- The Washington Times
Monday, July 4, 2022

The House Jan. 6 committee, whose members were appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses and obtained more than 25,000 documents related to last year’s riot at the U.S. Capitol — yet most of the evidence remains a secret.

The committee has kept hidden the vast majority of its testimony, including entire transcripts of depositions that are now under dispute by more than a dozen people.

Among the most prominent objectors are two Secret Service agents who are refuting a sensational claim made at a public hearing Tuesday by a former White House aide turned star witness for the committee.

Cassidy Hutchinson, who worked as a special assistant to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, said she was told the former president lurched for the steering wheel — and an agent’s neck — when they refused to drive him to the Capitol to protest the certification of Joseph R. Biden’s election win on Jan. 6, 2021.

The agents say it never happened, according to anonymous sources cited by several media reports. And the disputed story is among several sensational allegations made during a series of public hearings staged by the committee that showcased selective snippets of testimony and documents, while withholding troves of other material in the Democrat-led panel’s quest to hold former President Donald Trump and other Republicans accountable for the Jan. 6 riot.

The contradictions are piling up.

In addition to the denials of two Secret Service agents, others disputing claims from the hearings include: Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican; Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican; Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican; and former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann. They say claims were aired selectively at the hearings without allowing the public to see all the evidence.

“It’s unprecedented,” Mr. Jordan told The Washington Times. “It’s never happened in American history where you have a committee operate this way.”

Several spokespeople for the Jan. 6 committee did not respond to requests for comments about the panel’s secrecy.

Mr. Jordan was among a group of Republicans appointed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, to serve on the Jan. 6 committee.

In an unprecedented move, Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, blocked Mr. Jordan and Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana Republican, from serving on the panel. In response, Mr. McCarthy refused to appoint any GOP member to participate.

Mrs. Pelosi added Republican Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, both of whom voted to impeach Mr. Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 riot.

The committee is aiming to implicate the former president’s closest Republican allies in Congress, too.

In December, they showcased one of Mr. Jordan’s text messages, sent on Jan. 5, 2021, to Mr. Meadows, that appeared to show Mr. Jordan urging Vice President Mike Pence to reject electoral votes that he believed were unconstitutional during the congressional certification of the Electoral College.

The text, presented by Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, was incomplete.

Mr. Schiff cut off half the text message and excluded the fact that Mr. Jordan did not write the text, but was forwarding a message to Mr. Meadows from former Department of Defense Inspector General Joseph Schmitz, who was citing Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Papers.

“How many other things are they presenting to the American people that are false, that we don’t know about, because we didn’t get to see any of the 1,000 interviews or depositions?” Mr. Jordan said in the interview. “This is truly unprecedented, and a complete show trial.”

Mr. Johnson said the panel selectively edited text messages to make it appear as though he was urging Mr. Pence to accept an alternative slate of electors. He said the selective texts did not tell the full story: His office received a request to pass the message along to Mr. Pence, but upon investigating the matter, did not follow through. 

The full array of text messages wasn’t released by the committee.

“The Jan. 6 partisan committee smeared me with partial and incomplete information, creating a nonstory driven by a corporate media that is complicit in spreading the Democrats’ lies,” Mr. Johnson told The Times. “It is clear that the committee has not done its investigatory due diligence and is more concerned with scoring partisan points against their political opponents than uncovering the truth.”

Democrats who run the committee won’t say when they plan to release all of the documents and testimony. But their secrecy has complicated efforts by the Justice Department to prosecute some of the worst actors who violently stormed the Capitol. The DOJ this month postponed the trial of two members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group that forced its way into the Capitol during the riot, because federal prosecutors were denied access to the Jan. 6 committee’s deposition transcripts.

In a recent hearing, a department lawyer said he expected the committee to release the transcripts and documents when the panel is also expected to issue a full report.

Some Republicans are demanding the panel release additional evidence now.

