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Former January 6 committee staffer says texts show evidence of ‘attempted coup’ – as it happened

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2022-09-26
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Witnesses are sworn in during a public hearing by the January 6 committee in July. Photograph: Reuters

9.04pm BST

Closing summary

A former staffer for the January 6 committee went public with a claim that someone at the White House called a Capitol rioter on the day of the attack, while warning that evidence obtained from Donald Trump ’s chief of staff looked like an “attempted coup”. The committee’s lawmakers downplayed Denver Riggleman ’s interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes program, and have been busy themselves, sending a subpoena to the Republican speaker of Wisconsin’s assembly.

Here’s what else happened today:

8.50pm BST

Democratic senators hit back at claims student debt relief too expensive

The Senate’s Democratic leader Chuck Schumer along with Wall Street foe Elizabeth Warren have issued a joint statement underlining their support of president Joe Biden ’s student debt relief plan, and drawing a contrast with Republican policies that slash taxes for the rich.

The statement came after the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found the plan announced last month would cost a sizable $400 billion or more. The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget seized on that estimate to say the plan was too expensive, and could push inflation higher.

“Today’s CBO estimate makes clear that millions of middle class Americans have more breathing room thanks to President Biden’s historic decision to cancel student debt,” Schumer, who represents New York, and Warren, who represents Massachusetts, said in their statement.

“In contrast to President Trump and Republicans who gave giant corporations $2 trillion in tax breaks, President Biden delivered transformative middle class relief by cancelling student debt for working people who need it most — nearly 90% of relief dollars will go to those earning less than $75,000 a year. We don’t agree with all of CBO’s assumptions that underlie this analysis, but it is clear the pandemic payment pause and student debt cancellation are policies that demonstrate how government can and should invest in working people, not the wealthy and billionaire corporations.”

8.37pm BST

Idaho’s abortion law is being challenged in federal court, but The Washington Post reports that the impact of the strict measure is already being felt by the state’s universities.

The University of Idaho has advised employees that because the law is not written clearly, it may prohibit employees from offering birth control, and thus they should refrain from doing so:

Related: Idaho judge bars state from enforcing abortion ban in medical emergencies

8.21pm BST

The fiscal hawks at the independent Congressional Budget Office have released their cost estimate for the student loan relief plan president Joe Biden announced last month, and found it comes in at $400 billion, but could vary.

The plan partially satisfied Biden’s campaign pledge to provide relief for Americans struggling with loans from higher education, but was criticized both for not being generous enough, and for adding on to the country’s already mammoth federal budget deficit:

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which advocates for restraint in federal spending, criticized the plan as simply too expensive:

Related: Biden unveils plan to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for millions

7.55pm BST

The Biden administration is generally keeping mum about Russia’s decision to grant citizenship to Edward Snowden, who leaked National Security Agency documents and fled the United States.

Here’s the little state department spokesman Ned Price had to say about it:

Related: Putin grants Russian citizenship to US whistleblower Edward Snowden

7.38pm BST

January 6 committee member says DoJ investigation proceeding, but slowly

A Democratic member of the January 6 committee revealed details of the department of justice’s investigation into the attack and its interaction with the congressional inquiry, describing the government’s effort as plodding, thorough and bolstered by evidence the lawmakers had uncovered.

“They have been very slow, though, on the much more comprehensive, and I believe, even more significant investigation of January 6," California congressman Adam Schiff said of the justice department during an interview at the Texas Tribune Festival, according to CNN . However, he thought it was a mistake for the justice department to start their investigation with the individual rioters and proceed from there.

“That works when you have one plot, one conspiracy. It doesn’t work when there are multiple lines of effort to overturn an election, multiple plots, that may be all part of the same whole, but nonetheless each operating independently,” Schiff said.

The Democrat acknowledged federal investigators are matching the work of the January 6 committee, saying, “It does appear now that they have interviewed many of the same significant witnesses that we have.” He did note that the justice department had requested much of the committee’s materials, which he found “breathtaking”.

“My first reaction when we got the request – ‘Turn over all your files to us’ – was: ‘Why don’t you have your own damn files? Why haven’t you been conducting your own investigation? Why do you need us to do it?” Schiff said.

The lawmaker also found it strange that a district attorney in Georgia had been left to singlehandedly investigate Donald Trump and his allies’ involvement in trying to overturn the election there, but noted that situation might not last much longer. “That may be changing too, but it’s a long time coming,” Schiff said.

6.20pm BST

The day so far

A former staffer for the January 6 committee went public with a claim that someone at the White House called a Capitol rioter on the day of the attack, while warning that evidence obtained from Donald Trump ’s chief of staff looked like an “attempted coup”. The committee’s lawmakers downplayed Denver Riggleman ’s interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes program, and have been busy themselves, sending a subpoena to the Republican speaker of Wisconsin’s assembly.

