December 5, 2021

Analysis: Trump’s circus on January 6 looms after Stone and Jones subpoena

The Infowars demagogue and self-proclaimed Nixonian “dirty trickster” have become ex-President Donald Trump’s latest acolytes to be subpoenaed by the House select committee on Monday.

The move was another indication that the panel was looking into organizing and funding Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally, in which the two were allegedly involved, which spilled over into the insurgency on Capitol Hill. Their testimony – if they appeared before the panel – could shed light on the key question for the committee of whether the rally had a preestablished purpose of triggering an uprising designed to stop Congressional certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. .
The subpoenas pointed to a fast-track strategy of a Democratic-led committee that is unlikely to survive if Republicans, who have long protected Trump, win the House in next year’s midterm election. The panel is working feverishly and has interviewed more than 200 witnesses, including many in the Trump administration who have come forward voluntarily.

But given Stone and Jones’ penchant for histrionic legal fights, the committee is unlikely to expect swift cooperation. Past behavior isn’t always predictive, and Stone in particular has just emerged from a costly legal fight after his conviction for lying to Congress in another Trump-related case, for which he was pardoned by the ex- President. But like Jones, he has long used moments of responsibility to stage political stunts and promote extremism.

Stone said in a statement that he had “no advance knowledge” of the events at the Capitol on January 6 and that any claim or report alleging or implying that he had done so was “categorically false.” . He later told CNN affiliate KOKI that he “would probably assert my 5th Amendment right, refuse to be interviewed.”

The committee has also shown its readiness to hold recalcitrant witnesses to account, after the House cited Bannon, another longtime Trump political adviser like Stone, for criminal contempt. The Department of Justice has taken legal action. Like Bannon, neither Jones nor Stone seem to have a strong case for claiming that contacts with Trump are protected by executive privilege, as neither were administration officials.

But arguing in court could take time as the committee did not give Democrats a grim prospect of retaining the House in 2022. Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who claims more executive privilege, is locked in a stalemate with the committee. He refuses to testify but was not cited for contempt.

The reputations of Stone and Jones, who are both political bomb throwers who pushed the lie that Trump won the election, suggest that neither will be able to resist the notoriety of a public duel with the panel.

“If you think Steve Bannon has increased the value of the Drama Queen by responding to a misdemeanor charge, I guess we haven’t seen anything yet,” said Andrew McCabe, former deputy director of the FBI who is now a senior CNN lawyer. execution analyst.

But Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren of California – a committee member who as a law student worked in Congress on the Watergate scandal involving Stone’s mentor, President Richard Nixon – said Stone and Jones didn’t had no choice but to testify.

“You’re not lying to Congress, otherwise you’re going to fall into other issues, criminal law issues. These are characters, but they have to come in and speak the truth,” she said on “The Situation Room. “from CNN.

Stone and Jones weren’t the only new witnesses targeted on Monday.

The committee also sent subpoenas to Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence, key players in the “Stop the Steal” movement, and to Taylor Budowich, who is currently Trump’s spokesperson.

A committee with a serious goal

A new round of exhibitionism by spotlight-hungry members of Trump’s orbit will not obscure the committee’s critical purpose. Trump, after all, tried to use the powers of the presidency to violate the will of voters and destroy democratic institutions based on the lie of a stolen 2020 election. And given that Trump could run for the White House again as an unmasked aspiring autocrat, the panel’s final conclusions could be vital reading for voters in 2024.

The ex-president’s selfish refusal to accept the will of voters was exposed Monday in a Washington courtroom. In a plea hearing for an accused of the Capitol Riots, Federal Judge Reggie Walton compared Trump to former Vice President Al Gore after the Supreme Court ruled the disputed 2000 election in favor of George W Bush.

“Al Gore had a better point to make than Mr. Trump, but he was a man about what happened to him,” Walton said. “He accepted it and left.

In another blunt reminder of the issues for the committee, unsealed documents revealed an apparent threat to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Indiana’s Mark Mazza, who has been charged with carrying a gun loaded on the Capitol grounds. Mazza told investigators that if he had reached the president’s office on January 6, they would be “here for another reason.”
In addition to seeking testimony from officials and outside allies close to Trump and his campaign, the Jan.6 committee fought him in court over his efforts to assert executive privilege over the notes of service, timetables, visitor records and other documents related to the January 6 period. . House lawyers said in a court filing Monday that investigators needed the ex-president’s private documents in order to consider legislation to prevent future repeats of the insurgency.

“Any investigation that did not insist on reviewing Mr. Trump’s documents and communications would be worse than pointless – the equivalent of staging a production of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark,” their dossier said. .

Dig Deep in “Stop the Steal”

Stone has rarely been far from controversy since Trump transformed American politics by launching his campaign in 2015.

He was convicted in November 2019 of lying and obstructing Congress in a case that shed light on the extent of Trump’s knowledge of the publication of stolen Democratic emails in 2016 by Wikileaks. He has therefore already established his reputation as a witness unlikely to turn against the former president. On Monday, in an unrelated tax case, his lawyers argued that he was being harassed for his support of Trump.

“This case would never have been brought if it did not involve Roger Stone”, indicates the file.

The House select committee has already issued several subpoenas to organizers of rallies in Washington, DC, on January 5 and 6 leading up to the insurgency. CNN reported that the investigation included questions about security forces at the rallies and those associated with Stone and others.

Court records show prosecutors accused two members of the far-right group the Oath Keepers of texting to keep Stone safe. An Oath Keeper who appeared to be protecting Stone on Jan.6 then joined an angry mob outside the Capitol, according to video and footage reviewed by CNN and four sources who confirmed his identity.

In its letter to Jones, the committee said he was denied a speaking spot at the January 6 rally, but that his previous comments indicated he had been designated to “lead a march to the Capitol, where President Trump would meet the group. ” The committee acknowledged that once on Capitol Hill Jones told people “not to be violent.” Trump never showed up on Capitol Hill.

Jones’ subpoena landed less than two months after he was found legally responsible in two lawsuits for damages caused by his false claim that the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 26 people , of which 20 young children have died, was a hoax.

Lofgren told CNN’s Jim Acosta on “The Situation Room” that Stone raised funds for the safety of the “Stop the Steal” rally through his websites and that Jones claimed to raise most of the funds needed to organize the event. January 6.

There is nothing wrong with organizing a political rally. Even Trump’s lies about election theft are protected by free speech. But the committee appears to be trying to find out whether the riot on Capitol Hill was a direct reaction from the crowd to these lies peddled by Trump at the rally or whether the ex-president or those in his orbit specifically paved the way for it. that the demonstration turns into an insurrection.

CNN’s Katelyn Polantz, Whitney Wild, Zachary Cohen, Ryan Nobles and Annie Grayer contributed to this story.

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