Donald Trump ‘attempted to contact US Capitol riots witness’

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The vice chair of the House January 6 committee said Donald Trump has attempted to contact a witness who was talking to the panel investigating the attack on the US Capitol in Washington DC.

Rep Liz Cheney said that person declined to answer or respond to Mr Trump’s call. Instead the person alerted their lawyer who contacted the committee.

The committee has notified the Justice Department.

Election 2022 Nevada
Former president Donald Trump (John Locher/AP)

The disclosure by Ms Cheney is not the first time the panel has raised concerns about witnesses being contacted by Mr Trump’s team in ways that could reflect or at least create the appearance of inappropriate influence.

It divulged examples last week of other times witnesses have received outreach from Trump allies, some suggesting he was aware they were talking to the committee, ahead of testimony before the panel.

A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The hearing on Tuesday was the seventh for the January 6 committee. Over the past month, the panel has created a narrative of a defeated Trump “detached from reality”, clinging to false claims of voter fraud and working feverishly to reverse his election defeat.

It all culminated with the attack on the Capitol, the committee says.

Tuesday’s session revealed details of an “unhinged” late night meeting at the White House with Donald Trump’s outside lawyers suggesting the military seize state voting machines in a last-ditch effort to pursue his false claims of voter fraud before the defeated president summoned a mob to the US Capitol.

Capitol Riot Jury Pool
Rioters face off with police at the US Capitol on January 6 (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

As dozens of lawsuits and his claims of voter fraud fizzled, Mr Trump met late into the night of December 18 with attorneys at the White House before tweeting the rally invitation — “Be there, will be wild.”

Members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers groups are now facing rare sedition charges over the siege.

“This tweet served as a call to action – and in some cases a call to arms.” said one panel member, Rep Stephanie Murphy.

The panel featured new video testimony from Pat Cipollone, Mr Trump’s former White House counsel, recalling the explosive meeting at the White House when Mr Trump’s outside legal team brought a draft executive order to seize states’ voting machines — a “terrible idea,” he said.

“That’s not how we do things in the United States,” Mr Cipollone testified.

Another aide called the meeting “unhinged.”

Mr Cipollone and other White House officials scrambled to intervene in the late-night meeting Mr Trump was having with attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, retired national security aide Michael Flynn and the head of the online retail company Overstock. It erupted in shouting and screaming, another aide testified.

“Where is the evidence?” Mr Cipollone demanded of the false claims of voter fraud.

“What they were proposing, I thought, was nuts,” testified another White House official, Eric Herschmann.

The panel also showed graphic and violent text messages and played videos of right-wing figures, including Alex Jones, and others laying out that January 6 would be the day they fight for the president.

In vulgar and often racist language the messages beaming across the far-right forums planned for the big day that they said Mr Trump was asking for in Washington. It would be a “red wedding,” said one, a reference to mass killing. “Bring handcuffs.”

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