not a crime to hold such beliefs, regardless of whether they are correct or mistaken… Yet, on November 8, 2021, the Select Committee mailed its subpoena to General Flynn (the “Subpoena”). The Subpoena commanded General Flynn produce documents in response to twenty sweeping and vague demands covering a year and a half time frame…
Flynn also maneuvered to head off a potential subpoena for his phone records, suspecting that one has been or will be issued based on the experiences of other Trump associates.
Unlike the other plaintiffs, however, Flynn’s lawsuit was rejected almost immediately after filing. District Judge Mary Scriven, a G.W. Bush appointee in the Middle District of Florida, ruled that Flynn did not meet the procedural requirements to make the case for emergency intervention.
“Flynn has not, however, provided any information about the date by which the Select Committee currently expects him to produce documents,” the judge wrote. “Thus, on this record, there is no basis to conclude that Flynn will face ‘immediate and ‘irreparable’ harm before Defendants have an opportunity to respond,” Scriven added.
Current Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich quietly cooperated with the Select Committee for weeks, providing more than 1,700 pages of documents and testifying under oath for roughly four hours. During his deposition the day before Christmas Eve, Budowich “answered questions concerning payments made and received regarding his involvement in the planning of a peaceful, lawful rally to celebrate President Trump’s accomplishments.”
Included in Mr. Budowich’s production were “documents sufficient to identify all account transactions for the time period December 19, 2020, to January 31, 2021, in connection with the Ellipse Rally.” Mr. Budowich provided such documents.
Apparently, he also discovered that Committee members issued a subpoena for his financial details from J.P. Morgan Chase and immediately filed suit to block their attempt (pdf).
The Select Committee wrongly seeks to compel Mr. Budowich’s financial institution to provide private banking information to the Select Committee that it lacks the lawful authority to seek and to obtain… Without intervention by this Court, Mr. Budowich will suffer irreparable harm by having a third party involuntarily produce his private and personal financial information.
Far right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones filed a lawsuit against the Committee to prevent the panel from obtaining his phone records and compelling his testimony. The Committee, he claims (pdf), is conducting a “political witch hunt” and “threatening criminal prosecution against anyone who dares to assert his rights and liberties against its demands.”
The Select Committee has requested countless documents that Jones possesses for various subjects including about his participation in legally permitted protests in Washington, D.C., financial transactions pertaining to those protests, and documents sufficient to determine how he promoted the protests.
Jones says he offered to submit written responses to the Committee’s questions, but the Committee “insists that he appear in person for a deposition.” Jones refused, citing his “journalistic activities,” despite the panel allegedly suggesting it may offer immunity in exchange for his full testimony.
Jones has notified the Select Committee that he intends to plead his right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment…Jones further informed the Select Committee that he will raise First Amendment objections as appropriate when the Select Committee seeks to inquire as to journalistic activities as well as protected speech and political activity.
Jones also objects to the panel’s subpoena for his phone data from AT&T, arguing it “violate[s] both Jones’ expressive and associational rights under the First Amendment as well as his rights to privacy and group advocacy.”
January 6th organizer Ali Alexander sat for an eight-hour deposition last month, pledging his cooperation. He allegedly provided “hundreds of pages of documents, emails, and texts” to the Committee. However, when he learned that the panel issued a subpoena for his personal cell phone data, Alexander sued (pdf).
The complaint argues that his phone data “sweeps up privileged communications between Alexander and clergy” and “people he spiritually counsels.”
He further alleges, without any evidence, that the Committee will use the phone data “to populate a massive database of the personal friends and political associates of not just Plaintiff’s, but everyone who has had any connection with the belief in election integrity [or] government skepticism…The billions of data points yielded can recreate not just intimate relationships, but also locations and movements, creating a virtual CAT-scan of the Select Committee’s political opposition, likely including even their own colleagues in the House of Representatives.”
John Eastman, the conservative lawyer who authored an outline for Pence to overturn the election, sued the Committee (pdf) to block them from accessing his phone records. The subpoena issued by the panel seeks “nine categories of information on Dr. Eastman’s personal cell phone use over a three-month period.”
Cleta Mitchell, the lawyer who helped Trump pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also sued (pdf) the Committee to block a subpoena for her private phone records. She argues the subpoena is “overly broad” and an “unwarranted intrusion” on her privacy and privileged communications.
Four Jan. 6 rally organizers filed suit (pdf) to stop Verizon from complying with a Committee for their phone records, saying the subpoena “lacks a lawful purpose and seeks to invade the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to privacy and to confidential political communications.” They have allegedly complied with the investigation otherwise, sitting for “lengthy” interviews and providing “thousands of documents to Congressional investigators.”
- The four organizers are (1) Tim Unes and (2) Justin Caporale of Event Strategies, who are listed on event permits for the Ellipse rally, (3) Megan Powers, listed on permits as “Operations Manager,” and Maggie Mulvaney, listed as “VIP Lead” on permits. Maggie is the niece of former Trump White House Chief of Staff and served as the director of finance operations for the Trump campaign.
Amy Harris, a photographer who covered the Jan. 6 insurrection, filed a lawsuit (pdf) to block the Committee from obtaining her phone records. She was in contact with leaders of the Proud Boys as part of her job and argues that the subpoena endangers her confidential sources. It is not known if the Committee knew of her occupation before issuing the subpoena.
KKK Act Lawsuits
You may remember numerous members of Congress filed civil suits against Trump for violating the Ku Klux Klan Act by inciting the rioters to prevent the counting of Electoral College votes. Reps. Karen Bass, Steve Cohen, Veronica Escobar, Pramila Jayapal, Henry Johnson, Marcia Kaptur, Barbara Lee, Jerry Nadler, Maxine Waters, and Bonnie Coleman sued Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys, and the Oath Keepers (pdf). Rep. Eric Swalwell separately sued Trump, Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr., and Rep. Mo Brooks (pdf).
U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta set arguments for the two cases above, and an additional civil suit brought by two Capitol Police officers (pdf), for Jan. 10. Mehta, an Obama appointee, has a strong record of holding insurrection participants accountable for their actions. In November, Mehta placed the blame for the insurrection at Trump’s feet, saying rioters “were told lies and falsehoods” by those who haven’t been “held to account for their actions and their word.”