Here’s what else happened today:

  • Kyrsten Sinema , a Democratic senator known for bucking the party’s priorities, offered few reasons for her mysterious politics in a speech alongside the chamber’s top Republican.

  • Doug Mastriano , a Trump-backed 2020 election denier standing as the GOP’s gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania, appears to be trailing on the campaign trail.

  • Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows exchanged texts with another conspiracy theorist and 2020 election denier.

5.59pm BST

There are few mysteries in Congress bigger than Kyrsten Sinema.

Once a member of the Green Party, the Democratic senator from Arizona has seized on the party’s one-vote majority in the Senate to act a spoiler for progressive proposals, including changing the filibuster to get voting rights legislation passed, raising the national minimum wage to $15 per-hour and closing a tax loophole that benefited private equity firms. Unlike with Joe Manchin , the fellow Democratic senator and frequent holdout vote who already had a reputation for conservatism and support for the fossil fuel industry, Sinema’s reasons for acting this way aren’t quite clear, and somewhat inexplicable given her left-wing activism earlier in her career. The tactic doesn’t appear to have paid off, either. An AARP poll released last week showed that independents, Republicans and, most of all, Democrats in Arizona viewed Sinema unfavorably.

The senator appeared today alongside the chamber’s top Republican Mitch McConnell for a speech in Kentucky, where she extolled the virtues of bipartisanship. While it certainly does not clear up the senator’s mysterious approach to politics, her comments here may give some hints as to why she does what she does in Washington:

Related: Democrats secure breakthrough with Kyrsten Sinema on climate bill

5.38pm BST

“I signed a permission slip for a College and Career Day. What I got was indoctrination and trauma.” That sums up the experience of some of the more than 2,100 high school seniors bussed to a church in Louisiana last week on what was billed as a college fair but, as Maya Yang reports, turned into something else:

More than 2,000 public school students in Louisiana were told earlier this week that they were going to a college fair. They were then shuttled to what parents later deemed a sexist and transphobic church event which left many of the students traumatized.

On Tuesday, more than 2,100 high school seniors from the East Baton Rouge Parish School System – which serves residents of Louisiana’s capital – were taken to the local Living Faith Christian Center under the promise that they would receive college and career advice, as well as free food.

The Christian nonprofit organization 29:11 Mentoring Program organized the event, calling it “Day of Hope,” the Baton Rouge Advocate reported. The permission slips distributed to students promised “free food”, “fun and games”, “college fair” and “special guest”.

Related: Louisiana school turned ‘college fair’ into transphobic church event, students say

5.23pm BST

The New York Times sent a reporter to Pennsylvania to check on how the Republican candidate for governor is doing, and the verdict seems to be: not that well.

Doug Mastriano is a Donald Trump -endorsed, 2020 election denier who chartered busses to Washington on January 6 and has pledged to completely ban abortion in the state if elected. However, he’s well behind in the polls , and as the Times reports, has shunned much of what amounts to modern campaign tactics.

Here’s more from their report :

There is little indication that he has built a campaign infrastructure beyond the Facebook videos that propelled him to stardom in right-wing circles and to the vanguard of Christian nationalist politics.

“I can’t even assess things because I don’t see a campaign,” said Matt Brouillette, the president of Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, an advocacy group that is a major player in Pennsylvania Republican politics. “I’ve not seen anything that is even a semblance of a campaign.”

Mr. Brouillette, who backed one of Mr. Mastriano’s rivals in the G.O.P. primary, added: “Now, maybe he knows something we don’t on how you can win in the fifth-largest state without doing TV or mail. But I guess we’re going to have to wait until Nov. 8 to see whether you can pull something like that off.”

5.06pm BST

“The New York from which Trump emerged was its own morass of corruption and dysfunction, stretching from seats of executive power to portions of the media to the real-estate industry in which his family found its wealth,” writes Maggie Haberman in The Atlantic . “But Trump nevertheless stood out to the journalists covering him as particularly brazen.”

Haberman, a reporter for The New York Times and longtime watcher of Donald Trump , is one of the best-known chroniclers of his presidency, and the Atlantic article is a good read for those who want to better understand what drives Trump. Adapted from her soon-to-be-released book “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America”, the piece touches on some of the drivers of his inexplicable behavior, such as his insistence that the election was stolen, and that he could even return to office in August 2021.

It also shows how Trump viewed the people around him, particularly his supporters, whose ardency appeared to take him by surprise. For more on that, take a look at how the piece starts:

Can you believe these are my customers?” Donald Trump once asked while surveying the crowd in the Taj Mahal casino’s poker room. “Look at those losers,” he said to his consultant Tom O’Neil, of people spending money on the floor of the Trump Plaza casino. Visiting the Iowa State Fair as a presidential candidate in 2015, he was astounded that locals fell in line to support him because of a few free rides in his branded helicopter. In the White House, he was sometimes stunned at his own backers’ fervor, telling aides, “They’re fucking crazy.” Yet they loved him and wanted to own a piece of him, and that was what mattered most.

