Politics

What the Trump Documents Might Tell the Jan. 6 Committee

The National Archives has turned over to the House select committee investigating the assault on the Capitol last Jan. 6 a large batch of documents that former President Donald J. Trump had sought to keep out of the panel’s hands, citing executive privilege.

The committee has yet to make the documents public or disclose how far along it is in scrutinizing them for any new information about the roles played by Mr. Trump and his inner circle in the effort to delay certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.

But in court filings, Mr. Trump, his legal team and the archives identified the documents that he was seeking to shield through claims of executive privilege, an argument that the Supreme Court rejected last week.

It remains unclear how valuable the documents — at least 770 pages — will be to the investigation. But here is a list of them as identified in the court filings, what is known about them and how they might fit into the larger narrative being assembled by the committee:

Proposed talking points for Mr. Trump’s press secretary and documents related to allegations of voter fraud (629 pages)

Even before Election Day, Republicans and the Trump White House were pushing the notion — not backed by any evidence — that there could be widespread election fraud because of changes states enacted in response to the pandemic that made it easier for people to vote.

Mr. Trump refused to concede on election night, saying publicly: “This is a fraud on the American public.” In the weeks that followed, the White House — through Kayleigh McEnany, the press secretary at the time — amplified Mr. Trump’s messaging from the briefing room and on television and social media.

The materials could help the committee document the extent and intensity of the effort inside the White House to promote the baseless claims, along with more details about which members of the administration were most involved in the false claims.

Presidential activity calendars and a handwritten note concerning Jan. 6 (11 pages)

In a typical White House, a president’s calendar can provide an intimate picture of who the president meets with and the topics he may be discussing. Though Mr. Trump had a far less regimented schedule, there were still some meetings and events on his calendar, and aides kept track of where he was and what he was planning to do. The committee has indicated that it is especially interested in any communications that Mr. Trump had around Jan. 6 with top aides like Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, or with Vice President Mike Pence. A detailed calendar or notes could also help shed light on Mr. Trump’s activities as the riot unfolded on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Trump’s supporters before his rally on the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021.Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

A draft of Mr. Trump’s speech for the “Save America” rally that preceded the mob attack (10 pages)

On Jan. 6, Mr. Trump and his allies spoke at a rally on the Ellipse before his supporters marched more than a mile to the Capitol. The draft speech — which Mr. Trump’s longtime aide, Stephen Miller, helped write — would show whether Mr. Trump’s incendiary language that encouraged the protesters was ad-libbed by him or whether it was included by his speechwriters, who may have been coordinating the president’s messaging with others. In his book, Mr. Meadows claimed Mr. Trump had ad-libbed his remarks telling the crowd to march on the Capitol.

A note from Mr. Meadows about briefings and calls about the certification of the election and related issues (2 pages)

In the days leading up to Jan. 6, there was a flurry of meetings in the Oval Office. Among the most dramatic was one on Jan. 4, when Mr. Trump had a lawyer named John Eastman — who had written a memo essentially saying that the vice president had immense powers to decide who won the election — make the argument directly to Mr. Pence that he could delay the certification of the election on Jan. 6. (Mr. Pence later rejected the advice.)

On Jan. 2, three of Mr. Trump’s advisers — Rudolph W. Giuliani, Peter Navarro and Mr. Eastman — held a conference call with about 300 state lawmakers about election fraud. On Jan. 4, Phil Waldron, a former U.S. Army colonel who rose to prominence in Mr. Trump’s inner circle after the election, said members of his team briefed some senators on foreign interference in the election. Mr. Waldron said he personally gave the same briefing the next day to members of the House.

Details of meetings like those, and the planning for them, could help the committee assess whether Mr. Trump’s efforts justify a criminal referral to the Justice Department on a charge like obstructing an official proceeding in Congress.

A draft executive order on the topic of election integrity (4 pages)

A range of outside advisers were pushing for Mr. Trump to sign executive orders to help him block or slow certification of the election. Among the most audacious was one that said Mr. Trump could use the Defense Department to seize voting machines based on false claims that there had been foreign interference in the election. Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, and a lawyer advising him, Sidney Powell, were urging Mr. Trump to take this action. A copy of a draft executive order about seizing election machines was posted on Politico’s website on Friday.

