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There’s Something Troubling About What Trump Did The Day Before The Jan. 6 Attack

There’s Something Troubling About What Trump Did The Day Before The Jan. 6 Attack
Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Cassidy Hutchinson said something during her testimony on June 28 that has continued to trouble me.

She testified that on January 5, the day before the attack on the Capitol, she overheard Donald Trump direct her then boss, former chief of staff Mark Meadows, to reach out to both Roger Stone and Mike Flynn, two key Trump allies. It was her understanding that Meadows completed calls to both those men that same evening.

For me, this was a record scratch moment.

Both Stone and Flynn are shadowy figures with known ties to conspiracy movements and extremist groups. During its first public hearing, the January 6 Committee had demonstrated how the Proud Boys led the storming of the Capitol and met secretly with the Oath Keepers in a parking garage on January 5.

The leaders of both groups are now charged with seditious conspiracy and face 20 year prison sentences.

Hutchinson’s testimony thus raised a crucial question:

Did Trump reach out in advance to find out what these groups had planned for January 6? In other words, did the White House actually have prior knowledge that these groups planned to attack?

Before we get out over our skis, there are many things we still don’t know about what happened after Trump allegedly gave this instruction to Meadows. We don’t know for sure that the call actually happened, for example.

Stone (who really should never be believed on anything), has claimed that no call to him from Meadows took place on that date. Even assuming the calls did happen, as Hutchinson has attested, we still don’t know what was said, and Meadows himself has refused to testify.

Importantly, we don’t know why Trump would have issued such an instruction to reach out to these two men in particular. But this is the kind of question that begins to shape other inquiries and is useful as a “wait a second…” thought exercise.

It’s why I keep coming back to it. For what possible reason would Trump want to reach out to both Stone and Flynn on January 5?

By this date, Trump knew that the Eastman plan, which required the cooperation of then Vice President Mike Pence, was a bust. All efforts to cajole Pence into going along with it had been rebuffed by Pence and his advisors.

Pence already had told Trump on January 4, in no uncertain terms, that he simply did not have the power to reverse the outcome of the election. Trump was left issuing vague warnings to Pence over Twitter and before crowds of followers in Georgia about him needing to have courage and do the right thing, but it was already clear to Trump that Pence would not comply.

We also now know that Stone and Flynn were not central to the illegal plan to abuse the electoral count process, what I have called the “soft coup” attempt. That was being coordinated by Eastman and Giuliani out of the “war room” at the Willard Hotel.

Rather, Stone and Flynn were closely aligned with the “hard coup” proponents and violent elements of the “Stop the Steal” campaign. Flynn and Stone were considered so extreme that they weren’t allowed to even speak at the January 6 rally at the Ellipse, and so instead they appeared at a separate rally of radical elements on January 5.

Stone whipped up the crowd there, telling them the President's enemies sought "nothing less than the heist of the 2020 election." In his speech, Flynn promoted a rally called the "Jericho March" that was to take place at the Capitol on January 6.

What these two men did share in common was their close contact with the most extreme elements gathered in D.C., including with leaders who coordinated and led the attack on the Capitol. Trump wanted to hear from the “hard coup” folks.

As The Washington Postreported, Flynn was part of a group of Trump advisors who attended a fateful, surprise meeting with Trump in the White House on December 18, 2020 during which “participants discussed seizing voting machines, declaring a national emergency, invoking certain national security emergency powers and continuing to spread the message” that the 2020 election was tainted by fraud.

Flynn frequently used a security detail from an extremist group called the 1st Amendment Praetorian (1AP), which as Mother Jonesreported was founded in 2020 to provide security to prominent Trump backers, including Flynn and Stop the Steal founder Ali Alexander.

Per The Guardian, while the 1AP are not presently accused of having taken part in the violent attack on January 6, at least one of its operatives, a member named Geoffrey Flohr, circled the Capitol as the attack was underway talking covertly with an earpiece while another member, Philip Luelsdorff, observed proceedings in the Trump “war room” at the Willard hotel.

I have written before about Stone’s extensive ties to the Proud Boys and of the Oath Keepers comprising his personal security detail. If anyone within Trump’s circle had inside information as to what both these groups were planning on January 6, it would have been Stone.

Indeed, as The New York Timesreported, Stone oversaw a messaging chat group on the encrypted app Signal called “Friends of Stone” that included indicted Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio and indicted Oath Keepers leader Stuart Rhodes.

The Washington Postreported earlier that video footage from a documentary film crew showed that Stone also communicated directly via a messaging app with both Tarrio and Rhodes. On the day of the attack, for around 90 minutes during the height of the violence at the Capitol, Stone uncharacteristically kicked the filmmakers out of his room and wouldn’t let them film what he was doing.

Stone has also exhibited extreme consciousness of guilt. He personally lobbied to have everyone involved in the plot to overturn the election pardoned as part of what became known as the “Stone Plan.” But the scheme was thwarted by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is now set to testify via videotaped testimony before the Committee in private today, July 8, 2022.

“Clearly, Cipollone f*cked everybody,” Stone said on January 19, 2021, the day before the end of the Trump presidency, to a friend who was himself serving time for fraud. “See you in prison,” he later texted to another Trump associate that evening.

With this backdrop, I come back to my original nagging question: Why on earth did Trump want Meadows to reach out to these radicals, Stone and Flynn?

The answer, which of course will need strong proof, at least feels obvious as a working hypothesis: Those were the very guys who knew what heat was coming on January 6 from the most extreme, violent factions there in D.C. If there was going to be an attack on the Capitol, Stone and Flynn would know about it.

Any evidence that the White House had advance knowledge of plans by the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers to violently assault the Capitol would blow the roof off the house, to coin a phrase used by Maryland Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin when he earlier promised what the hearings would show.

It may be coincidence, but Raskin is set to conduct the questioning of witnesses this coming Tuesday.

This could be highly wishful thinking on my part, but to this observer at least, it would feel self-defeating for the Committee to come back to the Proud Boys and other violent groups after six intervening hearings without something concrete to tie them to the White House’s advance knowledge of their plans.

That is what I am now looking for the Committee ultimately to deliver next week.