Mr. Gohmert sent a request in writing to the committee last week, seeking the full transcript of closed-door testimony provided by Ms. Hutchinson and John McEntee, the former White House presidential personnel office director, who both claimed that Mr. Gohmert and other GOP lawmakers sought pardons from Mr. Trump in December 2020.

The committee last month presented video clips at a public hearing showing a small portion of their testimony making the claims.

Mr. Gohmert vehemently denies ever asking for a personal pardon and said he met with Mr. Trump seeking pardons for several military service members.

The panel has ignored Mr. Gohmert’s request to provide the full transcript of Ms. Hutchinson’s deposition. Other Republicans are also denying claims they sought pardons.

“We want to determine whether it was edited and fraudulently presented to give an impression of something that was a lie,” Mr. Gohmert said. “Because, I’ve never asked for a pardon for myself, but the way they put that together, the way [Ms. Hutchinson] answered the questions, it made it look like that.”

Pressure is mounting on the committee to release or hear testimony from those who are contradicting the selective evidence the panel has presented so far.

Mr. Herschmann, for example, disputes a claim made by Ms. Hutchinson in a public hearing last week that she handwrote a statement dictated to her from Mr. Meadows that Mr. Trump would deliver on Jan. 6, when advisers were urging him to call off the rioters who had invaded the Capitol.

Mr. Herschmann relayed to ABC News that he wrote the note, not Ms. Hutchinson, and said he told the Jan. 6 committee during a closed-door deposition this year that it was his handwriting on the notecard.

Mr. Herschmann’s testimony about the note card remains off-limits to the public, however.

Instead, the panel showcased a different snippet of Mr. Herschmann’s deposition, in which he described in colorful language his opposition to Mr. Trump’s plan to replace acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with another lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, to pursue unsubstantiated election fraud claims.

Sources at the Secret Service said last week that the two agents who allegedly witnessed Mr. Trump’s meltdown in the SUV on Jan. 6 were not asked about the incident by the committee and are now willing to testify under oath.

Tony Ornato, who was then deputy White House chief of staff, and agent Bobby Engel deny that Mr. Trump lunged at the steering wheel or Mr. Engel’s neck, according to sources. Mr. Ornato was not in the car, and the unnamed agent who was with Mr. Engel in the vehicle also disputes Ms. Hutchinson’s story.

Members of the panel interviewed both Mr. Ornato and Mr. Engel this year, but what they said remains a mystery because the committee won’t release those transcripts.

“I was not involved in either of those interviews,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, Maryland Democrat and member of the Jan. 6 committee, told CNN when asked about their depositions. “So, I can’t say. And I don’t have any knowledge of that.”

The Democrat-led panel conducted a sixth public hearing on Tuesday featuring Ms. Hutchinson in person.

In addition to her explosive testimony about Mr. Trump’s behavior in the presidential SUV, Ms. Hutchinson said Mr. Trump flung his lunch plate at a wall in the West Wing dining room after learning that Attorney General William Barr had denied election fraud claims in an interview with The Associated Press.

“I first noticed there was ketchup dripping down the wall, and there was a shattered porcelain plate,” Ms. Hutchinson told the panel at the hearing last week. Ms. Hutchinson said she helped the dining room staff clean up the mess.

Mr. Trump denied all of Ms. Hutchinson’s claims and said she was rejected for a job on Mr. Trump’s post-presidential team.

“No cross examination, no real Republicans, no lawyers, NO NOTHING,” Mr. Trump said on his Truth Social media site, which he created after Twitter banned him last year. “Fake stories and an all Fake Narrative being produced, with ZERO pushback allowed. Unselects should be forced to disband. WITCH HUNT!”

Reports also have surfaced alleging that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone was not at the White House on the morning of Jan. 6, when Ms. Hutchinson testified that she had a conversation with him

The Times’ inquiries to the Jan. 6 panel were not answered. But a panel spokesman last week defended the testimony provided at the hearing.

“The committee trusts the credibility of a witness who is willing to testify under oath,” a panel spokesman told CNN. “But is also willing to hear any and all information that others may have that would aid in their investigation.”

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

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