According to a source familiar with the matter, the House select committee investigating the deadly attack on the US Capitol on January 6 is preparing to issue subpoenas to top Trump lieutenants involved in attempting to sway the 2020 election results from a “command center” at the Willard hotel in Washington.
The subpoenas, which may be issued as early as next week, underscore the select committee’s interest in events at the hotel across the street from the White House, where Donald Trump’s most devoted advisers planned to keep him in office.
According to the source, the select committee is pursuing roughly 20 people linked to Trump’s command center at the Willard, including legal expert John Eastman, who suggested strategies to deny Joe Biden the presidency.
The subpoenas for papers and testimony are targeted at getting legal advice given to Trump on how he may influence events on January 6 to prevent the certification of Biden’s election victory, according to the source.
House investigators are pursuing Trump lieutenants who convened at the Willard to determine the “centers of gravity” from which Trump and his aides colluded — and if the former president had prior knowledge of the Capitol assault, according to the source.
The select committee seems to want a comprehensive account of what happened in multiple suites at the Willard in the days preceding up to the 6th of January, as well as during a last “war room” meeting the night before the Capitol assault.
The select committee is looking into Eastman after it was revealed that he proposed options for reversing the election in a paper delivered to Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, and Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, during a White House meeting on January 4th.
The former president seized on Eastman’s letter and repeatedly pressed Pence in the days that followed to use it to effectively takeover the mainly ceremonial election counting process, according to a Trump source.
Trump was unable to persuade Pence to reject Biden’s election victory — a conclusion that senior Trump advisers blamed on the then-vice-chief president’s of staff, Marc Short, according to the Trump source – and Congress confirmed Biden as president after the Capitol assault.
Eastman has now distanced himself from the email, telling the Guardian that the scenarios he presented were not meant to be advise. He also told the National Review that he drafted the letter at the behest of “someone on the legal team,” whose name he couldn’t remember.
However, Eastman looks to be an important witness, since he often attended meetings at the Willard with Giuliani and former Trump senior strategist Steve Bannon, essentially working as a connection with the White House, according to a Trump source.
Eastman’s efforts to dissociate himself from the document were weakened last week when he told activist writer Lauren Windsor that Pence refused to reverse the election, despite the fact that he had offered the legal reasons, because “Pence is an establishment guy at the end of the day.”
The select committee is also contemplating subpoenaing Giuliani, according to the source, since the former New York mayor and Trump lawyer spearheaded the Willard’s legal campaign to investigate and broadcast charges of vote fraud.
According to a Trump source, Giuliani pressed state legislators to contest Biden victory and cajoled Republican members of Congress to protest to states’ electoral college votes even as the Capitol assault occurred.
A House select committee representative refused to comment on the scope or targets of upcoming subpoenas. Eastman and a lawyer representing Giuliani did not immediately reply to demands for comment.
The fresh line of investigation focusing on the Willard comes after the select committee’s chairman, Bennie Thompson, informed reporters last week that he wanted to subpoena Eastman, before later admitting that he had signed roughly 20 subpoenas.
Thompson said on Friday that he had wanted to send subpoenas to Eastman and other Trump associates by Friday, but that the schedule had slipped as Democrats grew preoccupied with crisis discussions before the House approved Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure proposal just before midnight.
According to the panel’s vice-chair, Liz Cheney, the select committee is still in the evidence-gathering phase of its investigation and has interviewed and deposed more than 150 people.
“It is a range of engagements – some formal interviews, some depositions,” the Wyoming Republican said. “There really is a huge amount of work under way that is leading to real progress for us.”
Several former Trump executives, including Bannon, have refused to testify in response to subpoenas. Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official, declined to answer questions during a deposition on Friday, claiming attorney-client privilege.
Thompson suggested that Clark be held in contempt of Congress in a statement. “Mr Clark’s complete failure to cooperate today is unacceptable,” he added. “We are willing to take strong measures to hold him accountable to meet his obligation.”