GOP lawmakers downplay Trump emails pressuring DOJ to look into bogus Italian satellite conspiracy theory

·5 min read
 (AP)
(AP)

During a committee hearing on the law enforcement failures during the Capitol riot, US Rep Jim Jordan criticised Democrats for releasing a trove of damning emails showing Donald Trump’s administration urging officials at the US Department of Justice to substantiate the ex-president’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

He downplayed the contents of the emails, including messages from Mr Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows to top prosecutors about a YouTube video spinning a conspiracy theory that Italian intelligence conspired with the CIA to compromise election data.

“I bet we’ve had some of our chiefs of staff send YouTube links,” said Mr Jordan, mocking Democrats who said the emails signalled “pressure” from the Trump administration.

“When the chief of staff to the president of the United States asks someone in the executive branch to do something, and they basically give him the finger, I think that’s the problem we should be looking into,” he said.

GOP lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee – holding a second round of hearings on federal law enforcement’s response and intelligence failures surrounding the insurrection on 6 January – once again focused their rage on Democrats holding the hearings and appeared to distance themselves from the false “stolen election” narrative that fuelled the attack in the first place.

Last month, several Republicans on the committee were widely criticised for characterising rioters as “tourists” at the Capitol and rejecting calling the event an insurrection, after hundreds of people breached the halls of Congress in an attempt to overturn millions of Americans’ votes, resulting in the deaths of at least seven people.

Republican US Rep Paul Gosar claimed at that hearing that “outright propaganda and lies are being used to unleash the national security state against law abiding US citizens, especially Trump voters.”

Before Tuesday’s hearing, the committee released emails showing Mr Trump’s staff pressuring Justice Department officials to pursue his baseless allegations of voter fraud and election-related conspiracy theories in the weeks after the election and his definitive loss.

House Democrats requested the emails following the first round of oversight committee hearings on the police response to the assault, as lawmakers piece together a timeline of events and try to get closer to answering why and how military officials and federal law enforcement failed to stop hundreds of people from breaking into the Capitol.

Their ongoing attempts to extract information from top administration officials and law enforcement follows GOP obstruction of investigations into the attack, including Senate Republicans’ filibuster of a bipartisan commission, which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed as unnecessary.

GOP lawmakers have similarly dismissed the parallel committee hearings about the riot, effectively shutting out any bipartisan congressional attempt to get to the bottom of what happened on 6 January.

Republican US Rep James Comer called Tuesday’s hearing politically motivated, “unproductive and partisan” and said it had uncovered “no new information.”

The previous hearing “uncovered absolutely zero new information,” he said. “Today, Democrats want to try again.”

Republican US Rep Jody Hice ran out of time during his remarks before he could ask about Hunter Biden’s laptop, he said. Others demanded hearings on Black Lives Matter protests.

Mr Gosar – who supported the “Stop the Steal” campaign that compelled the riot – claimed that the US Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt was “lying in wait” for her before she was “executed” as she joined the pro-Trump mob that sought to break into the House chamber on 6 January.

Republican US Rep Andy Biggs, another critical congressional proponent of the “Stop the Steal” campaign, said that the hearing was “designed to attack Trump and his supporters” and that claims that “Trump supporters committed violent acts” have been “totally debunked” despite widely shared footage showing crowds attacking law enforcement during the riots.

Democratic US Rep Gerry Connolly condemned Republican lawmakers’ “gaslighting” attempts to manipulate the narrative surrounding the riots.

He said their “repugnant” remarks are “a dishonour to the memories of those who did die and a dishonour and disrespect to those who were willing to put themselves at risk.”

Lawmakers questioned FBI Director Christopher Wray as well as US Army General Charles Flynn and Lieutenant General Walter Piatt, director of the Army staff, two men who were involved with a mid-riot phone call in which law enforcement reportedly urged them to deploy the National Guard amid alleged concerns of negative “optics” about military presence defending the Capitol.

In submitted testimony, General Flynn – brother of Mr Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, among the most prominent supporters of the “big lie” of the 2020 election – said he did not hear or use the word “optics” on the call.

Documents obtained by the committee show that beginning at 1.30pm on 6 January, Defence Department officials received at least 12 urgent calls for help from Capitol police, Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and others.

National Guard troops did not arrive until 5.20pm, more than four hours after the Capitol perimeter was breached.

Committee chair Carolyn Maloney said right-wing social media platform Parler sent warnings to the FBI about violent threats on the platform more than 50 times.

Mr Wray said he was “not aware” of specific messages.

“The system was blinking red,” Ms Maloney said.

Acting Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman did not appear at Tuesday’s hearing; Ms Maloney said she will appear at a congressional hearing on 21 July.

“Five months after the attack, we still do not have the full story of these failures,” she said, adding that the FBI and Justice Department have “not fully cooperated with this committee’s investigation.”

“This delay is unacceptable and makes us more vulnerable to another attack,” she said.

She also condemned GOP colleagues who have “denied basic truths about that day.”

“Let’s be clear: the attack was an insurrection,” she said. “It was not a peaceful protest.”

US Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Tuesday that federal law enforcement has arrested more than 480 people related to riot investigations, adding that prosecutors face an “enormous task ahead” to bring them to justice.

Read More

Emails show Trump pressured DOJ to overturn election results and investigate bogus conspiracy theories

Trump’s acting attorney general refuses to say if he discussed overturning election results

Ex-Pentagon chief flip-flops on blaming Trump for ‘encouraging’ Capitol riot

GOP lawmakers liken rioters to tourists and call Ashli Babbitt killing an ‘execution’ in hearing on 6 January insurrection

Trump’s chief of staff tried to get Justice Department to take up false election fraud claims, emails show

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting