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US Capitol riot panel to get inside Trump’s head: aides

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The US Capitol assault panel has heard blockbuster witness testimony across eight hearings in June and July./AFP
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Oct 13, 2022 - 12:32 PM

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers investigating the 2021 attack on the US Capitol plan to journey inside the mind of Donald Trump on Thursday during the final public presentation on their sprawling probe before crucial midterm elections.

The House of Representatives panel has already unveiled reams of evidence on the former president’s involvement in a labyrinthine series of connected schemes to overturn the 2020 election.

In what could be its last public session before it issues a report on its findings, the panel of seven Democrats and two Republicans has promised fresh damning evidence on the insurrection.

“And we’re going to bring a particular focus on the former president’s state of mind and his involvement in these events as they unfolded,” a select committee aide said.

Blockbuster witness testimony across eight hearings in the summer provided stunning examples of Trump and his allies pressuring election officials and trying to get lawfully-cast votes nullified in swing states, and of Trump’s inertia amid the mob uprising on January 6, 2021.

The aide said that while each previous hearing had dug into separate aspects of the plan to overturn the election and block the transfer of power, Thursday’s session would reach back before January 6 to tell the broader story.

“So what you’re going to see is a synthesis of some evidence we’ve already presented with that new, never-before-seen information to illustrate Donald Trump’s centrality to the scheme from the time prior to the election,” he added.

‘Right to the violence’ 

The panel plans to release its final report by the end of the year, but after the November 8 elections that decide which party controls Congress. A preliminary report may come out beforehand.

It will be the first hearing without live witnesses — instead featuring new video evidence, including footage from a Danish film crew shot for a documentary about longtime Trump ally Roger Stone.

In one clip from the day before the 2020 election, the notorious self-styled “dirty trickster” is seen telling the filmmakers he has no interest in waiting to contest the vote tally.

“Let’s get right to the violence,” says the 70-year-old Republican operative.

Stone, who has not been charged in connection with the riot, has challenged the authenticity of the clips.

Committee aides said there would also be new video footage showing “efforts to respond in real time to the violence… as that violence was unfolding.”

The panel also plans to unveil evidence developed from “hundreds of thousands” of pages of documents surrendered by the Secret Service, the aides said, as lawmakers seek to understand why certain agents’ text messages from the eve of the insurrection and the day itself went missing.

The records are expected to confirm evidence from earlier hearings that Trump riled up his supporters despite being repeatedly warned of looming violence on January 6.

Criminal referrals?

Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified in June that Trump was briefed that some of his supporters had turned up armed, and demanded they be permitted into his rally and that he be allowed to lead them at the Capitol.

Trump, who urged his supporters in a fiery speech near the White House to “fight like hell,” was impeached for inciting the mob to storm Congress to halt the peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden.

The defeated president’s election fraud falsehoods inspired a welter of restrictive voting laws in conservative states as he endorsed a crop of Republican candidates running to oversee future elections who have tried to undermine faith in the last one.

The hearing comes with the former president’s legal woes mounting, as the Justice Department probes the mishandling of government secrets found at his Florida beach club, Mar-a-Lago.

Individual panelists have publicly suggested Attorney General Merrick Garland should charge Trump over the Capitol attack, although the committee has not announced a formal decision on whether it will make criminal referrals.

It is looking increasingly unlikely that members will subpoena Trump and his vice president Mike Pence, who was threatened by the president’s supporters during the insurrection.

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