Saturday, January 22

Trump called his aides hours before the Capitol riots to discuss how to stop Biden’s victory | Attack on the US Capitol

Hours before the deadly attack on the United States Capitol this year, Donald Trump made several calls from the White House to top lieutenants at the Willard Hotel in Washington and discussed ways to prevent Joe Biden’s election victory certification from being carried away. held on January 6.

The former first president told the lieutenants that his vice president, Mike Pence, was reluctant to accept the plan to command his largely ceremonial role in the joint session of Congress in a way that would allow Trump to retain the presidency for a second term. .

But when Trump relayed the situation with Pence to them, he lobbied his lieutenants on how to prevent Biden’s certification from taking place on January 6 and delay the certification process to get alternative lists of voters for Trump sent to Congress.

The former president’s comments came as part of strategic discussions he had from the White House with Willard’s lieutenants, a team led by Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Boris Epshteyn and Trump strategist Steve Bannon. about delaying certification.

Multiple sources, who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity, described Trump’s involvement in the effort to subvert the 2020 election results.

Trump’s comments reveal a direct line from the White House and the command center in Willard. The conversations also show that Trump’s thoughts appear to be in line with the motivations of the pro-Trump mob that carried out the attack on Capitol Hill and halted Biden’s certification, until it was later ratified by Congress.

The former president’s call to the Willard Hotel to stop Biden’s certification is increasingly a central focus of the House Select Committee’s investigation into the Capitol attack, as it raises the specter of a possible connection between Trump and the insurrection. .

Multiple Trump attorneys at the Willard that night deny that Trump tried to stop the certification of Biden’s election victory. They say they only considered delaying Biden’s certification at the request of state lawmakers due to voter fraud.

The former president made several calls to Willard’s lieutenants the night before January 6. He called attorneys and non-attorneys separately, as Giuliani did not want non-attorneys to participate in legal calls and jeopardize attorney-client privilege.

Trump’s call to the lieutenants came a day after Eastman, a late addition to Trump’s legal team, described in a Jan.4 meeting at the White House how he thought Pence could usurp his role to prevent certification. of Biden happened in the joint session. .

Pro-Trump protesters storm the United States Capitol on January 6.
Pro-Trump protesters storm the United States Capitol on January 6. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

At the meeting, which was held in the Oval Office and attended by Trump, Pence, Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, and his legal adviser Greg Jacob, Eastman presented a memorandum detailing how Pence could be inserted into the certification and delay the process.

The memo outlined several ways that Pence could appropriate his role in the joint session, including sending the election to the House of Representatives or adjourning the session so that states have time to send voters lists to Trump on the basis of voter fraud, Eastman’s preference.

Then-Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen and his predecessor, Bill Barr, who had been appointed by Trump, had already determined that there was insufficient evidence of fraud to change the outcome of the 2020 election.

Eastman told The Guardian last month that the memo only featured scenarios and was not intended as advice. “The advice I gave the vice president very explicitly was that I didn’t think he had the authority to just declare which voters to count,” Eastman said.

Trump seized on the memo, first reported by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their book Danger, and pressured Pence to adopt the schemes, which some of Willard’s other lieutenants told Trump were ways. legitimate to change the elections.

But Pence resisted Trump’s pleas, telling him in the Oval Office the next day that Trump should exclude him from any plans he had to subvert the 2020 election results in the joint session, because he did not intend to participate.

Trump was furious at Pence for refusing to do him a final favor when, at the critical moment underlying the effort to reinstate Trump as president, he called Willard’s lieutenants sometime between the afternoon of January 5 and 8:00 p.m. early hours of January 6.

From the White House, Trump made several calls to lieutenants, including Giuliani, Eastman, Epshteyn and Bannon, who were huddled in suites with espresso machines and Coke in a mini fridge in the northwest corner of the hotel.

In the calls, the former president first recounted what happened at the Oval Office meeting with Pence, informing Bannon and Willard’s lawyers that his vice president appeared ready to leave him at the joint session within hours.

“He’s arrogant,” Trump told Bannon, for example, about Pence, his own way of communicating that Pence was unlikely to play ball, in an exchange reported in Danger and confirmed by The Guardian.

But in at least one of those calls, Trump also asked Willard’s lawyers for ways to stop the joint session to ensure that Biden was not certified as president on Jan.6, as part of a broader discussion about buying time for the states send voters to Trump.

The alternative that Trump and his lieutenants seemed to settle on was to cajole Republican members of Congress to file enough objections, so that even without Pence suspending the joint session, the certification process would be delayed for states to submit Trump lists.

It was unclear whether Trump discussed in the call about stopping Biden’s certification in any way if Pence refused to insert himself into the process, but the former president is said to have enjoyed watching the insurrection unfold from the dining room.

But the fact that Trump considered ways to stop the joint session may help explain why he was so reluctant to stop the rioters and why Republican Sen. Ben Sasse told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt that he overheard. to Trump. seemed “delighted” with the attack.

Trump’s top attorney at the Willard, Giuliani, who appeared to be following that alternate plan, called at least one Republican senator later that night and asked him to help keep Congress suspended and to halt the joint session beyond the 6th of September. January.

In a voicemail recorded around 7 p.m. on January 6, and reported by the FirmGiuliani implored Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville to oppose the 10 states that Biden won once Congress reconvened at 8 p.m., a process that would have concluded 15 hours later, around January 7.

“The only strategy we can follow is to challenge numerous states and raise issues so that we can get into tomorrow, ideally until the end of tomorrow,” Giuliani said.

A Trump spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment on this account of Trump’s call. Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment. Eastman, Epshteyn and Bannon declined to comment.

Trump made several calls the day before the Capitol attack both from the White House residence, his preferred place to work, and from the West Wing, but he wasn’t sure from where he called his top lieutenants in Willard.

The White House residence and its Yellow Oval Room, one of Trump’s favorites, is significant in that communications there, even from a desk phone, are not automatically memorized in records sent to the National Archives after the end of an administration.

But even if Trump called in his West Wing lieutenants, the select committee may not be able to fully discover the extent of his involvement in the events of January 6, unless House investigators obtain testimony from people with knowledge. of calls.

That difficulty arises because calls from the White House are not necessarily logged, and the call detail records that the Select Committee is suing to remove from the National Archives over Trump’s objections to executive privilege only show the fate of the calls. calls.

Investigators from the House Select Committee last week opened a new line of investigation into activities at the Willard Hotel, just across the street from the White House, issuing subpoenas to Eastman and the former police commissioner of New York Bernard Kerik, Giuliani’s assistant.

Select committee chair Bennie Thompson said in a statement that the panel was going after Trump officials at the Willard to find out “all the details about their efforts to reverse the election, including who they were speaking to in the White House and in Congress “.

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