Jan. 6 committee asks former speaker Newt Gingrich to sit for interview

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The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection issued a request to interview former House speaker Newt Gingrich on Thursday.

The request from Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) cited evidence obtained by the committee showing Gingrich was in communication with senior advisers to former president Donald Trump, including Jared Kushner and Jason Miller, regarding television advertisements that amplified false claims about fraud in the 2020 election.

“These advertising efforts were not designed to encourage voting for a particular candidate. Instead, these efforts attempted to cast doubt on the outcome of the election after voting had already taken place,” Thompson said in a letter to Gingrich giving notice of the request for an interview. “They encouraged members of the public to contact their state officials and pressure them to challenge and overturn the results of the election. To that end, these advertisements were intentionally aired in the days leading up to December 14, 2020, the day electors from each state met to cast their votes for president and vice president.”

Thompson also wrote that the committee has obtained evidence that suggests Gingrich was involved in the fake elector plot designed to encourage former vice president Mike Pence and members of Congress to affect the outcome of the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

In an email sent on Nov. 12, 2020, Gingrich asked then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone: “Is someone in charge of coordinating all the electors? Evans makes the point that all the contested electors must meet on [D]ecember 14 and send in ballots to force contests which the house would have to settle.”

Gingrich, according to the letter, also continued to press Meadows on the evening of Jan. 6, 2021, after the attack, asking, “[a]re there letters from state legislators about decertifying electors[?]”

Committee investigators spent much of Congress’s August recess interviewing witnesses, chasing new threads that have cropped up throughout the course of the investigation, and tracking down information that has yet to be turned over to the committee and people who have so far refused to cooperate.

Investigators have continued to receive a steady stream of new documents — including a tranche of records from the U.S. Secret Service and two years worth of text messages from Alex Jones that were accidentally turned over to the lawyer for plaintiffs suing the conspiracy theorist.

Investigators have also been working to recover missing texts messages from the Secret Service and Department of Defense after the committee learned earlier this summer that the two agencies wiped communications from phones of former and current officials who are viewed by the committee as key witnesses for understanding the response to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. They expect to recover some of the missing information from carriers — like time stamps, recipients and senders of texts and calls, and voicemails, but they are unsure they will be able to obtain the actual content of the communications, according to people familiar with the committee’s work who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal committee conversations.

The committee has been particularly interested in digging deeper into the role the Secret Service played around Jan. 6, amid suspicions about the agency’s transparency with congressional investigators.

“We are going back to all of the relevant people — both motorcades — to dig in on a lot of more detail,” said a person involved with the investigation, referring to testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson about what happened as Trump was leaving the Ellipse after his speech on Jan. 6, 2021. Hutchinson testified under oath that those details were conveyed to her by Anthony Ornato, a Secret Service agent who also served as Trump’s deputy chief of staff.

People involved with the committee’s work say it wasn’t until investigators heard from a “national security” professional working at the White House on the day of the attack, who testified anonymously, that the committee was able to obtain Secret Service radio chatter around Pence’s evacuation from the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Investigators went back to USSS to demand that radio traffic recording even though they had requested it a year ago. The committee is still unsure they’ve obtained all of the recordings of relevant channels, as there are over two dozen different radio channels that USSS communicates on in the Washington area.

This is not the first time investigators have come up against the Trump administration’s poor and improper record keeping practices, and lawmakers on the panel are still interested in identifying which documents former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows allegedly burned in his office fireplace, according to testimony from Hutchinson.

Several people familiar with the committee’s work said they continue to explore the handling of documents by Meadows. According to these people, there is still information from Hutchinson’s closed-door depositions that has yet to be made public and needs further corroboration.

Earlier this month, Meadows made arrangements to return records to the Archives last week in the wake of the FBI’s search of Trump’s Florida residence, according to people familiar with the matter.

Meadows has been working with the Archives to recover records related to various requests since last year. He was initially engaged with officials from the independent federal agency that preserves government and historical records after they discovered that Trump had inappropriately taken presidential records that belonged to the Archives down to Mar-a-Lago, according to people familiar with the contacts.

Lawmakers on the committee are pressing for more information related to the testimony from the anonymous national security staffer featured during the eighth hearing — and are interested in tracking the flow of developments at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, recorded by staff on Trump’s National security Council in a chat log.

While the committee hopes to again interview Ornato and Robert Engel, Trump’s former detail leader, there is concern that the two agents are trying to run out the clock. Testimony from Hutchinson and others placed Ornato and Engel, who have both retained private counsel, at the center of various claims regarding Trump’s actions on Jan. 6.

The committee has also interviewed some of Trump’s Cabinet secretaries — including Mike Pompeo, Steven Mnuchin, Robert O’Brien, and Elaine Chao — regarding internal conversations following the insurrection about invoking the 25th Amendment, which provides for the removal of a president on grounds of incapacitation, mental health or physical fitness.

While there was never a vote on the 25th Amendment, the committee wants to show how seriously many Cabinet secretaries took invoking the amendment — and how the threat may have impacted Trump’s thinking in the days after Jan. 6.

“The possible invocation of the 25th Amendment is important because it bolsters the case about just how wrong Trump’s behavior was and is an important part of lawmakers’ continued campaign to educate the American people about his wrongdoing,” said former House impeachment co-counsel Norman Eisen.

While the committee’s work so far was largely linear and followed a chronological timeline, they now are likely to take on disparate topics.

With Republicans positioned to possibly take back the House in November, lawmakers on the panel had at one point been figuring out when the last possible moment is to get the report to the government printing office to make sure it is entered into the Congressional Record by Jan. 3, 2023.

“We are not going to close down the committee until the final day,” one aide said.

The report will likely be written in chapters, and lawmakers are expected to be charged with overseeing various sections. The committee was ultimately unable to agree on a third-party writer to draft the report, in part due to concerns about partisan perceptions.



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