WASHINGTON — Before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Trump White House officials and members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus plotted a plan to channel thousands of angry protesters to the building, according to newly released testimony from the House Committee Inquiry into the Riots and the Efforts by former President Donald J. Trump to overthrow the election.
On a planning call involving White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney; Representative Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican; and other Freedom Caucus members, the group discussed the idea of encouraging supporters to march to the Capitol, according to a witness.
The idea had the support of Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry, who now heads the Freedom Caucus, according to Cassidy Hutchinson, an adviser to Mr. Meadows, and no one opposed the idea on the conference call.
“I don’t think there is one participant on the conference call who would have necessarily put off the idea,” Ms Hutchinson told the committee’s investigators.
The nearly two-mile march from the president’s “stop the steal” rally in the Ellipse to the Capitol, where sections of the crowd turned into a violent mob, has become a focus for both the House Committee and the Justice Department when they are investigating who it was responsible for the violence.
Mr. Meadows and members of the Freedom Caucus, who were deeply involved in Mr. Trump’s push to overthrow the 2020 election, have condemned the Jan. 6 Capitol violence and defended their role in spreading the lie of a stolen election.
Ms Hutchinson’s testimony and other materials disclosed by the committee in a 248-page court filing on Friday added to what was publicly known about discussions within Mr Trump’s inner circle and among his allies in the weeks leading up to the 6/1 attack .
The filing is part of the committee’s efforts to get a dismissal of a lawsuit brought against him by Mr. Meadows. Testimony was given that Mr Meadows was told that plans to overturn the 2020 election with so-called by-election voters were not “legally sound” and that the events of January 6 could turn violent. Still, he pushed ahead with the rally that led to the march on the Capitol, according to the file.
The filing also revealed new details about Mr. Meadows’ involvement in attempts to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger over Mr. Trump’s loss there.
At rallies in Washington in November and December 2020, Trump supporters did not march to the Capitol and largely eschewed violence. But on Jan. 6, Mr. Trump encouraged a crowd of thousands to march to the building and told them, “You will never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength.” He did so after the White House operations chief told Mr. Meadows about “intelligence reports indicating there could be potential violence on the 6th,” according to the filing.
Two organizers of the rally, Dustin Stockton and his fiancée, Jennifer L. Lawrence, have also provided evidence to the committee that they were concerned that a march to the Capitol on Jan. 6 would pose “possible danger” and that Mr. Stockton’s “Urgent concerns” were escalated to Mr Meadows, according to the committee.
In his book The Chief’s Chief, Mr. Meadows said Mr. Trump “spread a line at will that no one had seen before” when he urged the crowd to march, adding that the President was “so well as everyone else knew that we would not organize such a trip on such short notice.”
Ms Hutchinson’s statement contradicts these statements.
She said Mr. Meadows “in a casual conversation” said, “Oh, we’re going to have this big rally. It’s been talked about on social media. They will go up to the Capitol.”
And while discussing the planning call involving Mr. Meadows and members of the Freedom Caucus, a committee investigator asked her if Mr. Perry “supported the idea of sending people to the Capitol on January 6th.”
“He did,” Ms. Hutchinson replied.
A spokesman for Mr Perry, who has declined to speak to the committee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Justice Department and the committee have both investigated how the crowd moved from the Ellipse to the Capitol.
The committee’s investigators, for example, have received drafts of Mr. Trump’s speech. This month they pressed their author, Stephen Miller, a former top White House aide, whether Mr. Trump’s repeated use of the word “we” was an attempt to direct his supporters to join him to enter the Capitol to stop Congress from confirming his defeat.
Rally planners like prominent Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander were also involved in getting people to move from the Ellipse to the Capitol. Mr. Alexander, at the request of Mr. Trump’s aides, left the speech before it was over and marched at the head of a crowd moving toward the building.
Mr Alexander was joined on the day by Alex Jones, founder of conspiracy-driven media outlet Infowars, who encouraged the crowd by shouting about 1776.
On Wednesday, Mr Jones revealed he had recently asked the Justice Department for an agreement whereby he would grant the government a formal interview about his role in the January 6 events in exchange for not being prosecuted.
The Aftermath of Capitol Riot: Key Developments
sign of progress. The federal investigation into the Jan. 6 attack appears to be gaining momentum. The Justice Department has brought in a respected new prosecutor to help conduct the investigation, while a high-profile witness – far-right broadcaster Alex Jones – is seeking an immunity deal to provide information.
Two weeks earlier, Mr. Alexander announced he had received a subpoena from a federal grand jury seeking information about a wide range of people — rallies planners, members of Congress and White House officials — involved in the political events played a role preceded the attack on the Capitol.
Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony suggested that members of the Freedom Caucus were also involved in plans to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to reject electoral votes from states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. and accept false certificates, alleging that those states voted for Mr Trump.
She said members of Congress who took part in the discussions included Mr. Jordan; Mr Perry; Arizona Representatives Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar and Debbie Lesko; Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama; Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida; Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jody Hice of Georgia; Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas; and Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado. (Ultimately, 147 Republicans in Congress voted to object to Mr. Biden’s victory in at least one state.)
“They felt that he had authority — excuse me if my wording is incorrect here, but — to send votes back to the states or voters to the states,” Ms Hutchinson testified, adding that she appeared to have done so would have adopted a plan by conservative lawyer John Eastman, which members of both parties liken to a blueprint for a coup d’etat.
Ms Hutchinson suggested that White House attorneys had determined the plan was not “legally sound” but that Mr Meadows let it go ahead anyway.
The committee’s file also included an email showing that a pro-Trump attorney named Cleta Mitchell also played a role in promoting the alternative election platform.
The email Ms. Mitchell sent to Mr. Meadows on Dec. 6, 2020, included a list of “key points” of the plan, noting, for example, that the “US Constitution gives state legislatures the power to appoint the President voters”.
Ms. Mitchell had sent a version of the email to Senator Mike Braun, Indiana Republican, a day earlier before the senator appeared on television. Forwarding the email to Mr. Meadows, Ms. Mitchell wrote, “I prepared this last night and sent it to Sen Braun to help him prepare for the ABC appearance this morning. Can the WH press office get and start using it?
The filing also shows that Mr. Meadows was in contact with Phil Waldron, a retired Army colonel trained in psychological operations who was part of a group of conspirators who pushed extreme schemes to convince Mr. Trump use its national security apparatus to take control of the country’s voting machines in order to remain in power.
Working with others such as pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and Michael T. Flynn, Mr Trump’s former national security adviser, Mr Waldron promoted a conspiracy theory that foreign actors hacked into Dominion Voting Systems’ voting machines to reverse votes from Mr .Trump to Mr. Biden.
In a newly released email sent to Mr. Meadows on December 22, 2020, Mr. Waldron attached an 18-page document that he described as a “National Asset Tasking Request.”
The document was essentially a proposal to seek Presidential approval for agencies such as the FBI and National Security Agency to search their databases for individuals and Internet addresses associated with Dominion that Mr. Waldron believed to be they might have information about the alleged hacking scheme.
Mr. Waldron wrote that he had discussed the plan with Mr. Meadows in his office the previous day.