Donald Trump reportedly spoke to allies gathered at Washington, DC’s Willard Hotel “several” times in the hours before the 6 January insurrection with the aim of discussing how they could stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s electoral college win.
According to a report in The Guardian, Mr Trump told his advisers that then-vice president Mike Pence was unwilling to execute a plan his attorneys had devised, by which Mr Pence would have hijacked the quadrennial joint session of Congress in service of installing himself and Mr Trump for a second term against the wishes of American voters.
With Pence having spurned Mr Trump’s demands for an extraconstitutional usurpation of Congress’ authority, the defeated president reportedly continued to cajole his allies — including lawyer John Eastman, ex-New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn — to brainstorm ways to delay the process by which Mr Pence would preside over the official pronouncement of his and Mr Trump’s defeat.
The Guardian also reports that a number of the calls came on the evening of 5 January, and consisted of separate conversations with those in the group who were attorneys and those who were not, an idea attributed to Mr Giuliani’s desire to preserve claims of attorney-client privilege.
The allegations — which The Independent has not yet confirmed — are the first which posit a direct link between Mr Trump and the gathering at the Willard, a famous Washington institution located just steps from the White House.
Questions over what Mr Trump knew about plans for 6 January are a central focus of the investigation being conducted by the House select committee established to probe what happened before and during the worst attack on the Capitol since the British troops under command of Major General Robert Ross set it ablaze in 1814.
The committee has issued subpoenas to more than 40 persons connected with the events of that day, including Messrs Eastman and Bannon, the latter of whom has been charged with criminal contempt of Congress for failing to honour the committee’s demand for documents and testimony.
Mr Trump has also sought to block the committee from reviewing White House records created in the days leading up to and including 6 January by claiming that they are shielded by executive privilege, a legal doctrine which protects communications between and among a president and his advisers.
The current president, Mr Biden, has declined to assert the privilege over the records. A District of Columbia appeals court is set to hear arguments on Tuesday on whether Mr Trump’s claims have any validity.
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