What’s next in the investigation of January 6
It has been over 10 months since rioters stormed the US Capitol on January 6 and the House select committee investigating the attack continues to insist it is making progress, pointing to the fact it has issued 35 subpoenas and interviewed over 200 witnesses so far.
But much of that work has taken place behind closed doors and the panel has only offered vague reassurance that its aggressive pursuit of information from a host of witnesses, including close advisers to former President Donald Trump, is producing results.
And while the committee has issued 35 subpoenas, it also granted several “short postponements” making it difficult to assess how many of those individuals have talked to investigators or handed over documents.
A select committee aide told CNN on Wednesday that some individuals who received subpoenas have complied with the order but declined to provide details about those witnesses or what information they provided. A number of other witnesses have voluntarily engaged with the committee, the aide added.
Meanwhile, the committee has been publicly stonewalled by two Trump allies who have emerged as central figures in the probe — podcast host Steve Bannon and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Their defiance, coupled with the ongoing legal dispute over Trump-era records, has complicated matters for the committee as it faces a ticking clock to deliver on promises to uncover what happened leading up to and on January 6.
What exactly is the committee investigating?
Rep. Jamie Raskin, a member of the committee, described the probe as three circles of inquiry. The outer ring is focused on the protestors turned rioters — what led them to Washington and compelled them to become violent.
A second ring involves the right wing paramilitary, militia and nationalists groups that were there on January 6, Raskin told CNN, referring to organizations like the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Three Percenters.
The inner circle looks at those involved in the coordinated attempt to overturn the election results, a group with ties directly to Trump.
“How did how did a demonstration become a riot? How did a violent insurrection get organized, coordinated and paid for? And then who conceived of and attempted to execute the coup against Pence and the Congress? And how were all of these different elements coordinated?” Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, said.
To answer those questions, the committee is seeking information from a wide range of witnesses, the committee aide said, “including current and former government officials; individuals who helped plan, organize, and pay for events surrounding January 6th; experts and scholars; and the men and women charged with protecting the Capitol in the face of a violent attack.”
“So far, the committee has heard from witnesses from all those categories,” the aide told CNN on Wednesday.
CNN has previously reported that the committee is also setting its sights on the financing behind events and people associated with January 6, including money that funded pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rallies that preceded the attack on the Capitol that day, in an effort to determine whether any election law violations or financial crimes took place.
It has divided its work into at least five investigative teams, each with their own color designation.
The committee is also seeking information from several individuals in former Vice President Mike Pence’s inner circle, a pursuit that underscores its interest in learning more about any pressure related to blocking certification of the election results.
The Bannon factor
Bannon turned himself in to the FBI this week after being indicted on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over documents and appear for a deposition with the panel but emerged from court on Monday as defiant as ever.
“I’m telling you right now, this is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden,” Bannon told reporters after an initial court hearing, swearing his team is “going to go on the offense.”
While the select committee has touted Bannon’s indictment as a major victory and said it sends a message to other witnesses who may be inclined to defy their subpoenas, it remains to be seen if the decision will ultimately lead to more cooperation.
There are also still questions about whether Bannon will ultimately face legal consequences for defying the committee’s subpoena. Bannon’s attorney told reporters Monday that his client refused to show up for a deposition because he was following the advice of his lawyer at the time — suggesting they will present that argument in court, where a trial would be months away.
What will the committee do about Mark Meadows?
Meadows was a no-show for his deposition last week but it remains to be seen if the committee will also ask the Department of Justice to pursue criminal charges against him as well.
The chairman of the House select committee, Mississippi Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, said he is signing a letter to send to Meadows outlining everything the committee wants to learn from him, as the panel weighs whether to pursue another criminal contempt referral.
This letter would be key to marking the trail of communication between Meadows and the committee, and crucial to building out an eventual criminal contempt referral report, if the committee chooses to go that route.
A key question that the committee has said it wants answered by Meadows is whether he was using a private cell phone to communicate on January 6 and where his text messages from that day are.
Executive privilege questions
Unlike Bannon, Meadows was an employee of the executive branch on January 6, making his claims around executive privilege potentially more substantial.
To Thompson, however, if Meadows used a private phone on January 6, his claims of being protected by executive privilege are less firm.
“If in fact he used a personal phone rather than a government phone while he was serving as chief of staff, that limits his argument that he’s protected,” Thompson said.
Ahead of the scheduled deposition last week, Meadows’ attorney, George J. Terwilliger III, issued a statement saying that his client would not cooperate with the committee because the courts had not yet ruled on former President Donald Trump’s claims of executive privilege, noting “a sharp legal dispute with the committee.”
If Meadows continues to stonewall the committee, it could result in a court battle where the legal outcome is all but certain but almost certainly closes the door on Trump’s former chief of staff cooperating in any form.
Not just Meadows
Meadows is not the only high priority target not fully cooperating with the committee who members are weighing how to move forward on. Thompson told reporters on Tuesday that the committee is “still discussing” the next steps on former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark, who came in for a deposition earlier this month but did not cooperate.
At the time, Thompson and Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the select committee, issued a strong statement saying that Clark had to change course or they’d have to “take strong measures to hold him accountable.”
Thompson said of both Meadows and Clark, “Those are the two prime individuals that we are engaging the committee with.”
Concerns about the calendar
As the committee continues to deliberate how to proceed on each of these top priority witnesses, Thompson admitted that the calendar presents a logistical challenge.
“Our challenge is to get on the legislative calendar,” Thompson said, pointing to major legislation that is taking priority on the floor right now including President Noe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, and after the Thanksgiving break, the deadline next month to fund the government and extend the nation’s debt limit.
“So it’s a matter of finding the space to include it because we have to obviously go to the speaker, get the speaker’s approval, then we have to get rules and ultimately time on the floor,” he added.
And with members scheduled to be in town only until Friday before they return to their districts in the lead-up to Thanksgiving, Thompson all but eliminated the possibility of movement on either Meadows or former DOJ official Clark this week given the multi-step process a criminal contempt referral entails.
More subpoenas to come
But as looming fights over criminal contempt referrals hang in the balance, Thompson said that he expects the committee to release more subpoenas this week as it continues its investigation, even though he would not specify what orbit these subpoenas would target.
And the committee continues its work behind closed doors.
Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who serves on the panel, said on CNN on Tuesday night that the committee has now heard from 200 witnesses, received nearly 25,000 documents and gotten more than 200 tips from its tip line.
Hundreds of Capitol rioters have been prosecuted
More than 660 individuals have been charged so far and over 130 have already pleaded guilty to various crimes, including assaulting police, destroying government property and conspiracy, many from extremist groups, according to CNN’s latest tally and DOJ.
Those charged come from 44 different states and Washington, DC.
Thirty-seven people have been sentenced to date and 15 of those individuals received prison time as a result.
Those 37 individuals who have been sentenced were ordered to pay nearly $50,000 to the US government in restitution and fines.
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