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5 people who are stonewalling the House January 6 committee


By Zachary Cohen, CNN

A growing number of key allies of former President Donald Trump are refusing to cooperate with the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot, using various tactics to skirt the panel’s subpoenas and stonewall the sweeping probe.

Members of the committee are convinced there are still plenty of ways to gain access to information that is crucial to their investigation even if some potentially key witnesses continue to resist compliance.

But the defiance of this handful of Trump allies does pose a challenge for the panel. Many of these individuals, including former administration officials, could provide critical information relevant to the probe and some are suspected of being key players in a broader plot to overturn the 2020 election.

With a limited amount of time to complete its investigation, the clock is becoming the committee’s worst enemy and those who are refusing to cooperate appear to know it.

Here are some of the most notable individuals currently refusing to cooperate:

Steve Bannon

The committee wants to ask Bannon about his conversations with the former President leading up to the Capitol riot and involvement in the so-called war room of Trump allies at the Willard hotel in Washington in early January.

Members of the panel have noted that Bannon made comments on his podcast the day before rioters stormed the Capitol predicting that “all hell” was “going to break loose” on January 6 — leading the committee to suspect he may have had advance knowledge of what was to come.

Of all the individuals subpoenaed by the committee so far, Bannon has been the most brazen in his defiance.

Bannon refused to turn over documents to the committee and appear for a deposition, which earned him a criminal referral for contempt of Congress. He was subsequently indicted by the Department of Justice last month and is now awaiting trial, which is set to begin on July 18.

The ex-adviser to Trump has pleaded not guilty to the contempt charges but vowed to make his case “the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.”

In the meantime, Bannon has continued to use his podcast to whitewash the violence on January 6.

While Bannon was never expected to cooperate with the House investigation, his criminal trial may serve as a test of the committee’s ability to enforce subpoenas and counter claims of executive privilege made by other witnesses who have resisted cooperation.

Mark Meadows

As Trump’s former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows has unique knowledge about what the former President was doing and saying behind closed doors on and around January 6.

There is also a growing body of evidence indicating Meadows played a direct role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election. CNN previously reported he tried to enlist government officials to pursue baseless election conspiracy theories and pressured state officials to help overturn vote tallies in states Trump lost.

Meadows repeatedly claimed that his direct conversations with Trump should be shielded by executive privilege. But committee members have said that many of their questions have nothing to do with his discussions with the former President and wouldn’t be subject to an executive privilege argument.

Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, a member of the committee, previously told CNN that Meadows’ “conversations about stopping a free and fair election, about criticizing and stopping the counting of electoral votes, about his coordination with campaign officials on private devices that were not turned over, all of those issues are not privilege worthy and he has some explaining to do.”

The House select committee informed Meadows this week that its has “no choice” but to advance criminal contempt proceedings against him given that he has decided to no longer cooperate with the panel, according to a new letter.

At the heart of the fallout between Meadows and the committee is a disagreement over what is covered by executive privilege.

Prior to Meadows’ decision to halt cooperation with the committee, he had turned over approximately 6,000 pages worth of documents to the panel, including significant information from both his personal email account and personal cell phone that are relevant to the sweeping investigation.

Jeffrey Clark

As a sympathizer to election fraud conspiracy theories, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark became Trump’s most useful asset inside the agency in the days before January 6 and the committee believes he was central to efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s electoral victory in key swing states.

Clark helped the former President devise a plan to oust the then-acting attorney general, place himself atop the department and have the DOJ intervene in Georgia to set aside its voting results in order to sway the state toward Trump.

When Clark’s superiors learned of his scheming with Trump in early January, they threatened to resign en masse.

The committee has moved to hold Clark in contempt of Congress for defying his subpoena but is also giving him another opportunity to comply with the order by appearing for a second deposition and claiming Fifth Amendment protection on a question-by-question basis should he choose.

Unlike Bannon, Clark did appear for an initial interview with the committee but refused to answer questions, citing vague claims of executive and attorney-client privilege.

He then changed his legal argument and told the committee he plans to invoke the Fifth Amendment after the panel rejected those privilege claims outright.

If Clark answers the committee’s questions by pleading the Fifth Amendment, the panel will likely have to stop the process of holding him in criminal contempt. If Clark continues to stonewall the committee and invoke the Fifth Amendment in ways the committee deems illegitimate, the panel will proceed with a floor vote.

John Eastman

The committee’s interest in conservative lawyer John Eastman centers around him helping craft a questionable legal theory that former Vice President Mike Pence had the constitutional authority to interrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.

Eastman has informed the January 6 congressional committee that he plans to defy a subpoena from the panel, according to a letter obtained by CNN.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland and member of the committee, previously told CNN the panel wants to know more about Eastman’s role in attempting to overturn the election results.

“We need to determine to what extent there was an organized effort against Vice President Pence and we believe that, you know, some of the actors’ names have become known, including John Eastman, who laid it out in a memo,” Raskin said last month.

In a letter earlier this month, Eastman’s attorney told committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson that answering the panel’s questions could put Eastman at legal risk.

“While Dr. Eastman emphatically denies committing any illegal acts, he nonetheless has a reasonable fear that the requested information could be used against him in court,” he wrote.

Roger Stone

Roger Stone not only promoted his appearance at a January 6 “Stop the Steal” event but solicited donations for it and stated his purpose at the rally was to “lead a march to the Capitol,” according to the panel’s subpoena letter to him.

The committee added that, according to media reports, Stone used members of the Oath Keepers as personal security guards, several of whom stormed the Capitol and at least one who has been indicted, while he was in Washington.

Stone has also said he intends to plead the Fifth Amendment as a way to try and get out of cooperating with the panel.

Stone was scheduled for a deposition on December 17, but his lawyer told the committee this week he is now declining to produce documents or be deposed “pursuant the Fifth Amendment.”

Following the last major House inquiry into election integrity, after the 2016 election, Stone was convicted in federal court of obstructing Congress by lying about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks on behalf of the Trump campaign.

At his criminal trial, which occurred before the end of the Trump administration, the Justice Department successfully argued Stone lied to Congress to protect Trump. Trump later pardoned him.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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