What the Trump Documents Might Tell the Jan. 6 Committee

  • In Politics
  • 2022-01-25 12:50:14Z
  • By The New York Times
Rudy Giuliani, then-President Donald Trump
Rudy Giuliani, then-President Donald Trump's personal attorney, speaks to reporters in Washington on Nov.  

The National Archives has turned over to the House select committee investigating the assault on the Capitol last Jan. 6 a large batch of documents that former President Donald Trump had sought to keep out of the panel's hands, citing executive privilege.

The committee has yet to make the documents public or disclose how far along it is in scrutinizing them for any new information about the roles played by Trump and his inner circle in the effort to delay certification of Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election.

But in court filings, Trump, his legal team and the archives identified the documents that he was seeking to shield through claims of executive privilege, an argument that the Supreme Court rejected last week.

It remains unclear how valuable the documents - at least 770 pages - will be to the investigation. But here is a list of them as identified in the court filings, what is known about them and how they might fit into the larger narrative being assembled by the committee:

Proposed talking points for Trump's press secretary and documents related to allegations of voter fraud (629 pages)

Even before Election Day, Republicans and the Trump White House were pushing the notion - not backed by any evidence - that there could be widespread election fraud because of changes states enacted in response to the pandemic that made it easier for people to vote.

Trump refused to concede on election night, saying publicly: "This is a fraud on the American public." In the weeks that followed, the White House - through Kayleigh McEnany, the press secretary at the time - amplified Trump's messaging from the briefing room and on television and social media.

The materials could help the committee document the extent and intensity of the effort inside the White House to promote the baseless claims, along with more details about which members of the administration were most involved in the false claims.

Presidential activity calendars and a handwritten note concerning Jan. 6 (11 pages)

In a typical White House, a president's calendar can provide an intimate picture of who the president meets with and the topics he may be discussing. Although Trump had a far less regimented schedule, there were still some meetings and events on his calendar, and aides kept track of where he was and what he was planning to do. The committee has indicated that it is especially interested in any communications that Trump had around Jan. 6 with top aides like Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, or with Vice President Mike Pence. A detailed calendar or notes could also help shed light on Trump's activities as the riot unfolded on Capitol Hill.

A draft of Trump's speech for the "Save America" rally that preceded the mob attack (10 pages)

On Jan. 6, Trump and his allies spoke at a rally on the Ellipse before his supporters marched more than a mile to the Capitol. The draft speech - which Trump's longtime aide, Stephen Miller, helped write - would show whether Trump's incendiary language that encouraged the protesters was ad-libbed by him or whether it was included by his speechwriters, who may have been coordinating the president's messaging with others. In his book, Meadows claimed Trump had ad-libbed his remarks telling the crowd to march on the Capitol.

A note from Meadows about briefings and calls about the certification of the election and related issues (2 pages)

In the days leading up to Jan. 6, there was a flurry of meetings in the Oval Office. Among the most dramatic was one on Jan. 4, when Trump had a lawyer named John Eastman - who had written a memo essentially saying that the vice president had immense powers to decide who won the election - make the argument directly to Pence that he could delay the certification of the election on Jan. 6. (Pence later rejected the advice.)

On Jan. 2, three of Trump's advisers - Rudy Giuliani, Peter Navarro and Eastman - held a conference call with about 300 state lawmakers about election fraud. On Jan. 4, Phil Waldron, a former U.S. Army colonel who rose to prominence in Trump's inner circle after the election, said members of his team briefed some senators on foreign interference in the election. Waldron said he personally gave the same briefing the next day to members of the House.

Details of meetings like those, and the planning for them, could help the committee assess whether Trump's efforts justify a criminal referral to the Justice Department on a charge like obstructing an official proceeding in Congress.

A draft executive order on the topic of election integrity (4 pages)

A range of outside advisers were pushing for Trump to sign executive orders to help him block or slow certification of the election. Among the most audacious was one that said Trump could use the Defense Department to seize voting machines based on false claims that there had been foreign interference in the election. Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and a lawyer advising him, Sidney Powell, were urging Trump to take this action. A copy of a draft executive order about seizing election machines was posted on Politico's website Friday.

