A warning was delivered to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that threats of violence were swirling around Washington, D.C., in the days leading up to Jan. 6, a onetime aide to former President Donald Trump told investigators on the Jan. 6 committee.
This testimony from Trump’s special assistant for legislative affairs, Cassidy Hutchinson, was tucked into the pages of a hefty 248-page court filing from the probe as it again pushes for Meadows to cooperate following a months-long stalemate. There is no indication yet that the Justice Department will charge Meadows with contempt of Congress four months after the House voted to advance the referral.
Hutchinson told investigators she didn’t know if Meadows perceived the warning as genuine or speculative, but she recalled Anthony Ornato, the Secret Service agent-turned-Trump-White-House-political-adviser, approaching Meadows at least once with “intel reports saying that there could potentially be violence on the 6th.”
What Meadows did with that information next was unclear to Hutchinson, she testified, but she remembered Meadows’ response to Ornato was, “All right, let’s talk about it,” before heading into Meadows’ office privately with Ornato for a few minutes.
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This detail is just another part of what is pushing investigators to get Meadows on the record about Jan. 6.
Meadows insists he is protected by executive privilege. The committee insists he is applying that theory falsely and too broadly. In the meantime, public hearings are coming in June. Investigators say the evidence keeps stacking up that Trump was actively engaged in an attempted coup against the former vice president and Congress in order to install himself into the White House for another four years.
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The committee wants a judge to compel Meadows' testimony now on seven discrete categories of questions. They acknowledge they are tailoring their request despite the fact that Trump himself has not invoked privilege over his former chief of staff.
20220422 Motion for Summary... by Daily Kos
The proposed categories would cover questions about his correspondence with members of Congress like Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, among others. Both Jordan and Perry received requests for voluntary compliance. Both have so far refused to cooperate.
When Hutchinson testified before the panel, she also told them that during a planning call before Congress met to certify the electoral votes, Perry verbally supported the idea of “sending people to the capitol” on Jan. 6.
She also named Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado as some of the chief proponents inside Congress pushing the unconstitutional theory that Pence had the authority to stop the count on Jan. 6.
“I'm sure there were other individuals involved, but those are ones that I remember specifically being involved that Mr. Meadows had outreach to,” Hutchinson told the probe.
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In that same vein, if the committee gets its way, Meadows could also face questions about a Dec. 21, 2020 meeting hosted by the White House.
At that meeting, members of the ultra right-wing House Freedom Caucus and other Republicans met to discuss their plan for “alternate electors.”
The safe harbor deadline for the Electoral College to finalize its count had passed at this point and a whole host of courts had already ruled against Trump’s claims of rampant election fraud.
But Hutchinson told the committee that lawmakers like Jordan, Greene, and others—including Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar and Debbie Lesko of Arizona, Mo Brooks of Alabama, and Jody Hice of Georgia—were still all in.
“They felt that he had the authority to, pardon me if my phrasing isn’t correct on this, but, send votes back to the States or the electors back to the States, more along the lines of the [John] Eastman theory,” Hutchinson testified.
Investigators said in their subpoena to Hutchinson last November that she reportedly traveled with Trump to the Ellipse for the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6 and may have accompanied Meadows for a Dec. 30 trip to Georgia for an election audit.
Under questioning, Hutchinson said she did not go with Meadows to Georgia in late December, a partial transcript included with Friday’s filing shows.
Investigators also want the judge to compel Meadows to answer questions about the scheme that unfolded at the Justice Department involving Jeffrey Clark.
Clark was held in contempt of Congress after refusing to cooperate with the probe. Notably, it was Perry who introduced Trump to Clark.
Just after Christmas Eve, Clark reportedly met with Trump in secret. After the meeting, Clark launched a pressure campaign to have then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and Rosen’s then-deputy, Richard Donoghue, tell key swing state legislatures they should install alternate electors.
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Within days of speaking to Rosen about the alternate electors scheme, Clark drafted a letter for Rosen to approve instructing Georgia state officials to say publicly that the Department of Justice was aware of election fraud and that a special legislative session was required.
When Hutchinson was asked if she could remember any times in which Meadows, Trump, or Clark met to discuss “alternate” electors, her memory was fuzzy.
“I remember the ideas—that concept being discussed, broadly speaking. I remember Mr. Meadows mentioning it in meetings and once or twice in passerby conversation with me, but nothing that would indicate his opinion on it, just as something that, you know, was outlined in this letter and, you know, was the topic of conversation at the time,” she said.
When asked whether Trump advocated for the Justice Department to get involved, Hutchinson said she wasn’t sure.
The committee would also compel Meadows to cough up information related to Trump instructing, directing, or trying to persuade then-Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally refuse to count the votes on Jan. 6, especially in light of Ornato’s warning.
“But despite this and other warnings, President Trump urged the attendees at the January 6th rally to march to the Capitol to ‘take back your country,’” the motion states.
A Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General report published on March 10 noted that several warnings about impending violence heading to D.C. for Jan. 6 were often kept internal.
The agency said in its report that happened frequently because staff were poorly trained and inexperienced and worried that overreporting threats would put them under the magnifying glass following a tumultuous summer of protests throughout the country in the response to the police killing of George Floyd.
According to the watchdog report, on Dec. 21, 2020—the same day that Republicans and House Freedom Caucus members were strategizing how to overturn Trump’s loss—a field agent shared a tip with fellow analysts at the Department of Homeland Security.
It was open source and warned of a person who threatened to shoot and kill protesters at upcoming rallies tied to the presidential election. It wasn’t reported to higher ups however, the inspector general found, because it “slipped away” from the analyst after she had trouble locating follow up information.
She did not write up a report about the incident.
But, the inspector general said, those Department of Homeland Security officials never took their concerns any higher because they considered “true threats of incitement because they thought storming the U.S. Capitol and other threats were unlikely or not possible.”
Meadows provided the committee with some 2,319 text messages before ending his cooperation last year. Some of those texts have been made public but the batch newly obtained by CNN on Monday reveal new insights into the inner workings of Trump's White House before Jan. 6.
(This story is developing.)