Ex-staffer's unauthorized book about Jan. 6 committee rankles members




  • In Politics
  • 2022-09-25 12:25:53Z
  • By Washington Post
 

News that a former adviser to the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection is publishing a book billed as a "behind-the-scenes" look at the committee's work came as a shock to most lawmakers and committee staff when it was announced last week.

Denver Riggleman, a former Republican congressman, is set to publish "The Breach" on Tuesday, just one day before the final public hearing of the Jan. 6 panel, which has gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent unauthorized leaks, as well as keep its sources and methods of investigation under wraps.

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Riggleman's book announcement came in the form of a tweet touting his upcoming appearance Sunday on "60 Minutes" as his first time speaking publicly about the book. Lawmakers and committee staff were largely unaware that the former staffer had spent the months since leaving the committee writing a book about his limited work on staff - or that it would be published before the conclusion of the committee's investigation, according to people familiar with the matter who, like others interviewed by The Washington Post, spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations.

Senior staff previously confronted Riggleman after rumors circulated that he was working on a book about his work for the committee, according to a person close to the panel. In one exchange, Riggleman told colleagues he was writing a book on a topic unrelated to his committee work. In a later conversation, before his departure from the committee staff, Riggleman said he had been approached about writing a book related to the committee but that it would not be published before the end of this year.

The ex-congressman gave notice in April after assisting the panel for eight months, saying he was leaving to work at an unspecified nonprofit related to Ukraine.

Riggleman and his book agent did not respond to requests for comment.

Riggleman also bragged about the committee's work publicly and gave interviews - an unusual move for a congressional staffer. Earlier this year, he told a crowd of "Never Trump" Republicans at the National Press Club that he would show through his committee work that the effort to overturn the election was "all about money," and mocked several of the people under investigation.

He stood outside with a range of Trump critics and told them he had just gotten new phone records and that they would be "explosive." He declined to say what they were, but his comments tantalized those around him.

"I wish I could tell you about it," he said of the data he was reviewing for the committee. "If I did, you'd be more shocked than you could imagine."

"It's all about the money," he said. "I'm going to rip apart their ecosystem."

The appearances rattled others who worked with the committee, and Riggleman eventually drew some anger from Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who had initially pushed for his hiring, according to people familiar with the matter.

Riggleman, who split his time between Washington and rural Virginia, where he owned a distillery, has described himself as being in charge of the committee's work analyzing call records, texts and online activities of those involved in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. But people familiar with his role note that the phone records were just one small piece of the sprawling and comprehensive investigation.

"The work of the committee is not built on the bedrock of Denver's efforts," said a person familiar with his role.

Committee staff members were infuriated by Riggleman's cable news tour earlier this summer during which he revealed private details about the staff's work, according to people involved with the investigation. In a committee-wide email, staff director David Buckley wrote that he was "deeply disappointed" in Riggleman's decision to publicly discuss their work and that his appearance was "in direct contravention to his employment agreement."

"His specific discussion about the content of subpoenaed records, our contracts, contractors and methodologies, and your hard work is unnerving," Buckley wrote at the time.

In one of his appearances on CNN, Riggleman detailed his team's work to link names and numbers after receiving a cache of text messages from former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Calling the messages "a road map," he contended the data obtained from the messages allowed the committee to "structure the investigation."

The cache of Meadows's texts was obtained by CNN earlier this spring.

Macmillan Publishers' description of his forthcoming book, which Riggleman co-authored with journalist Hunter Walker, teases "previously unpublished texts from key political leaders," along with "shocking details about the Trump White House's links to militant extremist groups."

In an excerpt released ahead of his interview on "60 Minutes," Riggleman revealed that the White House switchboard connected a phone call to a Capitol rioter on Jan. 6, 2021.

"You get a real 'a-ha' moment when you see that the White House switchboard had connected to a rioter's phone while it's happening," Riggleman told "60 Minutes." "That's a big, pretty big 'a-ha' moment."

Riggleman also addressed claims he made in the book that he pleaded with the committee to push harder to obtain specific White House phone numbers.

"I was one of those individuals, sadly, at the beginning, you know, where I was very, very aggressive about these linked connections, getting those White House phone numbers," said Riggleman.

A statement from the committee underscored Riggleman's "limited knowledge" of the investigation and threw cold water on Riggleman's suggestion that the committee was not pursuing evidence aggressively enough.

"He departed from the staff in April prior to our hearings and much of our most important investigative work," wrote committee spokesman Tim Mulvey. "Since his departure, the Committee has run down all the leads and digested and analyzed all the information that arose from his work. We will be presenting additional evidence to the public in our next hearing this coming Wednesday, and a thorough report will be published by the end of the year."

The committee has yet to reveal the topic of its final hearing but is expected to reveal new information after resuming investigative efforts during August recess. The upcoming proceeding follows eight hearings held over June and July that laid out a gripping and detailed account of efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Lawmakers on the panel had previously said they hoped to unearth more information around the Secret Service and Defense Department's response to the Jan. 6 attack after the committee learned that the two agencies wiped communications from phones of former and current officials.

Investigators also interviewed some of Trump's Cabinet secretaries - including Mike Pompeo, Steven Mnuchin, Robert O'Brien and Elaine Chao - regarding internal conversations following the insurrection about invoking the 25th Amendment, which provides for the removal of a president on grounds of incapacitation, mental health or physical fitness.

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