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GOP report seeks to discredit Jan. 6 committee, exonerate Trump

GOP report seeks to discredit Jan. 6 committee, exonerate Trump

House Republicans on Monday issued a new report on the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, seeking to discredit Congress’s initial investigation into the 2021 rampage and exonerate former President Trump of any wrongdoing as he races to return to the White House next year.

Behind Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), chair of the House Administration Committee’s Oversight subpanel, the Republicans have accused the Jan. 6 select committee — which operated during the last Congress, under Democratic control — of conducting a partisan witch hunt designed solely to harm Trump politically.

The 80-page report of initial findings, released by Loudermilk, amplifies that narrative. It blames the Jan. 6 attack on leaders of the U.S. Capitol Police, for a failure to provide proper security; questions the reliability of the select committee’s star witness, Cassidy Hutchinson; and accuses former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of fashioning a one-sided investigation in which the facts were manipulated and Trump’s guilt was predetermined before the first witness was called.

GOP leaders welcomed the new report as a kind of counternarrative to the select committee’s conclusions, which blamed Trump for orchestrating the riot.

“This House Administration Oversight Subcommittee investigation is necessary to correct the incomplete narrative advanced by the partisan Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, and today’s initial report is an important step in that process,” Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said in a statement.

Left unmentioned in the investigative findings are the details of Trump’s role surrounding the Jan. 6 attack, including his refusal to concede defeat following the 2020 election; his decision to stage a rally in Washington on the day Congress was to formalize the election results; his words encouraging thousands of supporters — some of them armed — to march on the Capitol to protest the election results; and his hours-long silence from the White House while a mob of his supporters attacked police officers and stormed into the Capitol building.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chaired the Jan. 6 select committee, wasted no time blasting the report as “dishonest.”

“Loudermilk is merely trying to deflect from Donald Trump’s responsibility for the violence of January 6th and his own refusal to answer the Select Committee’s questions,” Thompson said in a statement.

The report is the prequel to a series of hearings Loudermilk’s committee is planning to hold on the events of Jan. 6, 2021, with the first presentation set for Tuesday focusing on the investigation into the pipe bombs found near the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee the day before the riot. No arrests have been made in connection to the pipe bombs, and Republicans contend the select committee didn’t investigate the episode seriously enough.

“Despite the threat the pipe bombs posed and the possible role they played in diverting resources away from the Capitol, the Select Committee invested almost no resources into investigating the pipe bombs,” the report reads.

Among the top targets in the GOP report was Hutchinson, the former special assistant to ex-Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows who testified before the Jan. 6 panel on a handful of occasions — including during a public hearing where she delivered a number of bombshell allegations about the ex-president and other members of Congress.

Republicans zeroed in on — and sought to disprove — one of Hutchinson’s most shocking claims: that Trump lunged at his security detail and at the steering wheel of a presidential vehicle when he was told he could not meet his supporters, who were marching to the Capitol after his speech on the Ellipse.

Hutchinson testified that Tony Ornato, the then-deputy chief of staff, told her that Trump was “irate” when Robert Engel, the special agent in charge of Secret Service on Jan. 6, told Trump he could not travel to the Capitol following his speech. She then testified that, according to Ornato, Trump “reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel.”

“Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, ‘Sir you need to take your hand off the steering wheel, we’re going back to the West Wing, we’re not going to the Capitol,’” Hutchinson testified.

The GOP report, however, seeks to disprove Hutchinson’s key claim, highlighting testimony from a host of relevant witnesses refuting her description — including Ornato and the driver of the vehicle.

“The driver of the SUV testified that he ‘did not see him reach [redacted]. [President Trump] never grabbed the steering wheel. I didn’t see him, you know, lunge to try to get into the front seat at all,’” according to the report.

Ornato told congressional investigators that, the day after Hutchinson’s testimony, he told the Secret Service counsel and spokesperson “that that is not a story I recollect and I don’t recall that story happening and the first time hearing it is when she had said it,” according to the report.

The GOP report also takes aim at Hutchinson’s credibility, putting a spotlight on various times she revised her testimony to argue that she was not a reliable witness.

Reports and testimony from Hutchinson, however, have documented that the star witness became more forthcoming with the committee after she switched lawyers, moving from Stefan Passantino — a Trump-aligned lawyer who, Hutchinson said, urged her to downplay her role at the White House — to Jody Hunt, a former Justice Department official.

During a September interview with the Jan. 6 committee, Hutchinson herself apologized for taking so long to be completely honest with the panel.

“I followed his bad legal advice; I took his bad legal advice. I own that. But my character and integrity mean more to me than anything,” she told the committee, according to the transcript.

“It was clear for a long time he was not representing my interests in how he knew I wanted to facilitate my relationship with the committee. But I was not going to let this moment completely destroy my reputation, my character, and my integrity for a cause I was completely opposed to,” she added.

GOP investigators also accused the select committee of burying witness transcripts to hide inconvenient testimony. Thompson countered by pointing to a Dec. 2022 letter from the committee outlining its arrangement with the Secret Service, allowing agents to testify without the verbatim transcripts becoming public.

Another large part of the GOP report takes aim at the process that led to the creation of the Jan. 6 select committee in the last Congress.

Pelosi had stirred a firestorm of Republican criticism when she rejected two of the five GOP lawmakers initially nominated to the panel by then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). In response, McCarthy not only declined to replace the pair, but he also refused to participate in the process altogether, yanking his three other picks and creating an investigative panel made up entirely of Pelosi appointees.

Although two of Pelosi’s picks were Republicans — Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) — they were both vocal Trump critics. And those dynamics, Republicans charge, made the process unfair from the start.

“The Select Committee effectively operated as a federal prosecutor targeting President Trump. However, this was a prosecution without due process,” the report reads. “There was no cross-examination of the witnesses, and the Select Committee was determined to obtain one narrative while failing to effectively question witnesses and uncover the truth based on facts.”

Pelosi’s reasons for rejecting the two Republicans were specific.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) was present during a White House meeting in December 2020, when Trump and other top Republicans discussed their Jan. 6 strategy, making him a material witness to the event under investigation, according to Democrats.

“Jordan was personally involved in the acts and circumstances of January 6th, and would be one of the targets of the investigation,” the committee wrote in its final report.

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), meanwhile, had vowed to use his seat on the committee to investigate the Biden administration’s response to the Jan. 6 attack — even though Biden would not be sworn in as president for another two weeks.

“Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda,” Banks said at the time — a quote included in the committee’s final report.

The panel wrote that Banks “had made public statements indicating that he had already reached his own conclusions and had no intention of cooperating in any objective investigation of January 6th.”

Loudermilk was tapped to lead the review of the panel’s work after coming into its crosshairs himself.

The panel released footage of Loudermilk giving a constituent a tour of the Capitol the day ahead of the riot, passing through some of the underground tunnels along the way. Among the party of the tour group was a man who later posted footage of himself present at the Capitol on Jan 6, warning numerous Democratic leaders, “We’re coming to take you out, and pull you out by your hairs.”

While Loudermilk’s Monday report accuses the panel of making “unfounded accusations against members of congress,” the section reviews only his own episode, accusing the prior panel of “malicious motive” in interviewing the man.

Rebecca Beitsch contributed.

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