The Jan. 6 committee has notified the Justice Department that former President Donald Trump tried to call an unidentified witness in recent days, committee vice-chair Rep. Liz Cheney said Tuesday as she issued a warning about possible witness tampering.
“After our last hearing, President Trump tried to call a witness in our investigation, a witness you have not yet seen in these hearings,” said Ms. Cheney, Wyoming Republican who is an ardent Trump foe.
She didn’t identify the witness, but said the person dodged the former president.
“That person declined to answer or respond to President Trump’s call and instead alerted their lawyer to the call. Their lawyer alerted us,” Ms. Cheney said.
The Department of Justice has the power to prosecute the former president if officials decide that he tampered with a congressional witness. Mr. Trump did not immediately respond to Ms. Cheney’s implied accusation.
The warning to Mr. Trump came at the conclusion of the committee’s latest hearing, which focused on Mr. Trump’s summoning of supporters, including members of militia groups, to Washington to protest Congress certifying the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, 2021.
SEE ALSO: Ex-White House counsel Cipollone said Pence deserves medal of freedom for certifying 2020 election
The hearing also featured the first public testimony of former Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who said he disagreed heatedly with Mr. Trump’s efforts to keep challenging the election results after states certified President Biden’s victory on Dec. 14, 2020.
Mr. Cipollone testified that he was “vehemently” opposed to Mr. Trump’s plan to appoint conservative lawyer Sidney Powell as a White House special counsel to investigate alleged election fraud and to seize voting machines.
The committee unveiled a draft presidential order to the Pentagon in its Tuesday hearing, a document that would have directed the Defense Secretary to allow the federal government to seize voting machines and have Ms. Powell lead the effort.
“Under the order, President Trump would appoint a special counsel with the power to seize machines and then charge people with crimes with all resources necessary to carry out her duties,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, Maryland Democrat, who held up the order.
Ms. Powell was one of Mr. Trump’s fiercest proponents in helping to spread his false claims of mass election fraud taking place in the 2020 election.
Said Mr. Cipollone, “That’s not how we do things in the United States. The idea that the federal government would come in and seize election machines … I don’t understand why we have to tell you why that’s a bad idea. It’s a terrible idea.”
The issue came to a head in a marathon White House meeting on Dec. 18, 2020. On one side supporting Mr. Trump’s claims of election fraud were Ms. Powell, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani and former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne. On the other side were Mr. Cipollone, White House lawyer Eric Herschmann and other White House staffers.
The debate raged for six hours, witnesses said, and included expletives and near-physical confrontations. The president and his supporters accused the White House aides of being weak, Mr. Giuliani said, adding that he called the White House advisers “a bunch of p-ssies.”
Mr. Raskin called it a “heated and profane clash.”
When the meeting finally ended, Ms. Powell thought she had received her presidential appointment. But Mr. Cipollone said he and other White House advisers were determined not to allow her to exercise any such authority.
Ms. Powell said if she were president, “I would have them [White House aides] all fired that night and escorted out of the building.”
Shortly after the meeting broke up, Mr. Trump went on Twitter and summoned supporters to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, for a large protest of the election results. He promised the gathering “will be wild.”
Committee members said that tweet was directly responsible for armed Trump supporters coming to the Capitol on Jan. 6 bent on violence to stop Congress from certifying the presidential election victory of Democrat Joe Biden. They included members of white nationalist and militia groups such as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.
Stephen Ayres, a former Trump supporter who pleaded guilty to charges related to entering the Capitol building, told the committee that he regrets acting on Mr. Trump’s claims about the 2020 having been stolen.
“It makes me mad because I was hanging on every word. He was saying everything he was putting out I was following it,” he testified. “I consider myself a family man and I love my country. I don’t think any one man is bigger than either one of those. I felt like I had like horse blinders on.”
Former Oath Keepers member Jason Van Tatenhove, who left the group in 2018, said the Capitol riot “could have been the spark that started a new civil war.” He expressed concern about how the next presidential election could play out.
“I do fear for this next election cycle because who knows what that might bring if, if a president is willing to try to instill and whip up civil war amongst his followers using lies and deceit and snake oil,” he said.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, Maryland Democrat, said the infamous Watergate scandal looks insignificant compared with the 2021 Capitol attack, blaming Mr. Trump for the riot.
“American carnage, that’s Donald Trump’s true legacy,” Mr. Raskin said. “The Watergate scandal was like a Cub Scout meeting compared to this assault.”
Mr. Cipollone also said former Vice President Mike Pence should be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, when he refused Mr. Trump’s urgings to reject electoral votes from contested states.
“I think the vice president did the right thing. I think he did the courageous thing. have a great deal of respect for Vice President Pence,” Mr. Cipollone said.
Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida, a member of the committee, highlighted a White House meeting on Dec. 21, 2020, with 10 House Republicans that she said was part of an effort to “disseminate [Mr. Trump’s] false claims and to encourage members of the public to fight the outcome on January 6.”
At the meeting, the lawmakers discussed election theories pushed by Trump personal lawyer John Eastman, who said Mr. Pence had the authority to reject slates of electors.
Five of the Republican lawmakers reportedly sought pardons from Mr. Trump.
— Dave Boyer contributed to this report.