The congressional committee charged with investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection sent letters to eight different federal agencies on Wednesday with sweeping requests for information and records on the roles that Trump administration officials might have played in the attack on the American democratic process.
The letters from Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the select committee chair, seek to expedite the process of turning over records from the executive branch to Congress. Thompson’s letters renew some requests made by other committees earlier this year, but also build on them to cover a more expansive group of records.
“Given the urgent nature of our request, we ask that you expedite your consultation and processing times,” Thompson wrote to David S. Ferriero, head of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which has custody of presidential records. “We have some concern about the delay in producing documents requested this past March, and we want to assist your prompt production of materials.”
Thompson’s letter asks NARA staff to meet with select committee staff to “discuss production priorities.” The 12-page letter includes a long list of topics about which the committee is seeking documents, call logs, visitor logs and other forms of potential evidence, with lengthy lists of names of persons of interest from inside and outside the Trump administration.
All records related to Jan. 6 are requested, along with numerous documents related to “planning by the White House and others for legal or other strategies to delay, halt, or otherwise impede the electoral count,” as well as “recruitment, planning, coordination, and other preparations” for the rallies and violence that took place during the insurrection. The committee is also looking to acquire documents that could shed light on what then-President Donald Trump was told by his advisers about the integrity of the 2020 election, and it wants to compare those internal communications with what he told his followers in the lead-up to the Capitol riot.
In addition to the letter to NARA, Thompson wrote to the Department of Defense, FBI, Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Interior, Director of National Intelligence and National Counterterrorism Center.
The letter to the Defense Department focuses in part on obtaining “all documents and communications relating to the potential use of military power to impede or ensure the peaceful transfer of power” and “all documents and communications concerning possible attempts by President Donald Trump to remain in office after January 20, 2021.”
There are also a number of requests for records related to the deployment of the National Guard to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and what role Trump and then-Vice President Mike Pence might have played in that. The commander of the D.C. National Guard has said that he could have had troops deployed to the Capitol much sooner than three hours after the insurrectionists first overwhelmed police lines, but he was constrained by the acting secretary of defense at the time, Christopher Miller, who had been appointed to his post by Trump a week after the election. Trump had fired previous Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who had resisted his desires to put active-duty military on American streets during racial justice protests that at times turned violent during the summer of 2020.
One figure at the Trump-era Pentagon who is singled out is Kashyap “Kash” Patel, a Trump loyalist who became chief of staff to the secretary of defense after the November election. Thompson’s letter seeks “all documents and communications to, from, or referring to Kashyap ‘Kash’ Patel, relating to civil unrest, violence, or attacks at the U.S. Capitol; challenging, overturning, or questioning the validity of the 2020 election results; or the counting of the electoral college vote on January 6, 2021.”
Thompson has already said this week that he plans to issue subpoenas to private telecom companies as well, seeking phone records for those who may have been involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection, including potentially some Republican members of Congress.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formed the select committee after Republicans rejected an investigation that would have used the bipartisan 9/11 commission as a template and would have allotted five positions to Democrats and five to Republicans. In late May, GOP senators voted down that option.
Pelosi subsequently formed the select committee, which Republicans decried as partisan, even though the speaker named two Republicans who have been critical of Trump to the panel: Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy nominated five Republicans for the panel, knowing they would be subject to Pelosi’s veto. Two of his picks, Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana, not only voted against the certification of the 2020 election in the hours after the assault on the Capitol, but have also staked out reputations as ambitious pro-Trump diehards. Pelosi quickly rejected Jordan and Banks for the committee, and McCarthy then withdrew all five of his choices and did not submit more.
Before the insurrection, Trump spent months repeating false and unsupported claims of a rigged and stolen election. He deceived millions of supporters into believing this alternative reality. At least 25,000 came to Washington on Jan. 6 to attend Trump’s rally in front of the White House, and the majority of those headed to the Capitol afterward, according to internal Secret Service documents.
Thousands of Trump supporters violently assaulted police officers outside the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 election results. Over 1,600 individuals actually entered the Capitol building, according to Sedition Hunters, a website devoted to cataloguing the names and faces of the insurrectionists who went in through doors and windows.
And now, after a brief period following the insurrection in which GOP leaders denounced Trump’s role in fomenting the attack, his lies about the election have been picked up and promoted again by many in his party. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll from earlier this month indicated that just 18 percent of Republicans believe that Joe Biden won the election “fair and square,” while 66 percent believe it was “rigged and stolen” from Trump.
In addition, many on the right have sought to downplay the seriousness of the Jan. 6 attack, and a Reuters report last week cited unnamed law enforcement sources claiming that the FBI has not found evidence of coordinated violence.
The committee is looking at whether there was some degree of coordination among pro-Trump militants and the White House, but also at the impact of Trump’s firehose of falsehoods, and at what actions the then president may have taken to impede a response to the violence from law enforcement and the military.
“Even though there’s overwhelming evidence to the contrary, including hours and hours of videos and photographic coverage, there’s a continued shocking attempt to ignore or try to destroy the truth of what truly happened that day and to whitewash the facts into something other than what they unmistakably reveal: an attack on our democracy by violent domestic extremists and a stain on our history and our moral standing here at home and abroad,” said Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell at the committee’s first hearing on July 27.
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