Former White House press secretary details ‘secret meetings’ Trump held at White House residence before January 6 coup

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A report Thursday in the Guardian cites testimony from former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, as well as unnamed sources close to the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 coup attempt, which found that in the days leading up to the attack, Trump held secret, off-the-record meetings at his residence inside the White House, not his office, which were known only to a few staffers high level.

Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. Credit Andrew Harnik AP

Although details of what was discussed or who attended the meetings are not known at this time, the Guardian reported that Grisham, who testified before the select committee last week, said former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House chief Usher Timothy Harleth, a longtime family loyalist Trump, had facilitated the secret meetings.

Grisham, who resigned in the wake of the failed coup, said meetings were primarily scheduled by Meadows, while Harleth would drive attendees upstairs to Trump’s private quarters, according to the Guardian.

Meadows has previously been found in contempt of Congress for his refusal to cooperate with the select committee. Before accepting Trump’s offer to work at the White House in 2017, Harleth, who has yet to be subpoenaed by the committee, worked as a room manager at the Trump International Hotel DC.

In a November 13, 2021 interview with CNN’s Jim Acosta, Grisham said the secret meetings helped the scheming and paranoid Trump track the “leaks” and saved the visits from being recorded by the National Archives. , which regularly archives all White House newspapers.

Trump held the off-the-record meetings primarily “so he could keep track of who was there and if it leaked, he could try to figure that out,” Grisham said.

“But number two, so he was way off books and documents and anything that was written could probably be thrown in the trash where people can’t come and pick them up to put them in the archives.”

She added: “It’s happened a bit and I’m sure the select committee is aware of that and looking into that.”

While Trump no doubt wanted the meetings to remain secret, the Guardian reported that Grisham told the select committee that Trump’s movements would still be recorded by the US Secret Service in a database called Presidential Line-by-Line.

These logs, Grisham explained, would also show Trump’s intentions regarding his decision not to join his supporters in descending on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, after telling them during his speech that he would.

“We’re going down, and I’ll be there with you, we’re going down… we’re going down to the Capitol,” Trump told the right-wing crowd, which included far-right militiamen, white supremacists and others. fascists, at the Jan. 6 “Save America” rally in front of the White House.

the Guardian also reported that Grisham explained to the committee the high-level coordination that took place between the Trump White House, the Secret Service and the organizers of the “Save America” ​​rally. This was done apparently to ensure Trump’s appearance.

Trump’s former aide told the committee that Trump was “constantly on the phone” with rally organizers. He apparently took a great interest in “optics” and was “determined to speak out at the rally”, the newspaper reported.

Grisham’s closed-door testimony demonstrates that there is much more to learn about the events leading up to January 6, evidence not covered by the latest legal battle between Trump and the House Select Committee, which ended in a complete defeat of the ex-president on Wednesday in the Supreme Court.

In an 8-1 decision, the High Court, including the three far-right members Trump personally named, denied his request to block the release of White House documents related to the attack on Capitol Hill requested by the select committee. The decision covers hundreds of pages of diaries, memos and notes taken by top White House aides during the Jan. 6 attack and the days leading up to it.

Regardless of the significance of the specific items, the substance and timing of the court’s decision is a blow to Trump. He had hoped for either an assertion of his right to withhold documents and block testimony from aides and former aides, through a sweeping assertion of “executive privilege.”

Since the establishment of the select committee, Trump’s lawyers essentially argue that all communications Trump has had with anyone during his tenure, whether on national security matters or overthrowing the election of Joe Biden , were protected by “executive privilege”. ”

Even if he didn’t win outright, Trump had hoped the Supreme Court would proceed so slowly that the process would be delayed until after the November election, when the Republican Party could take control of the House. In this case, the new majority would dissolve the select committee, end the investigation and cancel the subpoenas. Instead, the court ruled quickly, issuing a one-paragraph decision that left him without any legal recourse. The National Archives should soon hand over the documents.

The court didn’t even address the conflict between Trump’s claim of executive privilege and Biden’s decision to waive executive privilege for all official records relating to Jan. 6. Court precedents suggest that the incumbent president has near absolute priority over a former president in such claims of privilege.

In its brief order, the court said that since “President Trump’s claim would have failed even if he were the incumbent, his status as a former president did not necessarily make any difference to the court’s decision.” Only arch-conservative Clarence Thomas sided with Trump, and he offered no opinion to explain his vote.

The court’s decision came shortly after the House Select Committee announced its latest batch of subpoenas, this time targeting “America First” fascists Nicholas Fuentes and Patrick Casey. Calling themselves “Groypers,” an anti-Semitic slur, the couple were at the Capitol on Jan. 6, along with about 50 other associates. Fuentes and Casey also participated in “Stop the Steal” rallies prior to Jan. 6.

Fuentes was repeatedly promoted and in turn promoted by fascist Republican politicians from Arizona, Representative Paul Gosar and State Senator Wendy Rogers, the former speaking at a Fuentes-sponsored event in the spring last after the coup.

In his letter to Fuentes, Mississippi Democrat and committee chairman Bennie Thompson highlighted the fascist appearance outside the Capitol on January 6: “You called on your supporters to continue to occupy the Capitol until the election results are overturned, and you proclaimed a ‘Glorious day’ on your Twitter… The next day you wrote on Twitter: ‘Capitol siege was awesome and I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t the case.”

Thompson also drew attention to a $250,000 donation Fuentes received from a French neo-Nazi less than a month before the coup attempt. In his letter to Casey, Thompson wrote that Casey received $25,000 in Bitcoin from the same neo-Nazi.

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