4.47pm BST

The supreme court’s overturning of Roe v Wade allowed states to curtail abortion rights completely, potentially transformed the midterms and, as Maya Yang reports, complicated access to other medicines in unexpected ways:

A few weeks after the supreme court’s 24 June decision to overturn the nationwide abortion rights established by Roe v Wade, the pharmacy chain Walgreens sent Annie England Noblin a message, informing her that her monthly prescription of methotrexate was held up.

Noblin, a 40-year-old college instructor in rural Missouri , never had trouble getting her monthly prescription of methotrexate for her rheumatoid arthritis. So she went to her local Walgreens to figure out why, standing in line with other customers as she waited for an explanation.

When it was finally her turn, a pharmacist informed Noblin – in front of the other customers behind her – that she could not release the medication until she received confirmation from Noblin’s doctor that Noblin would not use it to have an abortion.

Related: Republican abortion bans restrict women’s access to other essential medicine

4.27pm BST

Here’s more from The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell on Riggleman’s book and the revelations therein, including more mysterious calls from White House numbers to people connected with the assault on the Capitol:

The White House switchboard dialled a phone associated with a January 6 rioter after it was clear the deadly Capitol attack had failed to prevent the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, according to a new book.

The book from former Republican congressman and House January 6 select committee adviser Denver Riggleman says the connection was an outgoing call routed through the switchboard at 4.34pm, and it was answered by an unnamed rioter who allegedly has since been charged by the justice department with a role in the storming of the Capitol.

Riggleman’s book, titled The Breach, was reviewed by the Guardian in advance of its scheduled publication on Tuesday, and it has already become controversial after the select committee decried the work as an incomplete account that lacked information to which he was not privy once he left the panel’s inquiry in April.

Related: White House switchboard called phone linked to January 6 rioter after attack

4.12pm BST

January 6 committee deputy says expect more details o Secret Service in upcoming hearing

When the January 6 committee holds its Wednesday hearing, don’t be surprised if lawmakers have more to say about the Secret Service’s actions that day, particularly when it comes to agents’ communications that were deleted following the insurrection.

What was on the Secret Service text messages that the agency erased following the insurrection and whether they could be recovered have emerged as two of the biggest outstanding questions of the investigation. Over the weekend, Liz Cheney said the committee had received a trove of evidence from the agency, but not as much cooperation as they would like:

Related: Secret Service watchdog suppressed memo on January 6 texts erasure

Updated at 6.08pm BST

3.54pm BST

It’s one of the quieter trends in Congress, but The Guardian’s Chris McGreal reports on the slowly boiling outrage over the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, with a sizable number of Democratic lawmakers warning of consequences if Israel isn’t more forthcoming about her death:

Israel has declared the case closed. The US state department has done its best to duck difficult questions. But leading members of the US Congress are refusing to drop demands for a proper accounting of the death of the Palestinian American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, four months ago.

The longest-serving member of the US Senate , Patrick Leahy, recently upped the ante by warning that Israel’s failure to fully explain the Al-Jazeera reporter’s killing could jeopardize America’s huge military aid to the Jewish state under a law he sponsored 25 years ago cutting weapons supplies to countries that abuse human rights.

Nearly half of the Democratic members of the Senate have signed a letter calling into question Israel’s claim that Abu Akleh was accidentally shot by a soldier. The letter suggests she may have been targeted because she was a journalist.

Related: US senators refuse to let killing of Shireen Abu Akleh drop with Israel

3.35pm BST

Mark Meadows was exchanging text messages with a lot of strange characters in the closing months of 2020. One of them was Phil Waldron, an election conspiracy theorist who texted the then-White House chief of staff about an effort to root out supposed voter fraud in Arizona.

CNN reports that the news Waldron brought was that a judge in the state had dismissed the lawsuit from GOP legislators allied with Donald Trump to turn over voting equipment so they could be inspected for alleged election fraud. Waldron, an associate of Michael Flynn , the former Trump White House national security adviser who has lately been known for his Christian nationalist rhetoric , said the ruling meant Trump’s opponents could delay his allies’ efforts to get to voting machines and prove the supposed fraud.

Meadows responded with one word: “pathetic”.

CNN’s report gets further into Waldron’s activities in both the closing weeks of the Trump administration and in recent months, where he has continued efforts to try to prove that the 2020 election was stolen, without success.

3.08pm BST

The January 6 committee clearly did not take the weekend off ahead of its hearing this Wednesday. Politico reports that investigators have subpoenaed Robin Vos, Republican speaker of the Wisconsin state assembly.

