Brandi Buchman

Highlights from the latest batch of January 6th Select Committee transcripts

The January 6 committee continues to release its witness transcripts in the wake of publishing its final report on the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. As the records keep rolling out, details have emerged that offer a keener view of events surrounding former President Donald Trump’s attempt to usurp the White House and overturn the 2020 election results.

The latest batch features interviews with 16 witnesses. Significantly, this release includes yet more transcripts from sessions with Cassidy Hutchinson, the former White House aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows. (The Hutchinson transcripts published Tuesday are from May 17 and June 20. Transcripts from sessions held on September 14 and September 15 were released last week.)

Hutchinson told the committee—among other key details—that Trump: 1) privately acknowledged he lost the election while publicly promoting conspiracy theories stating otherwise; 2) urged the Secret Service to allow more people through rally checkpoints on Jan. 6 despite receiving info that many were armed and 3) had an alleged temper tantrum that became physical after he allegedly attacked his driver once being informed that he would not be allowed to join his supporters at the Capitol following his speech at the Ellipse.

Burning up

The very first reports that Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows actively burned paperwork in a fireplace in his office surfaced this May. The reports specifically noted at the time that Meadows burned records after meeting with Rep. Scott Perry, a Republican congressman who amplified Trump’s “voter fraud” propaganda and introduced Trump to sympathetic figures at the Justice Department like Jeffrey Clark.

Hutchinson’s transcripts from this spring have now fleshed out those reports a bit more.

According to her testimony:

  • Meadows burned records in his fireplace after meeting with Rep. Scott Perry on at least two occasions
  • Meadows burnt records in his fireplace “roughly a dozen times” despite routine White House protocol demanding staff put paper waste that may be sensitive into “burn bags,” (A special system is set up just for classified materials, but all records that are to be destroyed this way go into a bag, not a fireplace)
  • Hutchinson testified that she personally saw Meadows burn records between mid-December 2020 and mid-January 2021 though she could not confirm the contents or if they were specifically related to Jan. 6 in any way
  • Meadows instructed White House staffers to keep certain meetings “close hold,” or private in late November or early December and ordered a tight grip over whatever information about Trump’s daily schedule may come out in public White House logs. Hutchinson said she could not recall whether Meadows urged a “close hold” for staff on any meetings or items specifically tied to Jan. 6.

Hutchinson’s testimony from May and June also features her change in legal representation from attorney Stefan Passantino, who was paid by Trump’s Save America PAC, to Jody Hunt, the former assistant attorney general under Jeff Sessions who represented Hutchinson pro-bono.

In May when she appeared before the panel with Passantino, Passantino was quick to cut in and remind Hutchinson of potential attorney-client privileges that he said may have been asserted by other White House staff like Meadows or White House attorneys Pat Cipollone or Eric Herschmann. Passantino was careful to note too that he wasn’t trying to “shape” what Hutchinson was saying but was concerned about how her remarks could be construed.

Passantino became particularly touchy when Hutchinson started to divulge what she heard Mark Meadows say about Trump’s reaction to the chorus of “Hang Mike Pence” chants emanating from his supporters on Jan. 6.

Trump was not outraged by calls to hang the vice president, Hutchinson recounted. Trump thought that “perhaps the chants were justified,” she recalled Meadows saying. Speaking to the panel, Passantino zeroed in on the word “perhaps” and stressed that Trump might not have been speaking definitively or was in agreement with the mob’s sentiments.

In June, once Hutchinson had retained Hunt, they met with the panel to pore over transcripts from her earlier interviews to ensure they were accurate and clear.

Part of what Hutchinson sought to clarify was her testimony about Meadows and his foreknowledge of threats of violence on Jan. 6. In May, she said only Tony Ornato had pulled Meadows aside to discuss potential threats. In June, once under Hunt’s representation and with time to gather her thoughts, Hutchinson was ready to elaborate. Former national security adviser Robert O’Brien called Meadows a few hours after Ornato and Meadows spoke on Jan. 4. O’Brien told Hutchinson specifically “about potential violence, words of violence, that he was hearing that was potentially going to happen on the Hill on January 6th.”

When Hutchinson asked O’Brien just 48 hours before the insurrection whether he had this conversation with Ornato, she recalled O’Brien saying, “I’ll talk to Tony.” She was unclear if the national security adviser ever had that chat with Meadows.

‘Blanket pardons’ and talk of a ‘delay’ to the transition

John McEntee, the former director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, told investigators that the former president considered doling out “blanket pardons” for people charged with crimes tied to the riot at the Capitol.

McEntee said Trump brought up the idea before leaving office but White House counsel Pat Cipollone promptly shut that talk down.

“One day when we walked into the Oval, I remember it was being discussed and I remember the president saying, ‘Well, what if I pardoned the people that weren’t violent, that just walked into the building?”

McEntee said Cipollone gave Trump “some pushback,” as he urged against it and questioned Trump’s logic. Cipollone was concerned with how such a decision might be interpreted and besides, McEntee recalled the attorney asking, “why does anyone need a pardon?”

Trump didn’t want law enforcement to go after his mob for “any little thing.”

McEntee said that Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida disclosed to him that he went to Meadows looking for help with a potential pardon. McEntee said Gaetz was worked up about a probe into his alleged role in the sex trafficking of minors. Hutchinson corroborated that Gaetz sought the pardon in her own testimony. She highlighted that it wasn’t Gaetz alone, however.

Hutchinson said Meadows was “personally concerned that there would be a connotation of violence associated with everybody that had gone to the Capitol that day” and, she added, “he had thought it was an idea worth entertaining and raising to White House Counsel’s Office to pardon those who had been inside the Capitol.

There was a time when “several White House staffers and administration officials wanted to pardon themselves prior to leaving,” Hutchinson said.

Meadows was among them, she testified.

In addition to Gaetz, Hutchinson said that Reps. Scott Perry, Louie Gohmert, Mo Brooks, and Andy Biggs also sought blanket pardons. All of the lawmakers except for Brooks have denied this. Brooks said he wanted the pardon because he was worried that the Justice Department under Joe Biden would be punitive with Trump supporters and overzealous in its prosecution of crimes connected to Jan. 6.

In that same vein, Hutchinson testified that language about pardoning rioters was included in a draft speech for Trump to be delivered on Jan. 7.

Another version of that speech had the pardon language removed, Hutchinson said. White House counsel said including it wasn’t a “good idea,” she testified. Even today, as he runs for the White House in 2024, Trump has suggested that he would pardon Jan. 6 rioters if elected again.

Regarding the transition of power, McEntee told the select committee that he couldn’t recall a time personally when Trump had specifically discussed disrupting the transition.

But McEntee said he did recall a meeting with Meadows and others where it was discussed that the head of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, should waylay the transition because “they need to wait until we know, you know, more of what’s going on.

“Like she needs to delay this a little while,” McEntee recalled saying. He was unable to recall the date of the meeting.

Murphy signed off on the transition process two weeks after the race was called for Joe Biden and emphasized in a public letter that she was not pressured or asked to delay the process.

The cult of Q-Anon, the presence of extremism

Though there was hardly any question that extremist right-wing ideology had a home in the Trump White House, Hutchinson’s latest transcript put an even finer point on the amplification of QAnon conspiracy among the highest rungs of the U.S. government.

Hutchinson told investigators in June that Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the bombast from Georgia, brought QAnon up “several times” in Trump’s presence. She also discussed it with Mark Meadows privately, Hutchinson testified.

