Woodward and Costa report Trump called Willard hotel 'war room' on eve of Capitol riot
F ormer President Donald Trump reportedly called into a “war room” at the Willard hotel in Washington, D.C., on the eve of the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.
Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, who appeared for an interview Monday with Watergate sleuth Bob Woodward, his colleague and co-author of their new book Peril , said this call to advisers Steve Bannon , Rudy Giuliani, and John Eastman on Jan. 5 raises questions about the extent of White House involvement in conversations about efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and beyond.
These Trump allies, who set up a so-called "command center" at the Willard, according to the Washington Post, were focused on finding a legal strategy to block or delay the certification of Joe Biden's 2020 victory, pinning their hopes on Vice President Mike Pence.
Costa, who said he was outside the hotel that night and saw Proud Boys and Oath Keepers gathered there, said the call from Trump to the "command center" happened shortly after Trump and Pence had a one-on-one meeting the night of Jan. 5 when Pence informed the president that he didn't have the power to reject electoral votes. The vice president also informed Congress of this conclusion.
“That night was eerie because we didn't know at the time that Trump's over at the White House, pounding into Pence in the one-on-one Oval Office meeting, and then after it doesn't go well for Trump, he calls into the Willard war room" Costa said. "That it's not just a Willard war room happening in an isolated way across the street. The president is calling in, Trump's calling in.”
“He's coordinating this effort to speak for Pence,” Costa continued. “Remember, late at night as you detailed earlier, Trump's issuing a statement saying, Pence agrees with me. He's effectively taking over the vice presidency, at least in terms of the public message. And this is all just hours before the insurrection."
Woodward said they spoke to a Republican former head of the Criminal Division in the Justice Department who said Trump may have violated 18 U.S. Code, section 371 , which states that two or more people who work together “to commit any offense against the United States” are guilty of conspiracy .
“I'm sorry this sounds technical, but it is a law that says it's a crime to defraud the government in any deceptive way, and that's exactly what they did here," Woodward said.
Trump told Fox News in June that he and Pence maintain a "good relationship," even after the 45th president criticized his former No. 2 for lacking the "courage" to stop lawmakers from certifying the Electoral College vote in favor of now-President Joe Biden, a process disrupted by rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Trump was impeached by the House on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 siege of Congress but was acquitted by a GOP-led Senate despite seven Republicans voting to convict him.
A House select committee is now investigating the planning around the events of Jan. 6.
Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican member of the Jan. 6 panel, said arguments made by Trump and Bannon that relevant information sought by the committee is protected by executive privilege "appear to reveal" that Trump was "personally involved in the planning and execution" of the events on Jan. 6.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who is the chairman of the House Jan. 6 Select Committee, said during a Sunday interview on CBS "there's no question" when asked about how premeditated was the Capitol attack and he mentioned a subpoena against Bannon. Last week the House voted to refer him to the DOJ for contempt of Congress for not cooperating.
"Clearly, the direction of the committee is to look at that premeditation, to make sure that we identify it, but the worst kept secret in America is that Donald Trump invited individuals to come to Washington on Jan. 6. He said, 'All hell' would break loose. Steve Bannon was part of the conversation and the promotion of Jan. 6. The very podcast you — we just listened to talks about it. Steve Bannon was in the war room and he was in the Willard hotel doing a lot of things. So that's why we subpoenaed him," Thompson said .
If the DOJ prosecutes Bannon and he is convicted, he could face fines up to $100,000 and up to a year in prison. Woodward predicted last week the DOJ will go further and appoint a special counsel to investigate the "massive Watergate-style attempt to destroy the process of electing a president."
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