The attitude now about record sharing appears to be mellowing as Thompson said Tuesday that talks were “moving forward” with the department.
“We will probably do something in the month of July but it probably will not be before we complete the hearings. We’ll establish a procedure to look at some of the materials,” he said.
The committee will retain total ownership of its records, he stressed.
“Now if they want to come and have an opportunity to sit and review them and that kind of thing, I think we can work that out,” he said.
The grip over the records is not irrational; handing over hard-fought investigative source material to anyone outside of a probe is generally not recommended because it leaves open the chance that those records could be misused or lost. Moreover, the Department of Justice is currently prosecuting hundreds of people tied to Jan. 6, including key figures integral to the committee’s investigation like Elmer Rhodes, leader of the extremist Oath Keepers group, and Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, leader of the neofascist Proud Boys.
Access is one thing and possession is another. If the committee does hand over records to the Department of Justice, the department could turn over its findings to Jan. 6 defendants requesting evidence to build their own cases.
Astutely pointed out in an op-ed for Politico this June, former federal prosecutor Ankush Khardori noted:
Even with so-called “protective orders” in place that nominally prevent defendants from widely disseminating discovery from the government, there is no realistic way to ensure that defendants or their lawyers will not share this material with people who are not supposed to have access to it. That, in turn, might allow people to coordinate their stories, and it could disincentivize other people from coming forward to speak to the committee.
This seems even more prescient now in light of information divulged by the committee during its hearing on Tuesday, which explored ties between Trump and extremists who attacked during the Joint Session.
“After our last hearing, President Trump tried to call a witness in our investigation. A witness you have not yet seen in these hearings. That person declined to answer or respond to President Trump’s call and instead alerted their lawyer to the call. Their lawyer alerted us. And this committee has supplied that information to the Department of Justice,” Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney said.
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The Wyoming Republican has previously disclosed concerns over witness tampering. During its sixth hearing, when Cassidy Hutchinson, the former aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows testified, Cheney closed out that hearing with a warning over possible witness tampering.
“We will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously,” she said. The committee then provided examples of answers investigators on the panel received when they would ask witnesses if Trump or anyone related to Trump tried contacting them about their testimony.
“What they said to me, as long as I continue to be a team player, they know that I’m on the team, I’m doing the right thing, I’m protecting who I need to protect, you know, I’ll continue to stay in good graces in Trump world,” one of the examples stated.
In another, the witness was told that Trump wanted to “let you know that he’s thinking about you.”
“He knows you’re loyal and you’re going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition,” the person said.
Punchbowl News first reported last month that one of those language examples was sent to Hutchinson. It is unclear which was sent to her. Hutchinson’s testimony was rife with bombshells, and her testimony exposed key details about the events surrounding the insurrection including, most critically, that Trump knew the mob was armed on Jan. 6, encouraged them to skip past security points, and then urged them to march on the Capitol.
During the hearing Tuesday, White House records and emails obtained by the committee showed how Trump and rally organizers wanted to make Trump’s call to march to the Capitol seem random.
A draft tweet shared with the committee by the National Archives showed Trump toying with the idea of making the announcement. The draft stated:
“I will be making a Big Speech at 10AM on January 6th at the Ellipse (South of the White House). Please arrive early, massive crowds expected. March to the Capitol after. Stop the Steal!!”
It never went out.
In emails between rally organizer Kylie Kremer and Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson, Pierson expressly said Trump would call on the crowd at the Ellipse to march on the Capitol.
“POTUS is going to have us march there/the Capitol. It cannot get out about the second stage because people will try and set up another and sabotage it. It can also not get out about the march because I will be in trouble with the national park service and all the agencies but POTUS is going to just call for it ‘unexpectedly,” Kremer wrote.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
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