“I remember Mark having a few conversations, too, about, more specific to QAnon stuff and more about the idea that they had with the election and, you know, not as much pertaining to the planning of the January 6th rally,” Hutchinson said.

Before Jan. 6, the former White House aide told investigators that Greene showed Trump pictures of “her people” at Trump rallies. One of those constituents pictured wore a QAnon tee shirt.

“Those are all my people,” Hutchinson recalled Greene telling Trump proudly.

Hutchinson recalled how Greene told Trump her supporters would come to Washington on Jan. 6. The two “begun talking a little more about QAnon” but Hutchinson didn’t catch the rest of the conversation.

Once in the presence of Mark Meadows and Hutchinson, Max Miller, a Trump campaign aide, made a comment about the anti-government, white supremacy-entrenched Boogaloo Boys. Miller, Hutchinson recalled, said it would only be dangerous on Jan. 6 if the “boogaloo boys” showed up.

Meadows didn't know who they were, Hutchinson said:

And Mr. Meadows says: 'I haven't heard of them. Are they the dangerous ones, or is it a different group that are the dangerous ones?' And then Max [Miller] was, like: '| think they are all dangerous. And Mark was like: Antifa is dangerous too.'

Hutchinson disclosed during a public hearing this summer that she heard conversations in the White House where talk of extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers came up.

That happened closer to the Jan. 6 rally itself, she said, when Rudy Giuliani was around.

Giuliani, memorably, urged the crowd of Trump’s supporters, many of whom were armed, to resolve any perceived election slights in “trial by combat.” Max Miller, a Trump campaign aide, told the select committee that he tried to convince Trump to keep Giuliani off stage on Jan. 6.

Giuliani was “already involved in active litigation,” Miller testified, the transcript released on Tuesday shows.

“I didn’t want to embarrass the president by putting him up on that stage and exposing him to other litigation if he decided to piggyback off a talking point that Rudy may have said,” Miller testified.

Peter Navarro was another voice amplifying QAnon conspiracy theory, according to Hutchinson’s testimony.

The onetime trade adviser goes on trial for contempt of Congress next year after refusing to cooperate with the select committee’s subpoena for his records and deposition. Hutchinson said Navarro showed up to the White House frequently with presentations he said would prove election fraud but that he was not privy to meetings between Meadows, Scott Perry, or Bernie Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who aligned with Giuliani and Trump on the bunk elector bid:

Peter would frequently bring items to our office that I felt Mark didn't need to expand further on, so I normally would take the items from Peter and just [say] 'Thank you.'
The items throughout December/early January in particular, he would come and he would give his little speeches about why it was important and why we should be paying attention to it and why he needs to meet with the chief and President about it.
And at one point I had sarcastically said, 'Oh, is this from your QAnon friends, Peter?' Because Peter would talk to me frequently about his QAnon friends.
He said, 'Have you looked into it yet, Cass? I think they point out a lot of good ideas. You really need to read this. Make sure the chief sees it.'
And I sort of just left it at that.

In a transcript released Tuesday from General William Walker, the former commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, the question of a fair federal response to extremism was raised.

Walker, who has served as the House sergeant at arms since 2021, told the committee that he believed the response to the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 would have been quite different if most of the rioters were Black.

“I think it would have been a vastly different response if those were African Americans trying to breach the Capitol. As a career law enforcement officer, part-time soldier, last five years full but, but a law enforcement officer my entire career, the law enforcement response would have been different,” he said.

The death toll among rioters and those in the crowd would have been higher too in that scenario, Walker said.

And as for the glaring intelligence failures surrounding Jan. 6, Walker expressed utter disbelief.

”You don't need intelligence. I mean everybody knew that people were directed to come there by the president,” Walker testified. “November was a run-up. December was practice, and January 6th was executed.”

In a transcript of the committee’s interview with Ali Alexander, leader of the ‘Stop the Steal’ movement, Alexander worked to shift blame leveled against him for violence on Jan. 6 to other right wing activists like Charlie Kirk. It was Kirk, under the umbrella of Kirk’s organization, Turning Point USA, that helped bus Trump’s supporters into Washington, D.C. from all over the U.S., increasing the likelihood of chaos or violence.

Another detail in Alexander’s testimony, which is so often drenched in his own diatribes, is that he was in regular contact with Caroline Wren, a chief fundraiser for Trump. Alexander was cagey about his relationships or interactions with other Trump White House officials.

The last person to have Trump’s ear could call themselves an adviser, Alexander explained.

“My main point of contact with what I’m calling Trump world was Caroline Wren regarding what I consider the scope of the committee and that’s January 6,” Alexander testified.

The transcripts released on Tuesday include:

This story is developing.

'They will ruin my life': January 6th panel publishes additional testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson

On Thursday, the Jan. 6 committee published two transcripts from its extensive interviews with Cassidy Hutchinson, the former Trump White House aide who offered some of the most damning and explosive testimony to emerge from the 18-month probe of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

When she appeared publicly before the committee this summer, Hutchinson recounted how former President Donald Trump waved off warnings from his security detail about armed people in the crowd and urged that they be allowed to pass through metal detectors unmolested. She revealed learning about how Trump had lunged at the neck of his own Secret Service agent when his request to be ferried to the Capitol after the speech at the Ellipse was denied. She recalled the secrecy of her boss, former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who allegedly burned paperwork after a meeting with Rep. Scott Perry, an outspoken advocate of Trump’s Big Lie.

Hutchinson’s testimony was an embarrassment of riches for the committee, filling in blank spots left open by less-than-cooperative Trump White House officials. But the transcripts released Thursday also illuminate the huge pressure she came under by testifying.

Hutchinson told the committee that she recalled telling her mother plainly: “I’m f*cked.”

Cassidy Hutchinson Sept 14 by Daily Kos

She was “f*cked,” she said, because she was effectively trapped.

She didn’t have the ability to shell out huge sums of cash to attorneys who could represent her when she went before the committee so was stuck with Stefan Passantino, a Trump White House lawyer whose fees were being paid by the former president’s Save America political action committee.

“I am completely indebted to these people,” she told her mother, the transcript shows. “And they will ruin my life Mom, if I do anything they don’t want me to do.”

Cassidy Hutchinson Sept 15 by Daily Kos

She went to her estranged father, a Trump supporter, and asked him for help.

“I drove up to New Jersey, and I went to his house one night and begged him. It’s probably the one thing I regret in all of this, I wish I didn’t stoop to that level because it was a no— but I begged him to help me. I said I would pay him back, like, ‘name your interest rate,’” she said. “Like I just need help. And I remember saying to him, ‘you have no idea what they’re going to do to me if I have to get an attorney with Trump world,’ because he’s a very big Trump supporter, as is his own right, and I don’t—it’s not being critical, it’s just a fact. And he just didn’t get it. And I didn’t expect him to. But I just left there feeling defeated.”

Passantino, she told the committee, urged her to skimp on details when answering the investigator’s questions. He advised her to mislead the committee, she said, though she stressed that he did not instruct her to lie explicitly.

“I want to make this clear to you,” Hutchinson said. “Stefan never told me to lie. He specifically told me, ‘I don’t want you to perjure yourself but ‘I don’t recall’ isn’t perjury.”

She remembered him adding: “They don’t know what you can and can’t recall.”

He also suggested that she avoid meeting with the committee altogether when she had an appointment in June. She should consider drawing a contempt of Congress charge instead of testifying, he allegedly advised. It would be an unpleasant risk but a smaller one.

Hutchinson said Passantino told her, “running to the right is better for you.”