But that memo is three pages, and the National Archives described a memo that is four pages. There is another memo, mentioned in a recent disclosure to the committee by the Trump ally Bernard Kerik, that could also fit this description. It was withheld by Mr. Kerik under the theory of executive privilege but was described in a log of documents that Mr. Kerik refused to turn over as, “DRAFT LETTER FROM POTUS TO SEIZE EVIDENCE IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS.”

Handwritten notes from the files of Mr. Meadows (3 pages)

As chief of staff, Mr. Meadows served both as a top aide and as a conduit for outside advisers, including members of Congress, to contact Mr. Trump and visit him at the White House. Mr. Meadows has provided investigators with hundreds of pages of documents that he had on his personal phone but has refused to sit for questioning, leading the committee to ask the Justice Department to prosecute him. His notes could potentially shed light on what Mr. Trump was hearing and saying at key moments.

Key Figures in the Jan. 6 Inquiry


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The House investigation. A select committee is scrutinizing the causes of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which occurred as Congress met to formalize Joe Biden’s election victory amid various efforts to overturn the results. Here are some key figures in the inquiry:

Donald Trump. The former president’s movement and communications on Jan. 6 appear to be a focus of the inquiry. While Mr. Trump has invoked executive privilege in an attempt to shield his records, the Supreme Court refused to block the release of the files.

Ivanka Trump. The daughter of the former president, who served as one of his senior advisers, has been asked to cooperate after the panel said it had gathered evidence that she had implored her father to call off the violence as his supporters stormed the Capitol.

Kevin McCarthy. The panel has requested an interview with the House Republican leader about his contact with Mr. Trump during the riot. The California representative, who could become speaker of the House after the midterms in November, has refused to cooperate.

Rudolph Giuliani. The panel has subpoenaed Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and three members of the legal team — Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell and Boris Epshteyn — who pursued conspiracy-filled lawsuits that made claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Mike Pence. The former vice president could be a key witness as the committee focuses on Mr. Trump’s responsibility for the riot and considers criminal referrals, but Mr. Pence reportedly has not decided whether to cooperate.

Mark Meadows. Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, who initially provided the panel with a trove of documents that showed the extent of his role in the efforts to overturn the election, is now refusing to cooperate. The House voted to recommend holding Mr. Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress.

Scott Perry and Jim Jordan. The Republican representatives of Pennsylvania and Ohio are among a group of G.O.P. congressmen who were deeply involved in efforts to overturn the election. Both Mr. Perry and Mr. Jordan have refused to cooperate with the panel.

Fox News anchors. ​​Texts between Sean Hannity and Trump officials in the days surrounding the riot illustrate the host’s unusually elevated role as an outside adviser. Mr. Hannity, along with Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade, also texted Mr. Meadows as the riot unfolded.

Big Tech firms. The panel has criticized Alphabet, Meta, Reddit and Twitter for allowing extremism to spread on their platforms and saying they have failed to cooperate adequately with the inquiry. The committee has issued subpoenas to all four companies.

Far-right figures. White nationalist leaders and militia groups are being scrutinized as the panel’s focus intensifies on the rallies that led up to the mob violence and how those with extremist views worked with pro-Trump forces to undermine the election.

Roger Stone and Alex Jones. The panel’s interest in the political operative and the conspiracy theorist indicate that investigators are intent on learning the details of the planning and financing of rallies that drew Mr. Trump’s supporters to Washington based on his lies of a stolen election.

Steve Bannon. The former Trump aide has been charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena, claiming protection under executive privilege even though he was an outside adviser. His trial is scheduled for this summer.

Michael Flynn. Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser attended an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 18 in which participants discussed seizing voting machines and invoking certain national security emergency powers. Mr. Flynn has filed a lawsuit to block the panel’s subpoenas.

Phil Waldron. The retired Army colonel has been under scrutiny since a 38-page PowerPoint document he circulated on Capitol Hill was turned over to the panel by Mr. Meadows. The document contained extreme plans to overturn the election.

Jeffrey Clark. The little-known Justice Department official repeatedly pushed his colleagues to help Mr. Trump undo his loss. The panel has recommended that Mr. Clark be held in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate.

