WASHINGTON — Ahead of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Trump White House officials and members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus outlined a plan to drive thousands of angry protesters into the building, according to recently released testimony obtained by the House committee investigating the riots and former President Donald J. Trump’s attempts to reverse the election.
During a planning interview with Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney; Representative Jim Jordan, Republican from Ohio; and other members of the Freedom Caucus, the group discussed the idea of encouraging supporters to march toward the Capitol, a witness said.
The idea was endorsed by Pennsylvania Republican Representative Scott Perry, who now heads the Freedom Caucus, according to the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Mr. Meadows, and no one on the call spoke out against the idea.
“I don’t think there was one participant in the call who would have necessarily discouraged the idea,” Ms Hutchinson told the committee’s investigators.
The nearly two-mile march from the president’s “Stop the Steal” rally at the Ellipse to the Capitol, where sections of the crowd turned into a violent mob, has become a focus of both the House Committee and the Justice Department as they investigate who is responsible for the violence.
Mr. Meadows and members of the Freedom Caucus, who were deeply involved in Mr Trump’s push to undo the 2020 election, condemned the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and defended their role in spreading the lie of a stolen election.
Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony and other material released Friday by the committee in a 248-page lawsuit added new detail and texture to what is publicly known about the discussions within Mr. Trump’s inner circle and among his allies in the United States. weeks prior to January. 6 attack.
The filing is part of the committee’s effort to dismiss a lawsuit brought against her by Mr. Meadows. The revealed testimony that Mr. Meadows had been told that plans to try to undo the 2020 election using so-called deputy voters were not “legally justified” and that the Jan. 6 events could turn violent. Still, he continued with the rally that led to the march on the Capitol, according to the filing.
The filing also revealed new details about Mr Meadows’ involvement in efforts to pressure Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger over Mr Trump’s loss there.
At rallies in Washington in November and December 2020, Mr. Trump’s supporters did not march to the Capitol and mostly abstained from violence. But on January 6, Mr. Trump encouraged a crowd of thousands to march to the building, saying, “You will never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength.” He did this after the White House chief of operations told Meadows about “intel reports saying there could be violence on the 6th,” the filing said.
Two rally organizers, Dustin Stockton and his fiancée, Jennifer L. Lawrence, also provided evidence to the committee that they feared a march to the Capitol on Jan. 6 would pose “potential danger” and that Mr. Stockton’s “urgent concerns were escalated to Mr. Meadows, the commission said.
In his book, “The Chief’s Chief,” Mr. Meadows that Mr. Trump proclaimed “a phrase no one had seen before” when he told the crowd to march, adding that the president “knew as well as anyone that we would not organize such a trip on such short notice.”
Mrs. Hutchinson’s testimony contradicts those statements.
She said that Mr. Meadows had said “in a casual conversation,” “Oh, we’re going to have a big meeting. People are talking about it on social media. They’re going to the Capitol.”
And speaking of the planning call that involved Mr. Meadows and Freedom Caucus members, a commission investigator asked her whether Mr. Perry “supported the idea of sending people to the Capitol on January 6.”
“He did,” Mrs. Hutchinson replied.
A spokesman for Mr Perry, who has declined to speak with the committee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Justice Department and the commission both investigated how the crowd moved from the Ellipse to the Capitol.
For example, commission investigators obtained draft copies of Mr. Trump’s speech. This month, they urged the author, Stephen Miller, a former top White House adviser on whether Mr Trump’s repeated use of the word “we” had been an attempt to get his supporters to join him. close in moving to the Capitol to stop Congress from confirming its defeat.
Rally planners, such as prominent “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander, also had a hand in getting people to move from the Ellipse to the Capitol. At the request of Trump aides, Mr. Alexander left the speech before it was over and marched to the head of a crowd moving toward the building.
Alex Jones, the founder of the conspiracy-driven media outlet Infowars, which cheered the crowds on by shouting around 1776, joined Mr. Alexander that day.
On Wednesday, Mr Jones revealed that he had recently asked the Justice Department for a deal under which he would give the government a formal interview about his role in the January 6 events in exchange for not being prosecuted.
Two weeks earlier, Mr. Alexander confessed to receiving a subpoena from a federal grand jury seeking information about a broad group of people — rally planners, members of Congress and White House officials — who played a role in the political events leading up to the election. attack on the Capitol.
Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony revealed that members of the Freedom Caucus were also involved in plans to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s electoral votes. throwing out won states and accepting false statements claiming that those states voted for Mr Trump.
She said members of Congress involved in the discussions were Mr. Jordan; Mr Perry; Representatives Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar and Debbie Lesko from Arizona; Alabama Representative Mo Brooks; Florida Representative Matt Gaetz; Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jody Hice of Georgia; Texas Representative Louie Gohmert; and Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado. (In the end, 147 Congressional Republicans voted to object to Mr. Biden’s victory in at least one state.)
“They felt he had the authority to – excuse me if my wording on this is incorrect, but – to send votes back to the states or voters back to the states,” Ms Hutchinson testified, adding that they were appeared to embrace a plan promoted by conservative lawyer John Eastman that members of both parties have likened to a coup blueprint.
The Aftermath of Capitol Riot: Key Developments
Signs of progress. The federal investigation into the January 6 attack appears to be gaining momentum. The Justice Department has appointed a well-regarded new prosecutor to help lead the investigation, while a high-profile witness — far-right broadcaster Alex Jones — seeks an immunity deal to provide information.
Ms. Hutchinson suggested that White House attorneys had discovered that the plan was not “legally justified,” but that Mr. Meadows allowed it to go ahead anyway.
The commission’s filing also included an email revealing that a pro-Trump attorney named Cleta Mitchell also played a role in promoting the alternative electoral system.
The email, which Ms. Mitchell sent to Mr. Meadows on Dec. 6, 2020, contained a list of “key points” about the plan, noting, for example, that the “U.S. Constitution empowers state legislators to elect presidential voters.”
Ms. Mitchell had sent a version of the email to Indiana Republican Senator Mike Braun the day before, before the senator was scheduled to appear on television. When Ms. Mitchell forwarded the email to Mr. Meadows, she wrote: “This is what I prepared last night and sent to Sen Braun to prepare him for ABC appearance this hour. Can get the WH press service and up and running to take?”
The filing also shows that Mr. Meadows was in contact with Phil Waldron, a retired army colonel with training in psychological operations, who was part of a group of conspirators who pushed extreme plans to persuade Mr Trump to use his national security apparatus to attack the control the country’s voting machines to stay in power.
Working with others such as pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell and Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, Mr. Waldron spread a conspiracy theory that foreign actors hacked into Dominion Voting Systems voting machines in an attempt to voices of mr. Trump on Mr. Biden.
In a newly released email sent to Mr. Meadows was sent, Mr. Waldron submitted an 18-page document that he described as a “National Asset Tasking Request”.
The document was essentially a proposal to seek presidential approval from agencies such as the FBI and the National Security Agency to search their databases for people and Internet addresses associated with Dominion that Mr. Waldron believed might have information about the alleged hack plan.
Mr. Waldron wrote that he had discussed the plan with Mr. Meadows in his office the day before.