October 1, 2022

Washington — Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, said Sunday the panel is still examining possible links between former President Donald Trump and far-right extremist groups, including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, members of which have been charged for their roles in the attack.

“That remains an ongoing part of our investigation,” Schiff said in an interview on “Face the Nation.” “We have certainly shown some links between the president, the key advisors like Roger Stone and Mike Flynn, and elements of these white nationalist groups, but that component of our investigation continues.”

More than a dozen members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, including their respective leaders Stewart Rhodes and Enrique Tarrio, have been charged with seditious conspiracy for their alleged roles in the Jan. 6 assault. Federal prosecutors claim the members conspired to storm the Capitol to oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power by delaying by force the required tallying of state electoral votes.

The select committee has examined the role of far-right extremist groups on Jan. 6 and last Thursday held its eighth public hearing mapping out what investigators described as a multi-pronged campaign from Trump to thwart the transfer of presidential power. The hearing focused on the 187-minute span on Jan. 6 from when the former president ended his speech at a rally on the Ellipse to when he issued a tweet telling the mob of his supporters to leave the Capitol, during which committee members said Trump did nothing to quell the violence that unfolded. 

The hearings have ramped up the pressure on the Justice Department to pursue charges against Trump, and Schiff said he hopes the department is “watching carefully, and I hope they understand the implications” of what the panel is presenting.

“I think we really need to think about what we’ve demonstrated already, about the president’s knowledge that the election wasn’t stolen, and his response and his intent, and to me that is most graphically demonstrated, when he told top Justice Department officials basically to just say the election was stolen or just say it was corrupt and that he would take care of the rest,” he said. “Those kind of pieces of testimony, they’re directly on the president’s knowledge and intent.”

The California Democrat said he believes Trump engaged in the “most supreme dereliction of duty ever” with his inaction to stop the violence at the Capitol, and the former president’s multiple attempts to reverse the outcome of the election “invoke various criminal laws, and his conduct ought to be the subject of investigation.”

While Thursday’s hearing was the last of this series, committee leaders have stressed the investigation remains ongoing, with more evidence being collected and witnesses interviewed. In addition to considering whether to ask Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence to voluntarily appear, the committee is prepared to consider issuing a subpoena to Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Rep. Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Ginni Thomas corresponded with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and John Eastman, a conservative lawyer who was behind a legal strategy to overturn the election results, about the efforts to keep Trump in power. 

The committee has asked Ginni Thomas to speak with members voluntarily, but her lawyer told the panel he wants a “better justification” for why her testimony is relevant. 

Schiff said if Ginni Thomas has information that would be relevant to the committee’s probe, he would hope she appears on her own accord. But if she doesn’t, he said members should give “serious consideration” to issuing a subpoena.

The California Democrat also criticized Clarence Thomas for crossing a line when he took part in the consideration of an emergency request from Trump for the Supreme Court to block the release of his White House records to the select committee. The high court declined to stop the National Archives from turning over the documents, and Clarence Thomas was the lone justice to dissent from the decision.

“There are lines that shouldn’t be crossed, but those lines involve sitting Supreme Court justices, not presiding or appearing or taking action in cases in which their spouse may be implicated,” Schiff said. “And in this case, for Clarence Thomas to issue a decision, in a case of dissent, in a case where Congress is trying to get documents, and those documents might involve his own wife, that’s the line that’s been crossed.”

The committee’s investigation has also prompted scrutiny of the U.S. Secret Service, particularly after it was revealed that text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 requested by the panel were erased as part of a device replacement program.  

Members of the Secret Service, including Tony Ornato, who served as Trump’s deputy chief of staff for operations, have also retained private counsel, Cheney revealed Thursday. Ornato was a key figure in testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Meadows, who described an altercation between Trump and members of his detail on Jan. 6 that she said was relayed to her by Ornato.

Schiff said the hiring of criminal defense attorneys indicate Ornato may have a concern about “potential criminal liability.”

“We want to hear from these witnesses. Some we want to hear from again,” he said. “We want to put them under oath if they weren’t previously under oath, so that we can understand exactly what was happening on January 5 and January 6. And we have profound concerns about what’s going on at the Secret Service.”

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