Trump fixation on Wisconsin, Ginni Thomas text regrets and more from the Jan. 6 panel
Ginni Thomas, wife of Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, sits with her husband in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 21, 2021. (Drew Angerer | Getty Images)
In the final weeks of 2022, the Democrat-led U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol disclosed thousands of pages of transcripts of interviews the panel’s members and staff conducted with key witnesses.
The transcripts were central to a committee report released in December that held Donald Trump responsible for the insurrection and referred the former president to the U.S. Justice Department for criminal prosecution.
The voluminous deposition transcripts also revealed other details about what the committee described as a multipart scheme to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Here are four things you may have missed from deep in the transcripts:
Trump continued to press state officials long after Jan. 6.
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, told the committee about Trump’s pressure campaign to find fraud in the 2020 election long after President Joe Biden took office.
Vos, who has held that office since 2013, didn’t speak with Trump between the 2020 election and August 2021, he testified in a Nov. 30, 2022, interview. But the two spoke by phone about 10 times from August 2021 to July 2022, he said.
In those calls, Trump was not nearly as explicit or persistent with Vos as he was with state officials in other parts of the country in the two months between the election and the Capitol attack. But Trump remained fixated on an investigation into potential fraud.
“He did not give any specific recommendations,” Vos said in a deposition. “I believe that he would have liked us to use the things that we discovered to show that there were problems with the 2020 election. But he never specifically said to me, ‘You need to overturn the election.’”
Trump spent a lot of time in those calls complaining of what he perceived to be problems in the 2020 election. He left Vos with the impression that a finding of widescale fraud in 2021 or 2022 could undo the election.
Vos was sympathetic to Trump’s complaints about voter fraud and told the former president he would seek legislative remedies to prevent issues in the future. But the Wisconsin speaker told Trump “more than once” that nothing could be done about the 2020 results.
Trump felt the election was unfair, and the result could not be justified, Vos said.
“He wanted us to go backwards to try and look and see what we could do about 2020,” Vos said. “I have consistently said we need to look forward, that it’s unconstitutional and impossible for us to go back to what occurred in 2020.”
Vos said he was not involved in efforts to advance false slates of electors, who would cast the state’s Electoral College votes for Trump, including in Wisconsin.
Ginni Thomas regretted her texts, but maintained election doubts
Virginia L. “Ginni” Thomas, a conservative activist with Nebraska roots who is married to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, said in a Sept. 29, 2022, interview with the panel that she regretted the tone and content of her texts urging Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff and a former Republican U.S. House member from North Carolina, to work to overturn the election.
“I would take them all back if I could today,” she told committee member Adam Schiff, a California Democrat. “I’m not comfortable with any of them being – I wish I could have rewritten them. I wish I didn’t send them. … It was just an emotional time.”
Thomas also said she still reserved doubts about the integrity of the election.
Thomas said that prior to the committee’s revelations, she had been unaware that campaign and administration officials, including Attorney General Bill Barr and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, had rejected claims of fraud. Asked by committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, if Barr or Cipollone’s comments or the Trump campaign’s losses in 61 of 62 court cases would have changed her mind, she said no.
“Honestly, I don’t think it would have,” Thomas said. “There’s a lot of people uncomfortable with the 2020 election despite what this committee is pushing. Okay? I just think there’s still concern … I still believed that there was fraud and irregularity, as millions of Americans do, Representative Cheney.”
Thomas also expressed some annoyance at her texts with Meadows becoming public. Clarence Thomas was unaware of his spouse’s communications with Meadows or the details of her “post-election activities,” she said.
“He was completely unaware of the texts that I had with Mark Meadows until this committee leaked them to the press while my husband was in a hospital bed in March fighting an infection,” she said.
“I don’t know how many of you would want your texts to become public on the front page of the Washington Post,” she said. “Certainly I didn’t want my emotional texts to a friend released and made available.”
Cassidy Hutchinson was among the most helpful witnesses
Before this summer, Hutchinson was a little-known aide to Meadows. But she delivered one of the committee’s most captivating moments, appearing as a surprise witness in a hastily organized hearing.
Hutchinson’s hearing testimony – when she described scenes of an infuriated Trump attempting to have metal detectors removed, grabbing a steering wheel from Secret Service agents, and whipping his lunch against a White House wall that was left dripping with ketchup – was among the most explosive of any the panel heard in its series of seven hearings in June and July.
But the transcripts released in December show Hutchinson was also among the committee’s most valuable witnesses outside the hearing room.
She met with the panel six times – more than any other witness – and provided details about Trump’s legal strategy after the attack that other witnesses did not.
The committee interviewed Hutchinson three times while she was represented by her initial Trump-aligned attorney, Stefan Passantino, and three times after she’d replaced him.
In her later interviews, she told the panel Passantino had instructed her to downplay her knowledge and omit details.
“The less the committee thinks you know, the better, the quicker it’s going to go,” she said Passantino told her. “Your go-to, Cass, is ‘I don’t recall.’”
Meadows was a two-time no-show
Hutchinson’s White House boss, Meadows, never appeared before the committee, though he was scheduled for two interviews.
At the time of the first scheduled interview on Nov. 12, 2021, Meadows had not complied with the subpoena for records, claiming as a member of the executive branch he could not be compelled to testify.
The committee still provided a transcript for the second scheduled meeting, on Dec. 8, which consisted only of a committee staffer explaining the situation. The staffer said Meadows had agreed to the deposition as part of his cooperation with the subpoena, for which he also provided 6,600 pages of documents and 2,000 text messages.
The staffer said Meadows had dropped his earlier assertion of executive privilege to avoid answering all questions and the panel expected him only to raise privilege in response to certain questions, which the staffer said would have been valuable.
“We are disappointed in Mr. Meadows’ failure to appear as planned, as it deprives the select committee of an opportunity to develop relevant information in Mr. Meadows’ possession and to, more specifically, understand the contours of his executive privilege claim,” the staffer said.
The House voted in December 2021 to hold Meadows in contempt for failing to cooperate with the committee.
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