Passantino represented Hutchinson during three of her depositions before she hired a different attorney. The transcripts published on Thursday are dated Sept. 14 and Sept. 15, both dates when Passantino was not representing her. For these meetings, Hutchinson was represented by attorney Jody Hunt.

The committee has not yet published its final report in full or the complete record of its witness transcripts. Her earlier interviews under Passantino’s representation are expected to be included in that group.

When news first broke Wednesday about Passantino’s alleged advice to Hutchinson, he denied any wrongdoing in statements to reporters. Hutchinson, he said, was truthful and cooperative and he never instructed her to mislead the committee. His biography, meanwhile, has been pulled off the webpage of the law firm where he serves as partner.

During her initial interviews with the committee prior to September, Hutchinson said Trump aides would reach out to her. Jason Miller and Justin Clark extended potential job offers to her after she met with the select committee for the first time. The next time she was scheduled to testify, she said Ben Williamson, an aide to her former boss Mark Meadows called her on the eve of her appearance.

‘Mark wants me to let you know that he knows you’re loyal,” Williamson said in a voicemail, Hutchinson recalled. “He knows you’ll do the right thing tomorrow and that you’re going to protect him and the boss.”

The “boss” was watching, Passantino would later hint to her.

Former WH aide Cassidy Hutchinson details Trump's security having to restrain him on Jan.

Jan. 6 committee interviews ex-aide who claims 'Trump was framed' for insurrection

Jason Funes, a Jan. 6 rally organizer and former aide to President Trump who insists that Trump was framed for the insurrection at the Capitol, has been interviewed by the Jan. 6 Committee.

NBC News was first to report the development Thursday. Funes does not appear to have been formally subpoenaed. In December, when his mother received a letter from the committee notifying her that it had subpoenaed Verizon for her son’s phone records, Funes told CNN he was outraged. He would have been a “willing witness” and wished investigators contacted him directly, he said.

Funes did not immediately return a request for comment to Daily Kos on Thursday.

Arriving on the 2020 Trump campaign after a stint as a special assistant to Trump’s ethics-rules abusing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Funes joined the ranks of ‘Stop the Steal’ and Women for America First organizers that were readying themselves for the pro-Trump events at the Ellipse on Jan. 6.

In November, Funes did an interview with Gail Golec. Golec describes herself as an “all-American Entrepreneur, Christian Conservative, Citizen Journalist, and a Constitutionalist” on her campaign website for the Maricopa County Board Supervisors in Arizona. In their interview, Funes claimed that the rioting at the U.S. Capitol was effectively orchestrated by right-wing activist and ‘Stop the Steal’ movement leader Ali Alexander and InfoWars host Alex Jones.

Alexander and Jones “attracted attention to the U.S. Capitol building, yelling that they had a permitted event and to come to the event but Jones trapped everyone to come to the Capitol building steps and create more chaos to steal the election from Trump as opposed to stopping it,” Funes said in November. “

Posts on his Twitter account, where Funes labels himself as “Latino MAGA Man” are littered with allegations that Jan. 6 was a “staged coup” intended to frame Trump. Funes has outwardly aligned himself on Twitter against other Trump world or supporting figures like Roger Stone, Nick Fuentes, and Proud Boy Enrique Tarrio, to name a few.

In the last week, Funes tagged Republican lawmakers like Reps. Jim Jordan, Jim Banks, and Senator Josh Hawley with messages like, “Not all #J6 prisoners are created equal. Fake Trump supporters created violence, Trump was framed.”

All of the lawmakers voted to overturn the 2020 election results and both Jordan and Banks serve on a Republican-controlled Jan. 6 shadow committee.

Investigators are likely far more interested in having Funes field questions about his role helping to organize pro-Trump rallies rather than his easily-debunked conspiracy theory that Trump was “framed” for the insurrection.

Funes has historically pushed blame for the violence that day on Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist activists despite having no proof of their involvement beyond backing of the claim from Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. Law enforcement agencies like the FBI have confirmed there was no participation by either BLM or antifa activists in the Capitol attack though that has not stopped the former president or his lackeys from promoting the theory anyway.

In a Twitter post on Thursday after news broke that he met with investigators, Funes wrote: “The first victim of every war is the TRUTH!!” [Emphasis original] and in light of the burgeoning aggression from Russia against Ukraine, he called “foreign wars” a distraction, put the blame on President Joe Biden, and called the Jan. 6 probe crooked.

Funes has also claimed that Jacob Chansley, the so-called “Q-Anon Shaman” who stormed the Capitol, has been unfairly prosecuted.

“Jacob Chansley was the Lee Harvey Oswald of January 6,” Funes said last November.

Navarro won't talk to Jan. 6 probe — but another Trump White House official will

Demanding to hear more about efforts to overturn the 2020 election from Peter Navarro, ex-President Donald Trump’s onetime trade adviser, the Jan. 6 committee has now hit the former Trump White House lackey with a subpoena.

Keeping the demand short and sweet, U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Chairman Bennie Thompson sent the notice to Navarro on Wednesday. The Mississippi Democrat highlighted that the probe’s request for his records and testimony was raised in light of admissions he himself has made in his memoir, In Trump Time.

Navarro’s history of sharing election fraud disinformation as that delay strategy unfolded in the runup to Jan. 6 was also cited.

According to Navarro himself, he spent “a lot of time lining up over 100 congressmen, including some senators” to object to or delay the certification of Joe Biden’s win.

Navarro has previously and publicly disclosed that he and Steve Bannon met to discuss a delay strategy together, yet Navarro simultaneously insists he wasn’t gaming out a way to overturn the results. Rather, he and Bannon just wanted to trigger what would ultimately become a spectacle-ridden delay of the joint certification session at the Capitol. The plan was to allow the president’s grievances about so-called election fraud to be aired for an indeterminate period of time despite that fact that at this point, federal courts had overwhelmingly ruled against Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.

“To pull off an operation Bannon has dubbed the Green Bay Sweep,” Navarro wrote in his book, “and thereby keep President Trump in the White House for a second term, we must have only peace and calm.”

Part of that “peace and calm” however, was also premised on the false notion that then-Vice President Mike Pence had the constitutional authority to stop Biden’s certification on Jan. 6.

Pence did not have this authority, and he acknowledged he did not, albeit right up to the wire on Jan. 6. Testimony and documents already obtained by the Jan. 6 committee have revealed that pressure was high for Pence to go along with Trump’s subversion scheme.

“I tried repeatedly to get to Pence and I couldn’t do it. I was locked out,” Navarro said in an interview with The New York Times.

In Navarro’s notice, Thompson also pointed out a report that the trade adviser authored on so-called election fraud. Its volumes feature titles such as “The Immaculate Deception, “The Art of the Steal,” and, “Yes, President Trump Won.”

“Because you have already discussed these and other relevant issues in your recently published book, in interviews with reporters, and among other places, on a podcast, we look forward to discussing them with you, too,” Thompson wrote to Navarro on Wednesday.

Navarro now says he will not comply and told CBS News that the Jan. 6 committee comprises “domestic terrorists.” He slammed the panel with one of Trump’s old favorites, dubbing it a “partisan witch hunt,” and qualified his refusal on the grounds of executive privilege.

The committee must “negotiate any waiver of the privilege with the president and his attorneys directly, not through me,” Navarro told CBS.

Navarro’s furor in the press also included a few jabs at Pence and the former vice president’s staffers.

