The January 6 Committee has released the transcripts of 34 witnesses who used their Fifth Amendment rights either during their entire testimony or in part.
The transcripts include testimony from white nationalist Nick Fuentes, as well as multiple Republican officials, such as the chair of the Nevada GOP Michael McDonald and Michigan Republican National Committee member Kathy Berden.
Other witnesses whose transcripts also were released include pro-Trump lawyers Jenna Ellis and John Eastman, Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, longtime GOP strategist Roger Stone, former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and Alex Jones of InfoWars.
Another witness whose transcript was released was Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers leader who was recently convicted of seditious conspiracy and evidence tampering in relation to the siege of the Capitol.
While the witnesses in general chose not to go along with the committee’s questioning, the published transcripts reveal the sheer amount of evidence the panel has collected and some new aspects of how the investigators went about their work.
Panel lawyers cited emails and texts that they had gotten ahold of through subpoena action, reading them aloud in an attempt to get the unwilling witnesses to share information, The New York Times noted.
Mike Roman was the Election Day operations director for the Trump campaign. When he was questioned by the panel, a committee attorney showed communications that, according to the panel, proved that Mr Roman sent Deputy Director Gary Michael Brown a message to hand over documents at the Capitol connected to a plan to push false slates of electors supporting Mr Trump.
Mr Brown then sent a selfie with the US Capitol in the background. “Mission accomplished,” he said.
Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward launched a lawsuit in an attempt to reject the panel’s subpoena. During her questioning, she was shown a text that she had sent to a Maricopa County board of supervisors member simply saying: “We need you to stop the counting.”
Investigators were able to show how arguments erupted within groups of organisers concerning how the January 6 Save America rally was going to be paid for.
Julie Fancelli, the heiress of the Publix grocery store fortune and conservative donor, had texts read to her concerning a debate regarding former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle’s $60,000 speaking fee request, Politico noted.
“You’re done for life with me because I won’t pay you a $60,000 speaking fee for an event you aren’t speaking at?” Trump fundraiser Caroline Wren wrote, urging Ms Guilfoyle to make a call of thanks to Ms Fancelli. “This poor woman has donated $1 million to Don’s Senate PAC and $3 million to this rally and [you] can’t take five minutes out of your day to thank her. It’s so humiliating. And then you have the audacity to ask me why I won’t have her pay you $60,000?”
Alexander Bruesewitz, a right-wing activist, had a message shown to him sent by Arizona Republican Representative Paul Gozar telling a “Stop the Steal” group chat on the evening of January 6, 2021 that they were in his congressional office on lockdown.
The transcripts also reveal the extent to which Trump-allied witnesses tried to obstruct the panel’s investigation and at times showed how they had attempted to keep Mr Trump in office despite his election loss.
Mr Eastman, who pushed the bogus legal theory that Vice President Mike Pence could singlehandedly overturn the 2020 election, utilised the Fifth Amendment 155 times during questioning.
Mr Stone did the same on more than 70 occasions, some of which included questions concerning his own communications with Mr Trump about his actions in connection to January 6.
Charlie Kirk, a right-wing activist, even cited the Fifth to avoid sharing his age (29) and education. According to The Dartmouth Review, Mr Kirk “was taking classes at Harper College, a local community college,” at the age of 18, “but subsequently dropped out to pursue a life in conservative activism as a quasi-politician”.
He was however willing to say where he lives – Phoenix, Arizona.
The transcripts show panel investigators being stymied on numerous occasions as they tried to probe the attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
“Trump lawyers and supporters Jenna Ellis, John Eastman, Phil Waldron and Michael Flynn all invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when asked by the select committee what supposed proof they uncovered that the election was stolen,” the panel said in its summary of the full report. “Not a single witness — nor any combination of witnesses — provided the select committee with evidence demonstrating that fraud occurred on a scale even remotely close to changing the outcome in any state.”
The transcripts also show that some witnesses and their lawyers chose an aggressive strategy against the committee. An attorney for Mr Fuentes pushed back against the investigators multiple times, claiming that they were grandstanding.
“I will note the irony of an accusation of grandstanding in a deposition of Mr Fuentes,” a committee lawyer responded.
When Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin asked Mr Stone if he thought that “coups are allowed in our constitutional system,” Mr Stone responded, “I most definitely decline to respond to your question”.