The January 6 committee is due to meet in person on Tuesday as it debates whether to invite Trump and Pence to appear
As the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack nears its final chapter, the members plan to meet in person on Tuesday and one of the most pressing issues they will address is whether the committee should formally ask former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence to appear before them.
Such appearances are extremely rare in United States history. According to multiple sources, the committee does not expect either of the men to testify, but some members and staff believe the invitations should be extended for the record.
“How do you create a historical record without including formal requests for the two main witnesses,” said a source familiar with the committee’s work.
Committee members, including Rep. Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, have consistently said they would like to hear from Pence and would welcome Trump’s testimony if he offered it on their terms, but internal discussions over The ability to formally contact the pair has intensified in recent weeks now that the group’s investigation is nearing completion, the sources said.
Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren of California, a member of the panel, told CNN: ‘I only speak for myself, I would like to hear from them both. Whether we actually do that is a separate question.
A source close to Pence’s team told CNN there have been on-and-off conversations between the committee and Pence’s legal counsel, but nothing has changed, meaning it’s unlikely it testifies.
Whether the panel decides to call Trump or Pence could prove to be an important data point if the committee ultimately decides to submit a criminal referral for Trump – which panel members say they expect to seriously consider, while such a decision would be largely symbolic in nature.
“I tend to think you’ll see us seriously having this debate, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we did criminal referrals,” Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a committee member, told CNN in a statement. recent interview. “I think by the time we get to the end of the investigation, we’ve already presented a lot to say there’s some criminal culpability here.”
Whether or not the committee issues referrals, the former president already faces potential legal risk on a variety of fronts. Justice Department investigates handling of classified documents after Trump’s departure; federal investigators steadily expanded their investigation into the Capitol Riot and the events leading up to it; and Trump is at the center of a criminal investigation into efforts to nullify Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.
In addition to discussing the way forward on Trump and Pence, the panel is expected to use Tuesday’s meeting to continue planning its next round of hearings and work on its final report which is expected in December, sources told CNN.
The committee must also decide what to do with the five Republican lawmakers who refused to cooperate with the subpoenas: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and GOP Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Mo Brooks of ‘Alabama, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.
He continues to debate whether to subpoena other prominent figures, including Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
With the end of the year just months away, multiple sources have admitted to CNN that the committee does not expect it ever to hear from Trump allies who have fought subpoenas such as the former leader. Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and former deputy chief of staff Dan. Scavino.
There are also several investigative threads that remain open, but with limited time, the committee is now deciding what to prioritize, sources told CNN. That includes issues with the US Secret Service, the sources said.
“We are in active deliberation and discussion about how to resolve the issues with the investigation and then present a powerful report and set of recommendations to Congress and the people,” said Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, a member of the committee. told CNN, acknowledging that the opportunity to call Trump and Pence was on that list of details. “The chair and the committee will have to work together to come to a decision on what to do with the people who have not testified so far.”
One factor weighing on members heading into the September session is that they realize the political landscape has changed dramatically since its last hearing on July 21 – which took place before the FBI raid of Trump’s residence in Mar-a-Lago and preceded several significant climbs. in parallel criminal investigations focused on efforts to overturn the 2020 election. And as committee members return this fall — even with a string of blockbuster hearings under its belt — the bar for its work to be cleared is exponentially higher.
In light of recent events, a source familiar with the committee’s planning said members and investigators were “currently taking time to assess what made the most sense” in terms of how best to proceed and “weaving a coherent narrative.
“I mean, the country now understands all the essential elements of the plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election and install Donald Trump as president for another four years,” Raskin said. “There have been a lot of developments in terms of the Justice Department and its own investigations, but of course that’s on a separate track from us.”
Several sources involved in the committee’s work said they hoped its hearings and work would help generate public pressure and momentum – and led to the escalation of the various criminal investigations through January 6. The committee has already begun delivering transcripts to the Department of Justice and the DOJ. began subpoenaing a wide range of Trump allies for information, including everything they provided to the committee.
Investigators working on criminal investigations viewed some of the panel’s final actions as bread crumbs for prosecutors, whose work will continue, according to a person familiar with the matter.
While the committee’s recent request for a voluntary interview with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich may not lead to his testimony, the committee’s letter to Gingrich exposed little-known details about his alleged role in the fake election conspiracy and its efforts to push election lies. on Georgia. Both topics are of interest to federal prosecutors, as well as an Atlanta-area prosecutor investigating Trump.
Even as the committee deliberates on these issues, it also continues to seek new leads, plan further hearings and write a final report. Plans for what to include in potentially two more hearings this month remain in flux, sources say.
“I believe we need to have at least one, possibly two final investigative hearings which will provide insight into a number of areas where the mystery still remains, and then I think we need to have a final hearing which will review our recommendations and explain why. we believe that some changes are needed to prevent election sabotage and political violence in the future,” Raskin said.
As for areas where “mystery lingers,” the panel asked the National Archives and Records Administration if any of the documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago were relevant to its investigation, sources said. He continues to investigate the destruction of documents at Trump’s White House, sources familiar with the investigation tell CNN, and even asked witnesses if Meadows, which had stopped cooperating with the committee, burned down documents in the fireplace of his office in the west wing.
Because the Justice Department is conducting an ongoing investigation, the National Archives and the January 6 committee have no window on what exactly the DOJ found during the Mar-a-Lago raid, sources say. familiar.
Separately, the committee asked the National Archives for the electronic communication that Meadows handed over, but because it includes a large number of texts and emails, the agency is still processing it. The committee does not yet know if there is anything new, or if it duplicates what it has already given them, according to these sources.
Investigators also learned new information about the deletion of Secret Service text messages surrounding the Capitol attack, even though those messages have not been recovered, which sources say could surface in future hearings.
“It’s not clear they’re salvageable at this point. But we’re not giving up,” a source said. Referring to the texts, the source added, “He’s not the only guy evidence that exists.”
Kinzinger told CNN that panel members believe former Secret Service agent Tony Ornato was personally involved in efforts to discredit the testimony of Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson while he was still to the agency, and said anonymous Secret Service officials and others simply adopted his side of the story.
“I just think it’s so important to keep in mind that through quotes, from unnamed sources, who we believe to be in fact Tony Ornato himself, he pushed back against Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony and said, that’s just not true and Tony will testify under oath. And then, of course, he didn’t come to testify under oath,” he told CNN.
CNN has contacted the Secret Service to comment on this story.
“Mr. Ornato plans to continue to cooperate with investigations related to the events of January 6,” his attorney, Kate Driscoll of the law firm Morrison & Foerster, told CNN.
Hutchinson testified in June that Ornato witnessed an altercation between Trump and his Secret Service detail over wanting to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6. The panel spoke with Ornato during its investigation, but not since Hutchinson’s public testimony.
This story has been updated with additional reports.