“Pence betrayed Trump. Marc Short is a Koch Network dog. Meadows is a fool and a coward. Cheney and Kinzinger are useful idiots for Nancy Pelosi and the woke Left,” Navarro bristled in an email to the Times.

The committee has given Navarro until Feb. 23 to respond. The former Trump White House official is tempting a contempt of Congress scenario similar to that of former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

As Navarro receives his notice, the committee’s rolling interviews and record collection continues, with the latest person to sit for deposition being Sarah Matthews, a former White House deputy press secretary who voluntarily stepped down after the Capitol attack.

Matthews currently serves as a communications director for House Republicans on a House select climate committee. According to ABC,she sat for the interview with Jan. 6 investigators voluntarily this week.

Matthews was one of several Trump White House aides to resign after Jan. 6. She also cited her concerns with Trump’s conduct that day.

When Matthews stepped down, she said publicly that she was “honored to serve in the Trump administration” and was “proud of the policies we enacted,” but she added that she was “deeply disturbed” by what she saw that day.

“I’ll be stepping down from my role, effective immediately. Our nation needs a peaceful transfer of power.”

In a Twitter thread last month, Matthews was more cutting. She wrote on Twitter: “Make no mistake, the events on the 6th were a coup attempt, a term we’d used had they happened in any other country, and former President Trump failed to meet the moment.”

She continued: “While it might be easier to ignore or whitewash the events of that day for political expediency—if we’re going to be morally consistent—we need to acknowledge these hard truths.”

Over 500 interviews have now been conducted by the Jan. 6 committee. With Matthews this week and former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s appearance last week, investigators are expected to keep up the pace. There are plans underway this week to meet with several other Trump White House officials.

Court orders Eastman to cough up records on Jan. 6

The Jan. 6 Committee is pushing hard and fast for records belonging to John Eastman, the ex-adviser to Donald Trump who once authored legal memos outlining a scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election following the 45th president’s defeat by Joe Biden.

Insurrection investigators only recently secured an order from a federal judge in California that forced Eastman to produce no less than 1,500 pages of records per day—all of which are sourced from a 19,000-page tranche obtained by a committee subpoena sent to Eastman’s ex-employer, Chapman University.

First reported by Politico Monday night, during a federal court hearing with Judge David Carter, it was House of Representatives general counsel Douglas Letter who urged the judge to hasten Eastman’s production.

The original subpoena to Chapman University from the Jan. 6 Committee cast an extensive net with a request for records created from Nov. 3, 2020, to Jan. 20, 2021.

But even with Judge Carter’s order of 1,500 pages per day reviewed—including a daily log itemizing any documents Eastman wishes to assert privilege over—Letter stressed it would simply take too long for the Trump ally to get materials of the most critical interest to the committee.

At 1,500 pages per day, it could take roughly 13 weeks for Eastman to complete production if he were to start all the way back on Nov. 3, 2020.

“That’s useless… it completely defeats the subpoena,” Letter said during Monday’s videoconference court hearing.

Though the Los-Angeles based judge noted to the House general counsel that his previous order to Eastman did not lay out instructions for how to prioritize the records, he agreed to expedite the review process anyway, narrowing the scope of Eastman’s records production to just those documents dated from Jan. 4 to Jan. 7, 2021.

“Although Dr. Eastman objected to this request, he has failed to point to any prejudice to him that would result from reviewing the documents in this order. The Select Committee’s request is reasonable in light of the unexpectedly large volume of documents produced and the critical relevance of the time period to the investigation,’ Judge Carter wrote Monday.

He also offered a warning for the Jan. 6 committee: “The court is not inclined to look favorably on further requests for reviewing specific dates out of order.”

Eastman is expected to produce progress reports each Monday until the review is complete. Those reports must include the number of pages he has reviewed and the number of documents he is sending to the select committee as well as the number of documents he wants to assert privilege over.

Though the order narrows the production to just three days in January, because Chapman University agreed to turn over all of the documents when first subpoenaed, the panel can review materials from an earlier point at a later time.

If they even need them, that is.

The committee has so far conducted over 400 interviews and has made major gains amassing evidence that will eventually culminate into public hearings, a final report and if criminal conduct is discovered, possible indictments from the appropriate enforcers.

The panel has already obtained 770 pages of Trump’s presidential records from the National Archives after he tried to keep them hidden for months but failed. Those records include call logs, diaries, draft speeches, visitor logs, digital correspondence, and much more.

One of the most important pieces to emerge from that victory was a draft executive order that revealed the administration’s plan to order the seizure of voting machines and election equipment as well as appoint a special counsel to investigate claims of voter fraud all while Trump remained in power beyond Jan. 20.

The probe has received cooperation from several dozen witnesses it has called forward, too. That cooperation has featured the significant production of some 9,000 pages of records from Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows before he abruptly ended his compliance last year.

Full or not, his cooperation nonetheless helped unearth text messages that were sent to Meadows during the attack.

The messages showed, among other things, the desperate pleas that flowed into the White House like so much water on Jan. 6 from Trump’s family, White House aides, and even news personalities who wanted him to quell the violence exploding mere blocks away from the White House.

Meadows, like Steve Bannon before him, was referred to the Department of Justice for contempt of Congress after ending his cooperation with the committee abruptly last year.

While Bannon has already been indicted by the DOJ for his refusal to cooperate and now awaits trial this summer, Attorney General Merrick Garland has yet to issue a decision on Meadows.

Other records obtained have cast light on the intimate role certain sitting lawmakers had in pushing Trump’s conspiracies about the 2020 election with White House officials.

One such record was a text from Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio to Meadows that advocated for then-Vice President Mike Pence to “call out all electoral votes he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all.”

Pence did not have that power.

Investigators did not officially subpoena Jordan but asked him to comply voluntarily with the probe. He has so far refused and the committee is still weighing how to legally navigate a subpoena to a fellow sitting lawmaker. It issued similar requests to Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy.

While Trump often aired his frustrations with Pence in the open—including when he tweeted at him during the attack and suggested the assault would not have happened if Pence had the “courage” to stop the certification—the committee’s work in obtaining the Jordan text was vital. It served as a strong example of how far-reaching the internal pressure campaign on Pence had become.

Additionally, cooperation from other witnesses like Pence’s national security adviser Keith Kellogg, has corroborated public reporting about what unfolded in the White House during the breach.

Kellogg, for instance, recently told investigators it was Ivanka Trump who regularly witnessed her father’s demeanor during the attack. She was the only person who officials, including Kellogg, believed could get Trump to act.

The committee has also secured interviews from individuals like Alex Jones and Ali Alexander, just two of the many right-wing extremists that so often orbited the administration and regularly promoted misinformation about the 2020 election results.

Alexander was responsible for organizing the ‘Stop the Steal’ movement and told investigators during his own closed-door deposition that he communicated with a variety of House Republicans before the insurrection including Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama and Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs of Arizona.

And though Alex Jones has invoked his Fifth Amendment right when meeting with the committee for deposition, he has kept a pathway open for investigators to come calling again by sharing his “unofficial testimony” with listeners of his podcast.

All of this in combination with Letter’s narrowed and expedited review request could indicate that the committee may not be so deeply reliant on Eastman’s complete email records during his time at Chapman University because it has what it needs elsewhere.

Eastman, after all, met with Meadows and Pence on Jan. 4 in the White House.

A spokesperson for the committee would not comment Tuesday on any materials it has received.

Eastman’s next day in court is Feb. 14.