John Eastman. The lawyer has been the subject of intense scrutiny since writing a memo that laid out how Mr. Trump could stay in power. Mr. Eastman was present at a meeting of Trump allies at the Willard Hotel that has become a prime focus of the panel.

The White House Daily Diary — a record of the president’s movements, phone calls, trips, briefings, meetings and activities (30 pages)

In a letter last week seeking an interview with Ivanka Trump, the committee described testimony it had received about the pressure applied on Mr. Pence not to certify the election from Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, Mr. Pence’s former national security adviser. The committee has also heard from other top White House witnesses, including Stephanie Grisham, a former Trump spokeswoman. Any additional documents from the White House itself could help corroborate those accounts.

Drafts of speeches, remarks and correspondence concerning the events of Jan. 6 (13 pages)

It is not clear precisely what this material covers.

A draft proclamation honoring the Capitol Police and two officers who died after the riot, Brian D. Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, as well as related emails (53 pages)

Officer Sicknick died shortly after being attacked on Jan. 6 — though not directly from injuries he sustained that day — and Officer Liebengood was one of four officers who committed suicide after the attack. Their deaths led to an outpouring of public support for the officers. But Mr. Trump has said little about the matter, and has focused his public remarks on praising the rioters and Ashli Babbitt, a woman who was fatally shot by a police officer after she breached the Capitol doors. The draft proclamation could show how the document was altered before it was released, and what those changes say about the debate inside the White House.

Records from the files of Patrick Philbin, a former deputy White House counsel

A senior Justice Department lawyer under George W. Bush, Mr. Philbin became a top White House lawyer under Mr. Trump, helping him come up with legal rationales to defend his behavior. In the final weeks of the administration — in his role as a deputy in the White House Counsel’s Office — he was supposed to vet decisions Mr. Trump was considering. Among the materials being sought from his files are:

A memo about a potential lawsuit against several states that Mr. Biden won in the November election (4 pages)

Mr. Trump’s lawyers and Republicans across the country filed a flurry of lawsuits in the weeks after the election. Nearly all of them failed. But one of the most notable — and far-fetched — was filed in mid-December when Mr. Trump’s supporters in the Texas attorney general’s office asked the Supreme Court to disqualify the votes in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The gambit quickly failed.

An email chain from a state official regarding election-related issues (3 pages)

It is not clear which state official this might be or whether the email chain pertains to the Texas suit or an election in another state.

Talking points on alleged election irregularities in one Michigan county (3 pages)

Mr. Trump’s allies sought to discredit the results in Antrim County in Michigan, where a human error by the Republican county clerk led to an initial tally favoring Mr. Biden in the heavily Republican county. The clerk, Sheryl Guy, had not properly updated the software in the county’s tabulation system, resulting in a temporarily erroneous total. The error was quickly corrected, and the results were later affirmed by a hand recount in mid-December. Trump allies nonetheless seized on these initial discrepancies and won a court order to examine a voting machine in Antrim County produced by Dominion Voting Systems. An analysis of the machine and its software — by a cybersecurity firm allied with Ms. Powell, the lawyer backing Mr. Trump — led to the creation of an error-filled report that claimed an almost 70 percent error rate in the tally. This report was one of the first things cited in a draft executive order seeking to have the Pentagon help seize voting machines around the country.

A document containing presidential findings concerning the security of the 2020 presidential election and ordering various actions (3 pages)

Under a plan being pushed by Mr. Flynn and Ms. Powell, Mr. Trump would declare that there was foreign influence in the election, allowing him to use the powers of the Defense Department to seize voting machines and have the votes recounted. To make such a baseless claim, Mr. Trump may have sought to cite some sort of findings about the election’s security.

Allies of Mr. Flynn, including Mr. Waldron and Ms. Powell, have said that a crucial part of the effort hinged on a report that the director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, was scheduled to submit to Congress on Dec. 18 about foreign influence in the election. Mr. Ratcliffe never turned in his report because of a disagreement in the intelligence community about China’s role in the election, according to several news reports. The Flynn-Powell plan went nowhere. The committee also received two pages of notes indicating who received the so-called presidential findings.

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