WASHINGTON — Despite near daily bombshells relating to the investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, pressure is mounting on lawmakers to finish their probe before the 2022 midterm elections, when Republicans are expected to retake control of the House of Representatives and quash the inquiry.
“Attorney General [Merrick] Garland, do your job so that we can do ours,” Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., said Monday at a meeting of the House’s Jan. 6 select committee shortly before voting to hold former Trump White House aides Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro in contempt for refusing to testify.
The sophomore lawmaker from Virginia was expressing a growing concern among Democrats that Trump’s aides may elude justice, even after a monumental week of revelations surrounding the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack.
On Tuesday, an explosive report from CBS News and the Washington Post revealed a more than seven-hour gap in the White House call logs that overlapped with the riot at the Capitol building. Missing from the logs during that span of time was any sign of reported phone calls with House and Senate Republicans, raising questions about whether the official records had been altered.
Last Thursday, the Post revealed efforts by Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to pressure then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to pursue avenues to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Justice Thomas was the only member of the Supreme Court to vote to keep the National Archives from turning over Trump’s records to the Jan. 6 committee.
Chairperson U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS) speaks as members of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol on December 1, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
Democrats stepped up their calls this week for Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from all cases involving the Jan. 6th riot at the Capitol and efforts to block the certification of the 2020 election results.
On Monday, a federal judge in California declared in a related ruling that Trump “more likely than not”committed a crime in his attempt to overturn the election results and that one of the architects of the plan to keep him in power, California lawyer John Eastman, would have to turn over 101 emails to the Jan. 6 committee regarding that effort.
“We’ve obviously come into possession of a lot of evidence of individual crimes, and we need to make that available, in whatever the best way is, to the Department of Justice,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the House Jan. 6th Committee, told Yahoo News. “But our job goes beyond individual criminal accountability to much broader social and political accountability to ourselves. This is a democracy. We need to deliver a report to the American people and Congress that will be a wake-up call about the threats to constitutional democracy in this new century.”
The clock is ticking fast for Luria, Raskin and the other committee members tasked with identifying not just the motives of those who sacked the Capitol, but the possible criminality of those who inspired their actions.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is widely expected to become Speaker of the House if Republicans retake the chamber in the November elections, told Punchbowl News last week that he would refocus the panel’s work to investigate why Capitol Police and security were overrun by the Trump mob and what current Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s role was in the response.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) (R) speaks alongside Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) during a Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Based on the current pace of contempt charges moving through the justice system, a long line of Trump aides who bore witness to the events leading up to the attack appear likely to skirt having to testify before the committee, a fact that is prompting no shortage of anxiety among Democrats and Republicans serving on the committee
The criminal case against former Trump advisor Steve Bannon for refusing to testify is not expected to take place until the middle of July, just four months before the 2022 midterm elections. And despite being formally held in contempt in January, no criminal charges have been filed against Meadows, who initially cooperated with the committee before refusing to do so.
The contempt recommendations against Scavino and Navarro mark the fourth and fifth witnesses that the House panel is attempting to compel to testify. A third recommendation of contempt, filed against former Trump official Jeffrey Clark, was put on hold after he agreed to cooperate.
Based on the evidence already accumulated, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the vice-chair of the committee, has said that lawmakers might recommend criminal charges against Trump for his role in the attack. But veterans of previous investigations into Trump have cautioned against raising expectations of what the panel may find or recommend when it wraps up its work.
Steve Bannon looks on as he leaves an appearance in U.S. District Court after being indicted for refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena over the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Nov.15, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
“The President and his campaign’s behavior with Russia was appalling. The president’s son asked the Russians for dirt. One of his foreign policy advisors was sitting in European bars talking about how the Russians were providing dirt to the campaign. So their behavior was appalling,” Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., and a veteran of the House investigation into Russia’s support for Trump in the 2016 campaign, told Yahoo News. “But we promised more than ultimately was delivered. And that’s a terrible mistake.”
“We should let those facts speak for themselves. We shouldn’t embellish them. We shouldn’t raise expectations about them,” Himes said.
The panel is expected to launch a slew of primetime public hearings starting in a month or so, after it finishes its work interviewing witnesses in closed-door depositions. The committee is also expected to recommend criminal prosecutions based on its investigation to the Department of Justice, but it will ultimately fall to Garland and his team to decide whether to pursue charges.