Jan. 6 committee wins big as John Eastman loses fight to hide records​

After signaling that an unfavorable ruling against attorney and 2020 election disinformation peddler John Eastman was all but imminent, a federal judge dropped the hammer late Tuesday, rejecting Eastman’s attempts to block review of records held with his former employer as well as his claim that the Jan. 6 committee is without authority.

The ruling is an important victory for the committee’s investigation into last year’s attack of the U.S. Capitol since the panel has faced repeated accusations in lawsuits—as well as from Republican members of Congress—that its formation was improper from its inception and that its operations were focused on law enforcement over legislating.

Only Monday, Judge David Carter ordered Eastman to begin cooperating with the Jan. 6 probe more directly. Eastman previously invoked his Fifth Amendment right when subpoenaed by the committee on Nov. 8, prompting the panel to then subpoena his onetime employer Chapman University for emails and other relevant records.

Eastman balked, citing violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights but Carter was unmoved, directing Eastman to produce, at the very least, a privilege log identifying which items he believed should be protected.

Carter elaborated on his decision in his ruling Tuesday night.

Emphasizing that Eastman’s “actions clearly fall within the bounds” of the Jan. 6 investigation—those actions included, among other things, his writing of two memos strategizing how former Vice President Mike Pence could be compelled to overturn the 2020 election results—Judge Carter wrote there were “numerous plausible legislative measures” that could one day be taken because of Eastman’s conduct and communications.

“The public interest here is weighty and urgent. Congress seeks to understand the causes of a grave attack on our nation’s democracy and a near-successful attempt to subvert the will of the voters. Congressional action to safeguard a [presidential] election is essential to preserve the departments and institutions of the general government from impairment or destruction, whether threatened by force or by corruption,” Carter wrote in the 16-page ruling.

When the case was before him in California on Monday, Judge Carter deftly established through questioning Eastman’s attorney Charles Burnham that Eastman acted on Trump’s behalf in the runup to Jan. 6.

Therefore, he explained Tuesday, claims that the committee’s inquiries are overly broad or irrelevant ultimately fail to hold up.

Carter noted throughout the ruling that the committee’s subpoena was enforceable because it had obtained “credible evidence” that Eastman encouraged Pence and other legislators to reject or delay election results.

Eastman also represented former President Donald Trump in several lawsuits challenging the 2020 election results and further, he was privy to or participated in meetings held at the Willard Hotel ‘war room’ with numerous Trump allies including ex-White House strategist Steve Bannon.

As to the overbroad claims, Carter explained that the committee’s probe is inherently “expansive” and for a valid reason; it “covers both the facts and circumstances surrounding the attack on the Capitol and the influencing factors that fomented such an attack.”

“It is reasonable to infer that public perception of the election and Dr. Eastman’s attempts to invalidate the results constituted “influencing factors” for some of those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021,” Carter added.

In contrast to the “significant public interest” posed by allowing the committee to subpoena Chapman University for his communications, Eastman failed to identify any specific threats posed to him nor any harm that could befall him when the records are produced.

“The subpoena seeks documents only between the election on Nov. 3, 2020, and the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021,” Carter noted.

Further, efforts were made in good faith to narrow the scope of the subpoena after it was issued. Where Chapman University initially produced 30,000 documents for the Jan. 6 probe, the committee worked with the school to limit the search to just 19,000 documents.

“Although the number of documents produced is substantial, the volume is more likely a reflection of the extent of relevant communications rather than of an impermissibly broad inquiry,” Carter wrote.

The judge also unwound a popular talking point from the committee’s critics: from its inception, the committee was altogether invalid because Kevin McCarthy, leader of the House GOP, did not get to appoint members to the panel.

In short: when the resolution to form the committee was first created, it called for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to appoint 13 members in consultation with McCarthy.

McCarthy responded by selecting nominees who largely voted to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6 or insisted that the scope of the committee’s focus extend to the “hundreds of violent political riots” that unfolded the previous summer after the death of George Floyd or to the overall threat posed to lawmakers from extremists.

Of the five nominees submitted by McCarthy—Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, Troy Nehls of Texas, Rodney Davis of Illinois, and Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota—only Armstrong and Davis voted to certify Biden’s win. Though Nehls did not vote to certify Biden, Pelosi still agreed to his placement.

Even with three nominees accepted by Pelosi and two denied—Jordan and Banks—McCarthy yanked his picks altogether and dug in for the duration. Until now, McCarthy claims that the Jan. 6 probe was improperly formed—it was not—and that Democrats unfairly denied Republicans from participating.

Carter rejected Eastman’s echoes of the increasingly tired argument on Tuesday night.

“The appointment process unquestionably included consultation with the Minority Leader in line with the plain language of the organizing resolution,” Carter wrote. “Dr. Eastman argues that the resolution requires a ranking minority member to be appointed after nomination by the Republican Steering Committee and a vote by the Republican House Conference. But that requirement does not appear in the text of the resolution creating this select committee…. because the speaker followed the requirements of H.R. 503 in appointing members, the select committee is properly constituted.”

Allegations by Eastman and others that the committee is acting as a “law enforcement” body because its members have made public statements suggesting they would not ignore criminal violations if they were turned up in the probe were dismissed, too.

Similar investigations were formed into attacks on the United States before, Judge Carter noted, like Sep. 11, 2001, or the War of 1812.

Witness: Donald Trump watched the attack on the Capitol from the White House

Jan. 6 Committee vice-chair Liz Cheney publicly disclosed Sunday that a witness cooperating with the insurrection probe has privately testified that during the assault on the Capitol, former President Donald Trump sat by and watched it unfold on television as police were viciously beaten and his supporters overran the building.

This bit of information is something that has been widely suspected by those who have followed the committee’s investigation closely—and even by some who have not. Trump’s silence and inaction for 187 minutes on Jan. 6 were palpable as the riot exploded. But precisely what he was doing, who he spoke to, or what he said in that window remains, for now, a subject of some mystery.

The implications are unprecedented.

Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, divulged the firsthand witness testimony on Face the Nation this past weekend as she fielded questions from host Margaret Brennan about the criminal culpability of Trump’s abject failure to act that day.

Cheney said on Sunday:

“The committee is obviously going to follow the facts wherever they lead. We’ve made tremendous progress. If you think about, for example, what we know now about what the former president was doing on the 6th while the attack was underway. The committee has firsthand testimony that President Trump was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office, watching on television as the Capitol was assaulted as the violence occurred. We know that that is clearly a supreme dereliction of duty. One of the things that the committee is looking at from the perspective of our legislative purpose is whether we need enhanced penalties for that kind of dereliction of duty. But we’ve certainly never seen anything like that as a nation before.”

During a separate appearance on Sunday with ABC News, Cheney further illuminated the committee’s findings. Cheney said a firsthand witness testified that Ivanka Trump, the former president’s daughter and then senior adviser, pleaded with Trump at least twice to do something to quell the violence.

Ivanka’s pleas have been reported elsewhere before. In Peril, a book on the Trump administration by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, the Washington Post reporters said that Ivanka tried to get Trump to step in no less than three times on Jan. 6.

“Let this thing go. Let it go,” Ivanka reportedly said.

“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,” Cheney said on ABC. “We know [House GOP] Leader [Kevin] McCarthy was pleading with him to do that.”

McCarthy has admitted openly to calling Trump on Jan. 6. During the former president’s second impeachment—this time for incitement of insurrection— Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington shared McCarthy’s accounting of his tense phone call with Trump. McCarthy pleaded with the president to issue a statement that could calm the mob, and Trump effectively refused, insisting it wasn’t his supporters responsible for the melee but antifa.

