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Capitol attack panel racing against the clock as Trump allies try to clear the clock

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol faces a race against time in 2022 as Trump and his allies try to work the clock out with a barrage of delaying tactics and lawsuits.

Republicans are widely expected to do well in this year’s midterm elections in November and taking control of the House would give them the control to stop the investigation that has proved politically and legally damaging to Trump. and the Republicans.

The select committee began its investigative efforts into the January 6 uprising, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol to halt the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory, sending subpoenas to Trump officials to delay the rallying process. of evidence.

But beyond securing a trove of documents from Trump’s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, the select committee has had to wrestle through molasses with Trump and other top officials who tried to delay the investigation by any means necessary.

The former US president has tried to block the select committee at every turn, ordered aides to defy subpoenas from the outset and, most recently, a last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court to prevent the release of the White House’s most sensitive data.

His aides follow Trump closely as they try to shield themselves from the investigation, doing everything from filing frivolous lawsuits to prevent the select committee from obtaining call records to invoking the Fifth Amendment to not respond. in statements.

The efforts amount to a cynical ploy by Republicans to put off the clock until the midterms and use the election calendar to characterize the interim report, which the bipartisan select committee hopes to release by the summer, as a political exercise to harm the GOP.

Republican Representative Liz Cheney, center, vice chair of the Capitol Assault Committee speaks at a meeting on Capitol Hill on Dec. 13. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The select committee, sources close to the investigation say, is therefore hoping for a breakthrough with the Supreme Court, which experts say will allow the panel access to Trump White House data on the former president’s objections to administrative law.

“I think the Supreme Court is highly unlikely to side with Trump, and part of that is the nature of executive privilege — it’s a prerogative of the president,” said Jonathan Shaub, a former DoJ office legal adviser. and professor of law at the University of Kentucky.

“It’s hard to see how a former president could exercise constitutional power based on a theory where all constitutional powers rest with the current president, so I think Trump will most likely lose or the court won’t hear the case.” said Shaub.

Selected committee members note that several courts — the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals — have already ruled that Biden has the final say on which White House documents are subject to executive powers, and that the panel has a legislative purpose. has.

A Supreme Court select committee victory is important, members believe, not only because it would give them access to the data Trump has fought so hard to keep hidden, but because it would provide crucial impetus to the investigation.

The select committee got its first break when House investigators from Meadows received thousands of messages about the White House, including a powerpoint detailing ways to pull off a coup, and hope the Supreme Court can help keep up their pace.

“It’s pretty clear that these documents are serious documents that shed light on the president’s activities on Jan. 6, and that could be quite damaging to Trump,” said Kate Shaw, a former Obama White House counsel and now a professor. at the Cardozo School of Law. .

“They could make a difference in the record being compiled by the committee and give the process an extra boost,” Shaw said. “That’s probably why Trump is resisting their release as hard as he is.”

The select committee got its first breakthrough when House investigators from Meadows received thousands of communications related to the White House.
The select committee got its first breakthrough when House investigators from Meadows received thousands of communications related to the White House. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

More broadly, the select committee says they are not concerned about attempts by Trump associates and political agents to thwart the investigation, given that Democrats control Washington and the panel has an unprecedented carte blanche to topple the Trump administration every inch to throw.

“The legislature and executive are in complete agreement that this material is not privileged and should be turned over to Congress,” Congresswoman Jamie Raskin, a select committee member, said. “It goes much faster.”

But the select committee privately acknowledges that they are dealing with a longer and more difficult struggle with Trump aides and political agents taking on legal challenges for everything from the panel’s attempts to force the production of call records and even testimonials. .

The problem for the selected committee, whether or not the Democrats control the White House, Congress and the Justice Department, is that they are counting on the courts to answer to Trump officials who are unwilling to cooperate with the investigation. .

Still, Trump and his officials know that slow-moving cogs of justice have a history of doing nothing of the sort. Home investigators only heard from former Trump White House attorney Don McGahn last summer, years after the special counsel’s investigation ended.

The House has failed to even get Trump’s tax returns — something Democrats have been fighting to gain access to since they had the majority in 2018 — after repeated appeals from the former president, despite repeated defeats in court.

Trump and his aides insist they are not involved in a ploy to thwart the investigation, though they admit they do in private conversations, according to sources close to the former president.

When the select committee issued its first subpoenas against its former aides Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, Steve Bannon and Kash Patel, Trump’s attorneys told their attorneys to ignore the orders as doing so would likely delay the investigation, the sources said.

The upshot of Trump’s directive — first reported by the Guardian — is that Bannon and Meadows refused to appear for their statements, and the select committee may now never hear their inside information about the Capitol attack after being held in contempt of the Congress.

It remains possible that Bannon and Meadows will try to negotiate some sort of plea deal with federal prosecutors, where testimony is given to the select committee in exchange for no jail time, but the court hearing for Bannon, for example, is scheduled for late summer.

The reality for House investigators is that matters are now in the hands of a Justice Department that wants to prove that after years of Trump meddling in DoJ, it remains above the political fray, and is therefore indifferent to the time crunch that the Commission of 6 January felt.

The situation for the select committee could be even trickier with Republican members of Congress involved on Jan. 6, as they only have to hold off the investigation during the interim terms, after which the panel hopes to release an interim report detailing their findings.

A spokesperson for the selected commission declined to comment on prospects for the investigation and their expectations for the Supreme Court hearing in the case against Trump, which the panel, aware of their limited time frame, has asked to expedite expediting.

Bennie Thompson, the select committee chair, originally wanted the final report ready before the midterm elections, but the efforts of top Trump officials to delay the investigation means he could need it until the end of the year. to have.

Regardless, sources close to the investigation told The Guardian that the select committee hopes the Supreme Court will deliver the elusive Trump White House data — and that it could pave the way for the investigation to look into more shift into a higher gear.