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CNN’s Jake Tapper uncovers the planning and motivations behind the January 6 insurrection in a new documentary airing Friday at 9 p.m. ET.
He interviews numerous Republicans who were in the White House, in Congress and out in the states, watching in frustration and horror as then-President Donald Trump tried to mount his coup.
What I found most interesting, and disturbing, were their warnings that Trump could be learning from his mistakes and setting the stage to repeat his efforts to steal the election in 2024.
“It looks to me that he has evaluated what went wrong on January 6. Why is it that he wasn’t able to steal the election – who stood in his way?” Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio told Tapper.
“And he’s going methodically, state by state, at races from, you know, state Senate races all the way down to county commissioner races trying to get the people who the Republicans – the RINOs, in his words – who stopped this, who stopped him from stealing the election,” he said.
Gonzalez, whose parents fled oppression in Cuba, was among the House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. He’s also decided to leave Congress at the end of his term.
The Republicans who supported impeachment and are not retiring all face primary challenges from pro-Trump Republicans.
Tapper asked Wyoming’s Rep. Liz Cheney if it will be worth it to lose her job over this. Cheney is one of two Republicans serving on the House committee investigating the insurrection; the other is Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who recently announced he is not running for reelection.
“To me, there’s not even really a choice or a calculation. It’s just what is the right thing here and what has to be done,” she said. She made clear that she intends to run and win again.
Alyssa Farah is Trump’s former communications director. She watched the insurrection unfold from the White House. She told Tapper that what frightens her is the focus by Trump supporters on taking over state-level roles – the people who run elections.
“I think that there is a concerted effort to try to recruit loyalists to put into those chambers,” she said.
Specifically, Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who found the courage to refuse to “find votes” as Trump requested, faces a challenge from pro-Trump Rep. Jody Hice.
In Arizona, another pro-Trump Republican, state Rep. Mark Finchem, is seeking the secretary of state position.
“He’s already received the endorsement of Donald Trump. He has said over and over again that this was a fraudulent election. He’s called for decertification. He’s got a decent chance to win this primary,” Bill Gates, a Republican on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, told Tapper. “If we had people like that in these key positions moving forward, I think we are in danger.”
Georgia’s Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan is not seeking reelection because he doesn’t want to appease Trump.
“I don’t want to have to do and say the things I have to do and say right now to win a primary with Donald Trump trying to play the games he’s playing,” Duncan said.
We continue to learn more about the insurrection, but questions remain.
- US Attorney General Merrick Garland has not yet decided if he will pursue a criminal contempt case sought by the House against Trump ally Steve Bannon, who has ignored subpoenas.
- Trump’s legal battle involving the House January 6 committee and the National Archives to keep documents and communications related to the insurrection under seal continues.
- Jeffrey Clark, a key Department of Justice official and Trump ally during the period leading up to the insurrection, met with committee members behind closed doors Friday.
- CNN reported Friday about an overhaul at the US Capitol Police’s intelligence unit that created confusion ahead of January 6.
CNN’s Marshall Cohen has a detailed timeline of how Trump tried to weaponize the Justice Department to overthrow the 2020 election.
You’ve read that a lot – that Trump tried to overthrow the election – but this in-depth piece looks at the specific and methodical steps he took.
Here are some excerpts from Cohen’s timeline:
January 3 – (Acting Attorney General Jeff) Rosen and (acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Jeffrey) Clark go to the Oval Office for an “Apprentice”-style showdown, according to testimony from top officials. Trump considers firing Rosen and installing Clark as acting attorney general, because Clark is willing to send the letters to Georgia and other battleground states telling them there were “irregularities” with their elections. Trump opens the three-hour meeting by saying, “One thing we know is you, Rosen, aren’t going to do anything to overturn the election.” CNN previously reported that about a half-dozen senior department officials are prepared to resign in protest if Rosen is deposed, but Rosen survives the meeting.
Later that night, after the meeting, Trump calls (Rosen’s deputy, Richard) Donoghue to tell him about new fraud claims.
January 4 – The US attorney in Atlanta, Byung Jin “BJay” Pak, abruptly resigns, citing “unforeseen circumstances.” According to Pak’s testimony to the Senate, Donoghue told him he needed to quit because Trump was going to fire him. Trump said during the Oval Office showdown a day earlier that he believed Pak was a “never Trumper” and that Pak wasn’t doing enough to find fraud. Trump then changes the line of succession to replace Pak with a US attorney who he believes will “do something” about the election, according to the Senate report.
Separately, Trump meets with Pence in the Oval Office. Also in attendance is right-wing lawyer John Eastman, who pitches Pence on a legally dubious scheme to declare Trump the winner while Pence presides over the counting of the electoral votes, according to a bombshell book from Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. (Eastman later told CNN that he sought only to delay certification, not to throw the election to Trump.)
January 6 – Tens of thousands of Trump supporters descend on Washington for a rally. Trump delivers a militant speech and urges his followers to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell” to stop lawmakers, and Pence, from certifying the election results. Thousands of rioters attack the Capitol, breaching the Senate floor.
The House and Senate investigations are on a timeline themselves. Legal efforts to compel testimony from additional Trump aides would take time, but if the elections in Virginia and New Jersey are any indication, Democrats may control Congress only until January 2023.