In a 248-page filing in the legal battle over the potential testimony of former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, the committee offers new details about the testimony of his aide Cassidy Hutchinson.
On the first count, Hutchinson confirmed that the White House legal counsel‘s office repeatedly told those plotting to nullify the election that their plan to use other voters lists — or to go even further – was not legally valid. Despite this, Meadows and others continued their attempts to cancel the January 6 election and rally.
On the second charge — the idea that it might interfere with the duties of Congress — Hutchinson said Meadows was directly warned of the prospect of violence that day. She said Anthony Ornato, a senior Secret Service agent and White House political adviser, discussed the subject with her in early January.
“I just remember Mr. Ornato coming in and saying we had intelligence reports saying there might be violence on the 6th,” Hutchinson said. “And Mr. Meadows said, ‘Okay. Let’s talk about it.”
Hutchinson suggested that Ornato made a point of bringing up the subject: “I think they went to the office for maybe five minutes. It was very fast. Mr. Ornato had stopped him as he was going out one evening to talk about it.
Separately, Hutchinson detailed multiple instances in which the White House legal counsel‘s office has legally opposed plans to cancel the Jan. 6 election.
According to Hutchinson, the council office has said in some meetings on the subject that it is reviewing the legality of such ideas. But in other meetings – potentially as early as November, more than a month before January 6 – he said the plan was not legally valid.
Q: And so, to be clear, did you hear the white house legal counsel’s office say that this plan to round up alternate voters and vote for donald trump in the states he lost was not legally sound?
HUTCHINSON: Yes sir.
Q: And do you remember approximately when that was?
HUTCHINSON: I’m trying not to be too broad, but, right now, sitting here, I remember at the time, maybe early to mid-December. Now it very well could have been the end of Novemberbut I try to think of reference events and dates in my head, and early to mid-December is the safest bet.
Q: And who was present at that meeting that you remember?
HUTCHINSON: It was in our office. It was Mr. Meadows, Mr. [Rudy] Giuliani, and some of Mr. Giuliani, like – well, I don’t know if the correct term is “associates”, but Mr. Giuliani’s associates.
Hutchinson was asked if this finding from the White House legal counsel’s office had also come up in meetings with members of Congress. She said yes. The members she said attended: Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), and Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.).
The evidence here is fragmentary; the committee has not released the full transcript of Hutchinson’s testimony, so some potentially relevant pages are not yet public. So, we don’t know what else she said on the subject.
A big question is whether the potential violence Meadows was warned about was related to those protesting Trump’s loss and whether he was warned that those protesters could turn violent – but didn’t stop the 6th rally. January anyway. (At the rally, Trump would urge his supporters to march to the Capitol — while making clear they should do so “peacefully.” But Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani called for a “trial by combat.”)
With regard to legal advice from the Office of the White House Legal Counsel: We were aware from previous reports that the Office of the Legal Counsel had opposed various efforts to nullify the election and had even threatened to massive resignations. But Hutchinson’s testimony establishes that the attorney’s office concluded that the particular plan pursued by Trump and his allies was not legally valid and that the office informed specific people – people who then pressed.
These are two key elements to proving that the effort was criminal. To meet the legal standard of obstructing an official process – the crime the January 6 committee focused on – you must prove that the actions obstructed the process and were taken with corrupt intent ( that is, knowing that what they were doing was wrong).
Indeed, those are two things the judge suggested last month that Trump’s actions had satisfied.
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter said Trump’s actions appeared corrupt because he “probably knew the plan to disrupt the voter count was wrongful.” In Trump’s case, it was both because his allies told him his allegations of widespread voter fraud were baseless and because the lawyer advising him on the plan, John Eastman, acknowledged that the plan violated the electoral count law. (Eastman argued that the law should simply be ignored because it was, in his view, unconstitutional.) It would be significant if, on top of that, the plotters were made aware of the illegality of their plan.
Carter also said that Trump urging attendees of the Jan. 6 rally to march to the Capitol represented his “galvanizing the crowd to join him in carrying out the plan.”
“Together, these actions more than likely constitute attempts to obstruct due process,” the judge concluded.
(The Justice Department has used this criminal charge in several cases involving Jan. 6 rioters.)
The new documents also reveal that, despite White House counsel’s advice and apparently after the office informed him of the prospect of violence, Meadows approved one of the more far-reaching ideas: asking the vice- President Mike Pence of trying to unilaterally reject voters by ignoring the Voter Count Act.
After Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) texted him about the idea — one Jordan said he was just transmitting from someone else — Meadows replied Jan. 5: “ I pushed for it. Not sure this is happening.