Jan. 6 Committee Presents New Secret Service, White House Records at 9th Meeting

Jan. 6 Committee Presents New Secret Service, White House Records at 9th Meeting
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) (L), Chair of the House January 6 committee, delivers remarks alongside Vice Chairwoman Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) during a hearing in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington on Oct. 13, 2022. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Joseph Lord

The House January 6 Committee on Oct. 13 met to unveil text messages, testimony, and other never-before-seen records from White House and Secret Service officials.

Since its first hearing in June, the members of the committee, which seats seven Democrats and only two Republicans, have made their position on the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally clear. Members have in no uncertain terms blamed former President Donald Trump exclusively for the breakdown of order on Jan. 6, but their efforts to make this claim have sometimes relied on altered evidence.
Before the members gathered for what Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) called a “business meeting” more than a formal hearing, speculation was rampant as to whether the committee would subpoena Trump—it ultimately agreed unanimously to a motion by Ranking Member Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to do just that.

The hearing, briefer than many before it, opened at 1:00 p.m. ET.

As on many other occasions, Thompson reiterated the committee’s claims about the events of Jan. 6, saying the breakdown of order was part of a “multi-part plan” by Trump and his allies to carry out an insurrection against the United States government.

“The most striking fact is that all this evidence comes almost entirely from Republicans,” Thompson said.

“The evidence that has emerged did not come from Democrats or opponents of Donald Trump,” Thompson continued. “Instead, look at who’s written and testified and produced evidence. Who has that been? Aides who’ve worked loyally for Trump for years, Republican state officials and legislatures, Republican electors, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.”

In her opening remarks, Cheney echoed the sentiment: “The vast weight of evidence presented so far has shown us the central cause of Jan. 6 was one man: Donald Trump.”

Testimony so far has come from former Attorney General Bill Barr, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and others.

During the hearing, the committee presented new records and testimony from other Republicans and Secret Service agents.

Trump Planned Election Day Victory Declaration

One memo from the National Archives presented by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) allegedly showed that Trump planned to declare victory on Election Day before the final votes were tallied.

The brief memo was sent to Tom Fitton, who leads the conservative group Judicial Watch.

“We had an Election today—and I won,” the memo read. “The ballots counted by the Election Day deadline show the American people have bestowed on me the great honor of reelection to President of the United States.”

Lofgren also referenced testimony from Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale alleging that Trump planned to say he won either way as early as July.

Trump Was ‘Livid’ About Supreme Court Decision

A text message from a Secret Service agent that was unveiled during the hearing alleged that Trump was “livid” after the Supreme Court—to which he appointed three of the nine current members—refused to hear an election lawsuit brought by Trump.

Officials in the White House, notably former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said that Trump and others in the upper ranks of White House staff considered it the last chance to take back the election.

The message came following the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case.

“Supreme Court denied his lawsuit,” the message read. “He is livid now.”

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows whose testimony has been denied by Trump and the Secret Service alike, also suggested that Trump was irate following the news.

“The president was fired up about the Supreme Court decision,” she told the committee during her testimony. “The president just raging about the decision and how it’s wrong and ‘why didn’t we make more calls’ and his typical anger outburst at this decision.”

“He said something to the effect of, ‘I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out,’” she said.

It’s unclear just how close Hutchinson was with the president.

By Trump’s own account, he “hardly knew who [Hutchinson] is.” Trump has also suggested that Hutchinson may have gone to the committee over a grudge she held with him for not approving her to join his team in Florida, though where exactly Hutchinson was after Trump left the White House is disputed.

Secret Service Aware of Threats

Other evidence suggested that the Secret Service was aware of the threat of violence on Jan. 6, an awareness prompted by social media posts and anonymous tips.

The Proud Boys, an organization whose actual influence is limited but highly inflated by the committee, allegedly thought at the time that “they [would] have a large enough group to march into D.C. armed and [would] outnumber the police so they [couldn’t] be stopped,” an anonymous tip said. “Their plan is to literally kill people. Please please take this tip seriously and investigate further.”

In an email obtained by the committee, the Secret Service discussed the threat.

“Right wing groups responding across the nation and establishing ‘quick reaction forces’ in Virginia,” the email read.

Additionally, agents were also reportedly concerned about the quantity of weapons brought to the Jan. 6 event at the Ellipse, where protestors gathered to hear Trump speak before marching on the Capitol.

“With so many weapons so far, you wonder how many are unknown. Could be sporty after dark,” one agent wrote in a message to a colleague.

“No doubt. The people at the Ellipse said they are moving to the Capitol after the POTUS speech,” another agent responded.

Aguilar Doubles Down

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) doubled down on the veracity of Hutchinson’s contested testimony about Trump’s behavior on Jan. 6.

Hutchinson made wide-reaching claims during her June testimony at a last-minute hearing about several alleged disputes between Trump and the Secret Service on Jan. 6.

According to Hutchinson, Trump grew frustrated after the Secret Service refused to allow him to join supporters at the Capitol protest because the area had not been secured.

Hutchinson then claimed that Trump lunged at a Secret Service agent in anger after they refused to take him to the Capitol before trying to seize the steering wheel from the driver of his vehicle.

Hutchinson’s claims came from secondhand info, she admitted.

Reportedly, Hutchinson heard it from Secret Service Agent Tony Ornato. However, Bobby Engel, the actual driver of the vehicle, has reportedly denied the claim—a denial he is allegedly willing to make under oath and at risk of perjury.

Despite the denials from the agent most intimately involved in the altercation, Aguilar assured Americans that it actually happened—at least according to reports after the fact that White House staffers gossiped about it.

The incident was “so widely known,” Aguilar said, that one former White House employee referred to it as “water cooler talk.”

Aguilar has eyed further legal action, up to and including time in federal prison, against deniers of Hutchinson’s account.

One unnamed source reportedly testified to the committee “that they were specifically informed of the president’s irate behavior in the SUV by Mr. Ornato in Mr. Ornato’s office,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar mused that the deniers might be in violation of laws against obstruction of justice, and promised, “We will address this matter in our report.”

Further Hearings Possible

Thompson briefly alluded to the possibility of further hearings.

“We are convened today not as a hearing but as a formal committee business meeting so that in addition to presenting evidence, we can potentially hold a committee vote on further investigative action based on that evidence,” Thompson said in his opening statement.

The possibility of such hearings in large part hinges on the outcomes of ongoing legal disputes between Trump and his allies over whether their documents and testimony are protected by executive privilege. Though the committee received a PR victory with their vote to subpoena Trump, testimony by the former president is far from guaranteed.

Adding to issues for Democrats, the subpoena will only last for the term of the 117th Congress, which is quickly drawing to a close.

If Republicans take the House, as they are widely expected to do, it will be a race against the clock for the committee to win its case in the courts. Though Thompson cited precedent for legislative subpoenas of former presidents, the incidences of such subpoenas in U.S. history are sparse.

In the 1840s, Congress subpoenaed former Presidents John Quincy Adams and John Tyler for information on intelligence activities. The subpoenas were ultimately not answered.

The only other case came in the 20th century, when House Un-American Activities Committee Chairman Joseph McCarthy subpoenaed former President Harry S. Truman. As in the case of Adams and Tyler, the subpoena was unanswered.

These cases taken together leave unclear the question of whether Congress even has the authority to subpoena a former president, and it is far from certain that the committee will ever have the chance to hear testimony from Trump.