They want to know about a phone call he had in July with Donald Trump and are giving him a short deadline to speak to them – today. Vos is suing to stop the subpoena, according to Politico :

2.53pm BST

As eyebrow raising as Riggleman’s interview is, January 6 committee members have also gone out of their way to downplay it, saying he stopped working with them months ago and is not aware of what the investigation uncovered since then.

“He does not know what happened after April and a lot has happened in our investigation,” Democratic committee member Zoe Lofgren told CNN . “Everything that he was able to relay prior to his departure has been followed up on and in some cases didn’t really peter out (sic), or there might have been a decision that suggested there was a connection between one number and one e-mail and a person that turned out not to pan out. So we follow up on everything, and, you know, I don’t know what Mr. Riggleman is doing really.”

It’s also worth noting the Riggleman has a book out tomorrow called “The Breach: The Untold Story of the Investigation into January 6th” .

2.38pm BST

CNN has more details on the call from a White House number to the phone of one of the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6.

The nine-second phone call went to the phone of Anton Lunyk , a Brooklyn resident who had traveled to the city for the Donald Trump -hosted rally that preceded the attack, CNN reports . Lunyk, along with two friends who came with him from New York, pled guilty to charges of illegally protesting inside the Capitol, and earlier this month where sentenced to a few months of fines and probation.

Who was on the other end of the call remains a mystery. CNN was not able to identify which White House official may have placed it, only that it took place at 4:17 pm, shortly after Trump tweeted at rioters to “go home”.

2.19pm BST

Denver Riggleman’s interview with 60 Minutes is a rare breach in the carefully stage managed presentation the January 6 committee has given Americans over the past months about what happened during the insurrection at the Capitol.

A former Republican congressman who was ousted by a more conservative opponent in 2020 and now considers himself independent, Riggleman acted as a technical adviser for the committee, poring through evidence such as text messages and emails obtained from people thought to have knowledge of the attack. His interview provided a behind-the-scenes look at the investigation, most details about which have come from lawmakers’ comments or the public hearings themselves.

Perhaps his most startling admission is his belief that text messages then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows voluntarily turned over the committee amounted to a “roadmap to an attempted coup.” But Riggleman shared other disquieting details in the interview, such as that a White House number called one of the rioters who had stormed the Capitol as it was happening.

Then there were the text messages Meadows received containing an array of far-right conspiracy theories from Ginni Thomas , wife of rightwing supreme court justice Clarence Thomas .

“What really shook me was the fact that if Clarence agreed with or was even aware of his wife’s efforts, all three branches of government would be tied to the stop the steal movement,” Riggleman said on 60 Minutes.

Ginni Thomas’s involvement in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results has been well documented in recent months, leading to calls for the January 6 committee to compel her testimony – efforts Riggleman said he supported. Last week, a deal was reached for Thomas to speak to investigators.

Related: Virginia Thomas agrees to interview with House January 6 panel

Updated at 3.37pm BST

2.03pm BST

Former January 6 committee official sees evidence of 'attempted coup'

Good morning, US politics blog readers. There was a rare look into the January 6 committee’s investigative process yesterday evening when a former staff member spoke to CBS’ 60 Minutes program , and what Denver Riggleman had to say will do little to soothe the nerves of those fearing for America’s democracy. Among his revelations, Riggleman said text messages from Mark Meadows , Donald Trump ’s chief of staff during the time of the insurrection, amounted to a “roadmap to an attempted coup”. Expect to hear more about Riggleman’s interview today ahead of the January 6 committee’s first public hearing in more than two months on Wednesday.

Here’s what else we can expect today:

  • Republicans still have a good chance of winning a majority in the House of Representatives, but CBS News believes it won’t be a very large one.

  • Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, will hold a re-election rally in Alpharetta at 3pm ET, where he will be joined by fellow GOP governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia.

  • Joe Biden is in Delaware but will return to the White House this morning to greet 2021 World Series champions the Atlanta Braves, then preside over the third meeting of the White House Competition Council in the afternoon.

Comments / 924

Camille Palmer
09-26

and yet they refused national guard help, and don't think a protester telling attendees. on January 5th." WE NEED TO ENTER THE CAPITOL" is not a person of interest.

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Jopin Scott
09-26

January 6, 2021 - Not for better healthcare; not for greater wages or better employment; not for better (or fair) housing; not for better food or clean water; not for better schools or educational opportunities; not for greater aid for pandemic relief; not for a more stable and accessible infrastructure; but for a wealthy man who wouldn't give them the time of day if he didn't need them to stay in power and out of court.😔😔😔

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Rick Rodriguez
09-26

I'm sorry, evidence of an attempted coup? Wasn't seeing and hearing trump ordering his unruly mob to go to the capital and FIGHT LIKE HELL to stop the certification . Isn't that evidence enough?

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