McCarthy has been asked to voluntarily comply with the committee’s requests for his records and testimony. A threat of a formal subpoena looms. So far, just two other lawmakers have been hit with a voluntary compliance request, including Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. Neither Jordan nor Perry have said they will comply, queuing up a likely bitter legal showdown between Trump crony legislators and the probe. Committee chair Bennie Thompson has indicated uncertainty over the panel’s power to subpoena fellow legislators.

Representatives for Jordan and Perry have not returned multiple requests for comment.

Appearing on Meet the Press Sunday, Thompson also reiterated the committee’s findings—and concerns—about the 187 minutes that Trump went silent.

Just before Christmas, the Mississippi Democrat told The Washington Post that the select committee believes, based on the records, evidence, and testimony it has obtained thus far, that Trump may have recorded several videos on Jan. 6 addressing his supporters before finally releasing a bizarre one-minute clip.

He repeated lies about the election results in the video and told the rioters, “Go home. We love you. You’re very special.”

Thompson has said that Trump’s many reshoots of that clip, or one like it, were necessary because he “wouldn’t say the right thing.”

Thompson told Meet the Press this Sundaythat the committee has already asked the National Archives to provide investigators with any related videos it might have that have yet to be remitted.

The anniversary of the attack falls this week, and with it, plans are underway on Capitol Hill to hold a solemn ceremony marking the day, including a moment of silence for lives lost. Trump has announced plans to hold a press conference at Mar-a-Lago.

“He’s doing this press conference on the sixth,” Cheney said on Sunday. “If he makes those same claims [of election fraud], he’s doing it with the complete understanding of what those claims have caused in the past.”

The committee’s work meanwhile continues unabated, with public hearings imminent. More than 300 witnesses have already testified, and the committee has obtained reams of documents from cooperative probe targets.

Appearing on CNN on Sunday, Thompson said the committee would determine “whether or not what occurred on Jan. 6 was a comedy of errors or a planned effort on the part of certain individuals.”

Adding to the bevy of witnesses already called, the committee also plans to haul in state and local election officials for testimony. They also will take statements from members of the National Guard. Much confusion and uncertainty still reign over why assistance to the Capitol was so long delayed.

Democracy came perilously close to being lost on Jan. 6, Thompson told CNN.

“Before we just run out with a story we can’t defend, we will get to what we believe is the truth, and that’s the charge that we have as a committee,” he added.

Thompson also urged that if, in the course of its probe, committee members unearth evidence that they think “warrants review or recommendation” to the Justice Department, then they will do just that.

“We’re not looking for it, but if we find it, we’ll absolutely make the referral,” Thompson said.

In an appeal to the Supreme Court, Trump has balked at the committee’s position to disclose evidence of criminal wrongdoing to the Justice Department if necessary. The former president alleges the committee is acting outside the scope of its authority by weighing such referrals and thus has no constitutionally protected purpose.

Lower courts, however, have said the “mere prospect that misconduct might be exposed” in the course of an investigation does not alter the committee’s authority.

Whether the committee issues a criminal referral for Trump or not, Cheney emphasized a profound need for legislative review, at the least.

“I think that there are a number, as the chairman said, of potential criminal statutes at issue here. But I think there’s absolutely no question that it was a dereliction of duty. I think one of the things the committee needs to look at as we’re looking at legislative purpose is whether we need enhanced penalties for that dereliction of duty,” she said.

Even though Trump is out of office, his influence in Washington and elsewhere in the U.S. is still being felt and has shown no sign of slowing down. His messaging about voter fraud, for example, has buoyed the Republican argument against the expansion of voting rights in the U.S.

In a letter to Senate colleagues on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer highlighted this dynamic as the anniversary of the attempted overthrow approaches.

“It was attacked in a naked attempt to derail our Republic’s most sacred tradition: the peaceful transfer of power,” Schumer said.

Considering this and in reflection of a year that found Republicans rebuffing every bid by Democrats to expand voting rights legislatively, Schumer announced that the Senate would debate and later vote on changes to its own filibuster rules by Jan. 17 if Republicans don’t get out of the way.

“The Senate must advance systemic democracy reforms to repair our republic, or else the events of that day will not be an aberration— they will be the new norm. We as Senate Democrats must urge the public in a variety of different ways to impress upon their Senators the importance of acting and reforming the Senate rules if that becomes a prerequisite for action to save our democracy,” Schumer wrote.

Trump's lying about the Jan. 6 committee — here's why

As Donald Trump awaits a decision from the Supreme Court on whether his presidential records related to the Capitol attack should remain confidential or free for the Jan. 6 Committee to review, the twice-impeached former president is pumping out disinformation on all cylinders.

On Wednesday, after news broke that the select committee was narrowing a portion of its records request—a decision that was mutually reached with the Biden White House—Trump issued a public statement replete with lies and distortions.

“The Unselect Committee of Radical Left Democrats and two failed Republicans has just dropped a large portion of their request for my records and documents—a very big story even though the New York Times refused to put it on the front page,” Trump said in a Dec. 29 statement. “The reason that they dropped the records request is that they don’t want this horror show to happen to Biden and Hunter in three years. This also changes the entire complexion of their request, not that there are any documents that would be incriminating or a problem for me—but the Witch Hunt continues!”

The infantile attempts at insults aside, it takes little to no effort to unpack the falsehoods in this missive.

Let’s do that now.

  • The New York Times did run a story about the deferral agreement. Itwasn’t on the print version's front page on Dec. 29 because the news organization apparently thought it wiser to run a story about Covid-19 testing for children. That is a story that impacts millions of people across the nation right now, which, in news, is sort of the point. Also, there’s still a pandemic on. So as much as the former president might like to see his face plastered all over every magazine, newspaper, website, or television, his whining about his “very big story” missing in action is just that – whining. Not to mention that quite literally every other major news outlet and hundreds of smaller ones tracking the investigation into Jan. 6 reported on this development. I know I did.
  • The Jan. 6 Committee has interviewed over 300 people and pored over thousands of documents. It has been chipping away at this massive undertaking of an investigation for nearly a year and doing so in the face of steep political stakes—how would you like to subpoena a hostile co-worker?—and criticism from just about every angle. So, when Trump says the committee dropped its request out of fear that the same tactics could be used against them in the future? Well, that’s a fun exercise to consider and sure, it could be that, all things being equal. But the evidence would also overwhelmingly suggest it’s a bit more nuanced than that. The committee members, like Trump, swore an oath to uphold the Constitution. The committee members, unlike Trump, have demonstrated a willingness to uphold that oath. More importantly, they have also publicly made the committee’s position known, explicitly, from press conferences to TV appearances to statements made under penalty of perjury in a court of law. The committee was formed so that lawmakers could try to find answers to questions about how the attack was organized, financed, and coordinated. The committee was formed so lawmakers could assess how they could amend, revise, or craft laws that would stop a megalomaniac president from trying to subvert the will of millions of voters. People died. Hundreds were injured. Post-traumatic stress from the attack is still very much alive for people who were on the front lines. Fellow sitting U.S. lawmakers may have been involved in the putsch and the Vice President himself could have ended Jan. 6 swinging from freshly erected gallows near the Capitol steps had it not been for the police that protected him and everyone else inside. So, despite Trump’s increasingly tiresome protests of the committee’s impropriety, the committee members have defined it for him ad nauseum: the primary function of the panel is to investigate and legislate. As legislators in a legislative body, that’s all they can do, and they know it. Their actions have shown it. When they held Trump’s ex-strategist Steve Bannon and Trump’s ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of congress, that was their right. They debated with other lawmakers about the decision, revised resolutions, and took it to a vote. You know, like how democracy works, with you know, like checks and balances. Plus, when the committee referred Bannon and Meadows to the Department of Justice to weigh an indictment, that too, was a perfectly normal part of their legislative process. Like committee chair Bennie Thompson recently said, if the probe turns up evidence of crimes, then they will weigh whether they, as the people reviewing that evidence, should recommend that the Justice Department do its thing and enforce the law.
  • So, let’s get down, then, to the reason the committee and the Biden White House agreed to defer the request. For the last several weeks, White House counsel Dana Remus has been in talks with the select committee. Remus and the probe members have been trying to sort out what documents are relevant, sensitive or as the Times put it, “potentially compromising to the long-term prerogatives of the presidency.” Trump, members of the GOP, and many of the people in the former president’s circle that have been targeted by the committee have complained at length about the panel’s disregard of presidential privileges. This mutual decision to withdraw or defer a portion of requests that “do not appear to directly bear on” Jan. 6 or on efforts to overturn the election makes a pretty strong case that the committee is agreeing to pay deference to the separation of powers. Prominent courts have already rejected suggestions that the committee is unconstitutional or that its members are guilty of overreach into the Executive Branch. Now, there is, without question, some novelty in Trump’s dispute over who will have the final say over access to presidential records, the incumbent or the former. But precedent would suggest Trump is fighting an uphill battle. Trump also claims that the entire “complexion” of the committee’s request has now changed. That is also false. The agreement to shelve some documents hasn’t changed the committee’s purpose or function. What it has done, according to the committee’s spokesman Tim Mulvey, is help clear the decks for other records if they are needed. A White House official also told the Times that the agreement was not a reflection of disarray or dissatisfaction, but rather, as discussed above, an indicator that no one is interested in widening the probe.
  • Lastly, let’s consider that very last part of Trump’s statement. The “not that there are any documents that would be incriminating or a problem for me” part. Now, it’s very easy to say, well, if you have nothing to hide, then confessing should be easy and you shouldn’t be worried about the punishment. But that’s also a touch narrow-minded because it excludes a lot of people in a lot of situations including those scenarios that we may not yet be able to anticipate or see. Silence, legally speaking, does not indicate guilt. Silence, legally speaking, is an option. It is a right. And even when we don’t want one person to exercise it, there may come a day that we wish to or we may wish it available for someone else. That’s a debate that will likely be dragged around in the comments, and I welcome you to have it. Everyone else is. But questions over the implications of silence aside, Trump’s last sentence in the Dec. 29 statement is more about Trump being Trump. The same Trump he has always been. Come and get me. I could give it to you, I just don’t want to, and you can’t make me. That’s it, in a nutshell. And at the end of the day, it means very little because the former president has a real problem telling the truth and takes pride in using hyperbole as a negotiating technique. So instead of saying, hey, if you’re not guilty, then confess! Maybe we should just go with hey, put up or shut up.

JFK records release leaves much to be desired in the name of transparency

The Biden administration recently agreed to release roughly 1,500 files from the National Archives pertaining to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and though some 58 years have passed since that grim November day, many of the records still remain sealed. Why?

Daily Kosrecently interviewed Ken Hughes, a historian and expert on presidential secrets, to take his pulse on why records on the assassination of the nation’s 35th president are still shrouded in mystery and moreover, what that means for governmental transparency.

The entire trove of documents was scheduled for release in October 2017 and the National Archives distributed a large number when the deadline fell under former President Donald Trump. But at the time, Trump opted to keep some of the files secret, saying various “executive departments and agencies” suggested that certain information be redacted to preserve national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns.

In October, President Joe Biden ordered the remaining documents to be released “except when the strongest possible reasons counsel otherwise.”

The latest release reflects a small percentage of the nearly 15,000 documents the Archives say are still under wraps, in full or in part. Those records, courtesy of an order from Biden, will not be released until December 2022.

Many of the documents made public this December are items from agencies such as the State Department, the FBI, and the CIA and researchers have largely deemed the tranche to be of low significance. Pointed out in a report by Politico,the latest batch does offer some “fresh insights” into Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who the 1964 Warren Commission found had killed President Kennedy in a lone wolf attack.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations, however, found differently a little over a decade later, suggesting that while Oswald was the responsible killer, Kennedy’s death was likely the fruits of a greater conspiracy.

In a phone interview on Dec. 17, Hughes reflected on the release.

“It’s only slightly annoying that they put out so few documents,” Hughes said, pointing to Gerald Posner’s book Case Closed as what he deems the authoritative text on the assassination. “I consider the JFK assassination a case that has been solved.”

But, Hughes noted, even Posner has appeared on television since the release to air frustration over the lack of greater transparency.

“It’s pretty obvious why they’re holding them back. There are embarrassing details that the CIA and other parts of the federal intelligence community just don’t want people to know about. I don’t see any evidence that any part of the government is trying to cover up the assassination in any way, though I think it is illuminating to see what parts the government did have important information about but never realized its importance until after the assassination,” Hughes said. “It’s not sinister but very human. People tend to see what they expect to see and people did not expect Lee Harvey Oswald to have any sort of impact on history. He was very much a loser.”

The batch published on Dec. 15 includes memos related to Oswald’s trips to embassies in Mexico. He visited both the Cuba and USSR embassies in Mexico City months before the assassination and was in search of a visa. One of the records released this month was merely another version of a memo that was previously published confirming Oswald engaged with Valery Kostikov, a Soviet consul.

Kostikov, importantly, was connected to the KGB’s assassination division.

A report by The Independenthighlighted some of these more interesting findings and arguable blunders made by the CIA, including one Oct. 1, 1963 CIA transcript. In it, Oswald was recorded speaking in Russian—albeit poorly—to an operator at the USSR embassy.

“Hello, this is Lee Oswald speaking. I was at your place last Saturday and spoke to a consul and they said that they’d send a telegram to Washington, so I wanted to find out if you had anything new? But I don’t remember the name of that consul,” Oswald said.

He was referring to Kostikov.

The intercepted call records reflected Kostikov later responding: “Just a minute, I’ll find out. They say that they haven’t received anything yet.”

Oswald asked: “Have they done anything yet?”

Kostikov said a “request” was “sent out” but nothing had been received yet.

Then he hung up.

CIA chief Tennent Bagley apparently only made note of the call in a memo on Nov. 23, 1963, a day after Kennedy was shot.

The tranche also exposed records exhibiting how the authorities treated what they thought were “prank calls.” One was made in October 1962, a full year before the assassination, the records showed. A man contacted the U.S. Naval Attache in Australia and said he was a Polish chauffeur for the Soviet embassy in Canberra. He claimed that “Iron Curtain countries had put out a $100,000 bounty—about $920,000 in today’s money—to kill President Kennedy.”

The CIA didn’t follow up because Australian authorities didn’t think the caller was on the level; the Soviet embassy only hired Soviet drivers, not Polish ones, the Aussie officials presumed.

Then, 48 hours after JFK was killed, another tipster, perhaps even the same one from October 1962, called the agency to emphasize that it was the Soviets who were behind the assassination.

“This individual, while discussing several matters of intelligence interest, touched on the possibility that the Soviet Government had financed the assassination of President Kennedy,” a May 22, 1964 memo said.

According to TheIndependent, the caller “claimed he had been there in early November when the Soviets dispatched an Australian man to the USA carrying a briefcase, before engaging in sustained conversation over the radio.”