But that memo is three pages, and the National Archives described a memo that is four pages. There is another memo, mentioned in a recent disclosure to the committee by Trump ally Bernard Kerik, that could also fit this description. It was withheld by Kerik under the theory of executive privilege but was described in a log of documents that Kerik refused to turn over as, "DRAFT LETTER FROM POTUS TO SEIZE EVIDENCE IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS."

Handwritten notes from the files of Meadows (3 pages)

As chief of staff, Meadows served both as a top aide and as a conduit for outside advisers, including members of Congress, to contact Trump and visit him at the White House. Meadows has provided investigators with hundreds of pages of documents that he had on his personal phone but has refused to sit for questioning, leading the committee to ask the Justice Department to prosecute him. His notes could potentially shed light on what Trump was hearing and saying at key moments.

The White House Daily Diary - a record of the president's movements, phone calls, trips, briefings, meetings and activities (30 pages)

In a letter last week seeking an interview with Ivanka Trump, the committee described testimony it had received about the pressure applied on Pence not to certify the election from Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, Pence's former national security adviser. The committee has also heard from other top White House witnesses, including Stephanie Grisham, a former Trump spokesperson. Any additional documents from the White House itself could help corroborate those accounts.

Drafts of speeches, remarks and correspondence concerning the events of Jan. 6 (13 pages)

It is not clear precisely what this material covers.

A draft proclamation honoring the Capitol Police and two officers who died after the riot, Brian D. Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, as well as related emails (53 pages)

Sicknick died shortly after being attacked on Jan. 6 - though not directly from injuries he suffered that day - and Liebengood was one of four officers who died by suicide after the attack. Their deaths led to an outpouring of public support for the officers. But Trump has said little about the matter, and has focused his public remarks on praising the rioters and Ashli Babbitt, a woman who was fatally shot by a police officer after she breached the Capitol doors. The draft proclamation could show how the document was altered before it was released, and what those changes say about the debate inside the White House.

Records from the files of Patrick Philbin, a former deputy White House counsel

A senior Justice Department lawyer under President George W. Bush, Philbin became a top White House lawyer under Trump, helping him come up with legal rationales to defend his behavior. In the final weeks of the administration - in his role as a deputy in the White House Counsel's Office - he was supposed to vet decisions Trump was considering. Among the materials being sought from his files are:

A memo about a potential lawsuit against several states that Biden won in the November election (4 pages)

Trump's lawyers and Republicans across the country filed a flurry of lawsuits in the weeks after the election. Nearly all of them failed. But one of the most notable - and far-fetched - was filed in mid-December when Trump's supporters in the Texas attorney general's office asked the Supreme Court to disqualify the votes in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The gambit quickly failed.

An email chain from a state official regarding election-related issues (3 pages)

It is not clear which state official this might be or whether the email chain pertains to the Texas suit or an election in another state.

Talking points on alleged election irregularities in one Michigan county (3 pages)

Trump's allies sought to discredit the results in Antrim County in Michigan, where a human error by the Republican county clerk led to an initial tally favoring Biden in the heavily Republican county. The clerk, Sheryl Guy, had not properly updated the software in the county's tabulation system, resulting in a temporarily erroneous total. The error was quickly corrected, and the results were later affirmed by a hand recount in mid-December. Trump allies nonetheless seized on these initial discrepancies and won a court order to examine a voting machine in Antrim County produced by Dominion Voting Systems. An analysis of the machine and its software - by a cybersecurity firm allied with Powell, the lawyer backing Trump - led to the creation of an error-filled report that claimed an almost 70% error rate in the tally. This report was one of the first things cited in a draft executive order seeking to have the Pentagon help seize voting machines around the country.

A document containing presidential findings concerning the security of the 2020 presidential election and ordering various actions (3 pages)

Under a plan being pushed by Flynn and Powell, Trump would declare that there was foreign influence in the election, allowing him to use the powers of the Defense Department to seize voting machines and have the votes recounted. To make such a baseless claim, Trump may have sought to cite some sort of findings about the election's security.

Allies of Flynn, including Waldron and Powell, have said that a crucial part of the effort hinged on a report that the director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, was scheduled to submit to Congress on Dec. 18 about foreign influence in the election. Ratcliffe never turned in his report because of a disagreement in the intelligence community about China's role in the election, according to several news reports. The Flynn-Powell plan went nowhere. The committee also received two pages of notes indicating who received the so-called presidential findings.

© 2022 The New York Times Company


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