- The Secret Service erased texts from Jan. 6 and the inspector general is investigating.
- Anthony Ornato, a top White House and Secret Service official, retired abruptly since the hearings.
- Committee members are eager to explore how much Trump's Cabinet considered discussed removing him.
WASHINGTON – The House committee investigating the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, hasn’t announced the subject of Thursday’s hearing, but they have plenty of options to discuss since a series of blockbuster hearings in June and July.
Over the last few months, a series of revelations about the Secret Service included the erasure of texts from Jan. 6 and the abrupt retirement of a key official.
Committee members have also called for more scrutiny of subjects the panel touched on in the past. The subjects include Cabinet member discussions about potentially removing then-President Donald Trump from office, the Trump campaign’s recruitment of fake electors for the 2020 election and Trump’s fundraising after the election.
Here are subjects the committee could explore:
- The Secret Service erased the texts from 24 members of the agency during a routine replacement of phones. But the phone migration began Jan. 26, 2021 – after four House committees requested texts and other documents Jan. 16.
- The Secret Service provided the committee with 800,000 pages of communications, although not the texts from the day of the riot, according to the panel’s vice chairwoman, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.
- The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general began a criminal probe of the erasures in July.
- Two key House chairmen, including the head of the investigative panel, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., urged the inspector general, Joseph Cuffari, to step aside because he hadn’t notified the committee about the lapse for months.
- A top Secret Service official, Anthony Ornato, who was Trump’s deputy chief of staff for operations and also assistant director for training at the agency, retired abruptly in August. Another former White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, testified that Ornato told her on Jan. 6 that Trump wanted to join the mob at the Capitol and lunged at one of the Secret Service officers protecting him.
- Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was questioned in September by the committee. She repeated claims the 2020 election was stolen, despite a lack of evidence. Her lawyer, Mark Paoletta, said she voiced her concerns and condemned the violence of Jan. 6.
- Roger Stone, the Republican political consultant and longtime Trump confidant, is the subject of a documentary that committee staffers have reviewed. Stone was in contact with Trump campaign aides and with extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers in the days before Jan. 6, although he didn’t participate in the riot.
Were Trump's Cabinet members trying to remove him from office?
Committee members, including Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., have been eager to learn more about Trump’s Cabinet members discussing whether to remove him from office and replace him with Vice President Mike Pence.
The Constitution’s 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967, allowed for the vice president to work with a majority of the president’s Cabinet or a majority of a panel of lawmakers to remove an unfit president from office.
Pence, who oversaw Electoral College vote counting Jan. 6, 2021, as president of the Senate and was threatened by the mob, called any suggestion of triggering the 25th Amendment absurd.
But Fox News host Sean Hannity sent White House chief of staff Mark Meadows a text at 8:42 p.m. on Jan. 6, 2021, with a link to a tweet that reported "Cabinet secretaries were considering invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office,” according to texts the committee obtained.
"President Trump's supporters were worried," Cheney said.
What about those 'fake electors' for Trump?
The committee revealed through testimony and emails how Trump lawyers John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro developed the strategy for alternate slates of electors in at least seven states to replace legitimate electors for President Joe Biden with Trump supporters.
The strategy led to strange proposals. In Michigan, fake electors proposed to hide in the state Capitol in order to vote in the legislative chambers as required, a strategy the state Republican Party chair called “insane and inappropriate.”
Trump’s White House counsel and campaign lawyers disavowed the strategy. Federal and state officials are investigating for possible criminal charges.
"No legitimate state authority in the states Donald Trump lost would agree to appoint fake Trump electors and send them to Congress," said a committee member, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. "But this didn't stop the Trump campaign either."
Committee member calls Trump fundraising after election a 'big ripoff'
The committee is investigating the fundraising as part of Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud, which fueled the attack.
Between election day Nov. 3, 2020, and the Jan. 6 riot, the Trump campaign sent millions of messages – some recipients got as many as 25 per day – claiming a “left-wing mob” was undermining the election and imploring supporters to “fight back,” according to Amanda Wick, senior investigative counsel for the panel.
Trump raised more than $250 million for what he called a legal defense fund to challenge the results of the 2020 election. But instead the money was funneled to Trump's Save America Political Action Committee paying bills for his official portrait, his wife’s designer and salaries for former aides, according to the committee.
“The Big Lie was also a big rip off,” said a committee member, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.