Capitol Attack Panel Race Against Time As Trump Allies Look To Run Out Of Time | Attack on the US Capitol



The House select committee investigating the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill faces a race against time in 2022 as Trump and his allies look to run out of time with a barrage of delay tactics and lawsuits.

The Republicans are expected to do well in this year’s midterm election in November and, if they gain control of the House, that would give them control to close the investigation that turned out to be politically and legally damaging to Trump and Republicans.

The select committee opened its investigative efforts into the Jan.6 insurgency, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory, with a series of summons to appear before Trump officials to speed up the evidence-gathering process.

But in addition to getting a treasure trove of documents from Trump’s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, the select committee found itself wading through molasses with Trump and other top US officials. administration seeking to delay the investigation by all possible means.

The former US president has tried to block the select committee at every moment, asking his staff to defy subpoenas from the start and, more recently, launching a last resort in the Supreme Court to prevent the publication of the files. the most sensitive of the White House. .

His aides keep pace with Trump as they attempt to shield themselves from the investigation, doing everything from filing frivolous lawsuits to prevent the select committee from obtaining tapes of calls to invoking the Fifth Amendment in order to do not respond with depositions.

The efforts amount to a cynical ploy by Republicans to run out of time until midterm and use the electoral calendar to characterize the interim report, which the bipartisan select committee hopes to release by the summer, as an exercise policy aimed at harming the GOP.

Republican Representative Liz Cheney, center, vice chair of the Capitol Attack Committee, speaks during a meeting on Capitol Hill on December 13. Photograph: Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

The select committee, according to sources familiar with the investigation, is therefore hoping for a breakthrough with the Supreme Court, which, according to experts, will allow the panel to access Trump’s records in the White House despite the former’s objections. chairman regarding executive privilege.

“I think the Supreme Court is very unlikely to side with Trump, and part of that is the nature of executive privilege – it’s a power belonging to the president,” said Jonathan Shaub, former lawyer. from the DoJ’s office and professor of law at the University of Kentucky.

“It’s hard to see how a former president could wield constitutional power under a theory that all constitutional powers are vested in the current president, so I think Trump is very likely to lose or the court may not take the deal, ”Shaub said.

Members of the select committee note that several courts – the US District Court and the US Court of Appeals – have already ruled that Biden has final say on White House documents subject to executive privilege and that the panel has a purpose legislative.

A Supreme Court select committee victory matters, members believe, not only because it would give them access to the files Trump fought so hard to keep hidden, but because it would give the investigation crucial momentum. .

The select committee had its first break when House investigators obtained from Meadows thousands of communications involving the White House, including a powerpoint detailing how to organize a coup, and hope the Supreme Court can help them keep up their pace.

“It is pretty clear that these documents are serious documents which shed light on the president’s activities on January 6 and which may be quite damaging to Trump,” said Kate Shaw, former Obama adviser to the White House and now professor. at the Cardozo School of Law. .

“They could make a difference in the case set by the committee and so they could give the process some extra momentum,” said Shaw. “This is probably why Trump is resisting their release as strongly as he is.”

The select committee got its first break when House investigators obtained from Meadows thousands of communications involving the White House.
The select committee got its first break when House investigators obtained from Meadows thousands of communications involving the White House. Photography: Patrick Semansky / AP

More generally, the select committee says it is indifferent to attempts by Trump aides and political agents to thwart the investigation, since Democrats control Washington and the panel has unprecedented carte blanche to overthrow every inch of the Trump administration.

“The legislative and executive branches are in complete agreement with each other that this material is not privileged and must be handed over to Congress,” said Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the select committee. “Things have moved on a lot faster. “

But the select committee privately admits that they face a longer and more difficult task with Trump aides and political operatives mounting legal challenges to everything from attempts by the panel to force production of recordings to calls and even testimonials.

The problem for the select committee, regardless of Democrats’ control over the White House, Congress, and the Justice Department, is that they rely on the courts to be held accountable to Trump officials who are unwilling to cooperate with it. investigation.

Yet Trump and his officials know that the slow cogs of justice are used to doing nothing of the sort. House investigators only heard from former Trump White House attorney Don McGahn last summer, years after the special advocate’s investigation ended.

The House hasn’t even been able to get Trump’s tax returns – something Democrats have been fighting for access since taking a majority in 2018 – after repeated calls from the former president despite repeated defeats in court.

Trump and his aides insist they are not engaged in any ploy to thwart the investigation, although they admit to doing so in private talks, according to sources close to the former president.

When the select committee issued its first subpoenas to former aides Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, Steve Bannon and Kash Patel, Trump’s lawyers told their lawyers to defy orders as it would likely serve to slow the investigation down, the sources said.

The result of Trump’s directive – first reported by The Guardian – is that Bannon and Meadows refused to appear for their depositions, and the select committee may now never hear their inside information about the attack on the Capitol after they been held in contempt of Congress.

It remains possible that Bannon and Meadows are seeking some sort of plea deal with federal prosecutors that involves testifying before the select committee in return for no jail time, but the court hearing for Bannon, for example, is scheduled. at the end of summer.

The reality for House investigators is that the cases are now in the hands of a Justice Department determined to prove it remains above the political fray after years of Trump meddling in the DoJ, and therefore indifferent to the lack of time felt by the January 6 committee.

The situation for the select committee may be even more delicate with Republican members of Congress involved on January 6, as they only have to block the investigation until mid-term, before the panel hopes to release an interim report. on its findings.

A spokesperson for the select committee declined to comment on the prospects for the inquiry and their expectations for the Supreme Court hearing in the case against Trump, which the panel, aware of their limited time frame, asked to accelerate.

Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the select committee, originally aimed to have the final report completed before the midterm election, but efforts by top Trump officials to delay the investigation mean he might need until the end of the year.

Either way, sources familiar with the investigation told the Guardian, the select committee is hoping the Supreme Court will hand Trump’s elusive files back to the White House – and that this could pave the way for a move to the top speed.

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