Sunday, October 2, 2022

Former Meadows helps to testify in surprise Jan. 6 committee hearing

It’s unclear why the panel expedited Hutchinson’s hearing, or whether she will appear alongside other significant witnesses. Hutchinson was present during meetings between Meadows and multiple House Republicans who aided Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election. Snippets of her video deposition supported the committee’s contention that several of those Republicans later sought presidential pardons.

Hutchinson also provided testimony to the committee that Meadows burned some of his papers after a meeting with Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), who was advocating for Trump to replace the leadership of the Justice Department in service of his effort to remain in power. Lengthy excerpts of Hutchinson’s testimony have already been made public as part of the committee’s litigation against Meadows, who sued to block a subpoena for his own testimony and records.

Among other revelations Hutchinson helped unearth: that the White House counsel informed members of Trump’s team that he believed a plan to authorize alternative slates of presidential electors was illegal. She also described Meadows’ movements on Jan. 6, as chaos began to unfold at the Capitol.

“I know that he was on several calls during the rally. And I went over to meet with him at one point, and he had just waved me away, which is out of the ordinary,” Hutchinson recalled.

She also recalled hearing of Trump’s Jan. 6 movements on a Secret Service radio channel that broadcast his location to West Wing aides. That channel helped her discern that Trump was in the Oval Office dining room after his rally speech that afternoon.

The select committee’s schedule shift was particularly jarring after the panel had foreshadowed a two-week hiatus to assess and analyze a flood of new evidence. The committee’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), told reporters last week that investigators were poring over new documentary footage from a British filmmaker who had access to Trump and his family before and after Jan. 6. The panel was also anticipating a new tranche of documents from the National Archives, due to arrive on July 8.

The committee had been planning at least two additional hearings in mid-July; one would be focused on the nexus between Trump’s orbit and domestic extremists like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, with the other zeroing in on Trump’s 187 minutes of inaction as violent supporters ransacked the Capitol and threatened the lives of lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Penny.

The panel had originally intended to hold roughly a half-dozen public hearings in June to present its findings, though investigators had cautioned the schedule was subject to change as new evidence emerged. The select panel has maintained its investigative work even as it ramped up its pace of hearings.

Committee aides and members were tight-lipped about the substance of the hearing but were clear that it was scheduled with extreme urgency, interrupting what many of them had planned to be a quieter-than-usual week. Hutchinson’s identity as a witness on Tuesday was first reported by Punchbowl News.

Documentary filmmaker Alex Holder, who had extensive access to the Trump family, met with investigators last Thursday morning after getting subpoenaed by the select panel for his recordings and testimony. And the panel also sent a letter to Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas also known as Ginni, seeking her testimony after evidence emerged she had exchanged emails with Trump-allied attorney John Eastman.

A Holder spokesman declined to comment.

The committee is also battling dozens of active lawsuits from Trump allies and other witnesses, including several with key filing dates in the coming weeks. The House is currently out of session until mid-July, though committees are still meeting this week.

The select committee, until now, has focused its hearings squarely on Trump. Its first hearing laid out what the panel described as a seven-part effort by the former president to overturn the 2020 election.

Subsequent hearings have focused on elements of the plot it’s seeking to portray: how the Justice Department and Trump campaign debunked false vote fraud claims even as the then-president kept repeating them; how Trump built a campaign around pressing Pence to single-handedly overturn the 2020 election on Jan. 6; how Trump leaned on state and local election officials to supplement alternative electors; and how Trump pressured his DOJ to legitimize the effort.

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