The man said that after Kennedy was assassinated, the Soviets in the embassy made a toast.

“We achieved what we want,” they reportedly said.

A senior official at the CIA, Richard Helms, said in a 1964 report that the call was “some type of crank.” But, he added, “This conclusion, however, cannot be confirmed.”

The records do confirm more details, however, of the CIA’s plot to assassinate Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro and the agency’s reliance on the “criminal underworld with contacts inside Cuba."

While that sort of thing is more obviously an unsavory thing for the U.S. to admit in detail, there are other elements to this latest release that pose similar threats to keeping up appearances.

“A good journalist named Donald Bohning, who wrote about JFK’s secret war against Castro—well, the version that came out this week says [Bohning] was given provision security approval and then covert security approval for use as a confidential informant,” Hughes said.

Hughes, a former journalist himself, described that dynamic—a journalist who also works for the CIA—as “very uncomfortable” to consider.

“We worry that if the world knows the CIA is using journalists as sources, that makes journalists lives harder, especially when they are foreign correspondents and other nations don’t want American journalists to have unfettered access,” he said. “It’s understandable why the CIA would keep that under wraps.”

But perhaps what makes less sense, and points to a larger point about the need for greater transparency, is what happened with Bohning’s information.

When the Archives issued the records in 2017, they left out information about him being a confidential informant, Hughes said.

“They didn’t realize Bohning died in 2015, so there was no privacy aspect to this by the first time they released the documents in 2017. They were not protecting him in any way,” Hughes said.

Calling it a “a less sexy complaint about declassification process,” Hughes said that examples like this show that very often the declassification process is clumsy or sloppy.

“The government withholds information that can’t do any harm any more. In their zeal to protect sources, they protect dead sources. People like Bohning don’t need protection anymore,” he said.

And to that point on the certain sloppiness of declassification, Hughes highlighted Operation Mongoose, a plan by the U.S. government to overthrow the Castro regime.

The first version of an operations schedule for Mongoose appeared in a State Department public release in 1997. Then, the government released the same document in 2018, but this time, they bizarrely withheld information already released 21 years prior.

“And now, the same document was released this week,” Hughes said. “This one restores the information that was taken out in 2018. It also reveals on the last page that counterfeiting Cuban money was contemplated.”

During an appearance on CNN,Larry Sabato, an expert on the JFK assassination, expressed frustration with the release, calling the records “minimal” and worthless.”

But, he added: “The reason it's so important is not so much that we're going to find a smoking gun that changes the entire theory of who killed Kennedy … The lack of transparency and the fact that getting these documents after 58 years is like pulling a whole mouthful of teeth—it tells you why we have so many conspiracy theories."

Hughes felt similarly and said it might be better if the ultimate declassification was put into the hands of a citizen’s board and then modeled in the way of the original Assassination Records Review Board.

“By taking it out of the hands of the agencies that keep secrets, it will give other agencies a much greater incentive to take declassification seriously and protect the real secrets that need keeping,” he said. “It would help get out the information that doesn’t harm American national security but can improve American self governance.”

A citizen’s declassification board, Hughes said, would likely need a full-time roster of commissioners and would need to be populated by foreign policy and national security experts and the like.

“And one thing we often overlook, it’s often easy to tell what will harm national security and what will not. A lot of declassification is done by people who are not exactly experts. You don’t need a whole lot of expertise to tell what needs to be kept secret or not,” he said.

A citizen’s declassification board could “put the burden on people who want information out rather than the burden being on agencies who can justify keeping things secret,” he added. “Putting the burden on citizens to find out what their government is doing is the wrong view for a republic.”

One Republican admits he regrets his vote against recognizing Biden's 2020 victory

South Carolina Republican Rep. Tom Rice said publicly Thursday that he now regrets voting against certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory this January, an important admission from a member of a party that has largely pledged unshakeable alliances with former President Donald Trump.

Rice made the admission to reporters at Politico. To be clear, the Republican legislator still maintains that he has reservations about the 2020 election outcome. He holds those reservations despite the fact that dozens upon dozens of courts found fraud claims to be baseless and despite the fact that Trump’s own former attorney general William Barr found no evidence of widespread fraud.

Trump’s remarks on the morning of Jan. 6 led to an insurrection at the Capitol. Multiple people died and hundreds of police officers were injured. Millions upon millions of dollars in damage were exacted.

On Wednesday, Rice said plainly that he “should have voted to certify because President Trump was responsible for the attack on the U.S. Capitol.”

Rice holds the odd distinction of being one of only 10 Republicans that voted in favor of impeaching Trump for incitement of insurrection. But he is the only Republican who did that and alsovoted against certifying Biden’s victory.

“In the wee hours of that disgraceful night, while waiting for the Capitol of our great country to be secured, I knew I should vote to certify. But because I had made a public announcement of my intent to object, I did not want to go back on my word. So yeah, I regret my vote to object,” Rice said on Dec. 22

Around this time last year, Rice signed his name alongside a bevy of House Republicans who filed an amicus brief, or a supporting statement, in effect, to the Supreme Court expressing reservations about the integrity of the 2020 election.

By Jan. 4, Rice posted to Twitter and Facebook again. This time, though the apprehension was still there, there was a lingering doubt expressed as well.

“The vote to certify electoral votes is momentous, perhaps the most so of my entire tenure. I do not plan to commit to a position until the evidence is weighed and the debate concluded. I take my job seriously, and will consider it carefully,” he said.

But in that same message two days before the insurrection, Rice went on to tout claims of election improprieties in multiple states including Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.

During the siege, Rice posted a video from the House floor, noting that “’protesters’” were trying to break in as the chaplain prayed. The footage was shot moments before the legislators were evacuated.

The riot raged into the late afternoon but by 3:30 PM, Rice was safely at home while D.C., he said, was in “chaos.” Rice called on Trump to act.

On Jan. 13, Rice voted to impeach Trump for incitement of insurrection.

“I’ve excused his [Trump’s] foibles because I love his policy. But this last week, in my mind, is inexcusable. The fact that he gathered up the crowd and fired them up, and whether his speech or manner to incitement I don’t know, I’m not a criminal lawyer. But I know this, I know that once the people were inside the Capitol ransacking the place and trying to make their way to the Senate floor and House floor and Vice President Pence was in there in the Senate chamber, President Trump was tweeting that Vice President Pence didn’t have the courage to do what was right, and just further angering the crowd… The President offered only very tepid requests for restraint…” Rice said on Jan. 14 after impeaching Trump. “I think it was a complete failure of leadership… I wish that they hadn’t brought the impeachment vote, I want calm now.…but I’m not gonna hide behind procedure here. If my vote is yes or no on whether he should be President, I think the actions of last week disqualify him.”

Two weeks later on Jan. 31, Rice shared his Republican bonafides on Facebook. According to a post just after 6 AM that day, Rice emphasized how he stood with the Republicans of South Carolina and helped raise some $2 million for the national party. He added:

“I personally witnessed the insurrection in the Capitol on Jan. 6. I saw the rioters who were demanding to hang Vice President Pence. I heard the gunshots and smelled the tear gas. I was on Capitol Hill when the Capitol Police were overrun and Officer [Brian] Sicknick gave his life at the hands of the mob, to honor the oath he took to defend the Constitution,” Rice wrote. “I saw as we all did, the President’s lack of leadership in not stopping the mob, his callous actions saying Mike Pence had no courage and his comments in the middle of the riot that ‘These are the things that happen when victory is viciously stripped from these great patriots… remember this day forever.”

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