On the same morning that House Republicans voted (by voice) to oust Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership position for her refusal to elevate the former president’s lies about a stolen election, top officials testified in a hearing on one of the most glaring consequences of those lies: the deadly Jan. 6 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The witnesses at the Wednesday hearing in the House Committee on Oversight and Reform included Christopher Miller, who was acting defense secretary at the time of the attack; Jeffrey Rosen, who was acting attorney general; and Robert Contee III, the chief of D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department.
Miller’s testimony was much anticipated, both because of the need for a full accounting of why there was an hours-long delay in sending troops and because of Miller’s previous comments — and statements in his written testimony — tying the violence to the “fight like hell” speech then-President Trump gave prior to his supporters’ march to the Capitol.
But Miller didn’t go further than that — in fact, he seemed to back off from laying blame at the former president’s feet. Miller defended the Pentagon’s response on the afternoon of the attack and in the days leading up to it; according to his testimony, he was concerned that sending troops to the Capitol would give the appearance of a “military coup.”
That wasn’t the only apparent discrepancy to arise on Wednesday. During the hearing, Miller said he approved the full deployment of National Guard troops at 3 p.m. on Jan. 6. But the Pentagon’s official timeline indicated that final approval occurred at 4:32 p.m. (nearly three hours after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser first called him seeking help), a delay Miller explained was due to operations planning.
The hearing also saw Republican lawmakers attempt to change the insurrection’s narrative, casting the rioters as “peaceful patriots” and distorting the violence as merely “acts of vandalism.” “You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th,” said Rep. Andrew S. Clyde, “you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”
There is still a lot we don’t know about the events of that day, including, notably, what Trump was doing for multiple hours that afternoon and the reasons for inconsistencies in the Pentagon’s timelines. Here are some big questions we helped compile in advance of the hearing, many of which still need answers.
Next Tuesday, May 18, our executive director, Austin Evers, will join an online town hall discussion focused on ensuring accountability for the Jan. 6 attack. The event will take place from 8 to 9 p.m. EDT, and you can register here.
Meanwhile, the Big Lie about widespread voter fraud continues to fuel new voter restrictions and partisan efforts to undermine democracy. Here are some of the latest news:
Arizona: The partisan audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 votes will take a one-week break at the end of the week, when the state Senate’s contract with the operator of the audit’s current venue ends. Earlier this week, the audit requested access to county government internet routers and passwords, which Sheriff Paul Penzone called “mind-numbingly reckless and irresponsible.” And on Tuesday, Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law a bill that could remove tens of thousands of voters from the state’s Permanent Early Voting List.
New Hampshire: Spurred on by the Arizona recount, Trump supporters in a small town in New Hampshire are now latching on to an audit of a race for a state representative seat.
Texas: In answering questions from a fellow lawmaker last week, state Rep. Briscoe Cain, a leader in state Republicans’ efforts to pass new voting restrictions, awkwardly admitted to not knowing the racist Jim Crow history of the phrase “purity of the ballot box,” language that Cain had included in Republicans’ latest election bill. That bill passed the state House last week with some paring down (and removal of the racist language), but could still be altered behind closed doors while in conference.
Two and a Half Years, One Lawsuit, and Five AGs Later
That’s how long it’s been since American Oversight filed a FOIA request for the calendars of top Justice Department officials, including then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The department finally released the records to us this week, and while they contain some notable meetings (details here), their delay reveals the need for real FOIA reform and for agencies to devote more resources to processing requests.
Meat Industry Influence in Pandemic Response
During the early months of the pandemic, meat-processing plants frequently became home to devastating outbreaks of the coronavirus among workers. Records we previously obtained, reported on by USA Today, revealed how industry representatives not only pushed the Trump administration to quickly reopen plants last spring, but also pushed for faster chicken-eviscerator line speeds. Now, we’ve uncovered new records that provide further evidence of this lobbying effort.
Part of Investigation: