Why Trump appears deeply unnerved as Capitol attack investigation closes in

Donald Trump is increasingly agitated by the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack, according to sources familiar with the matter, and appears anxious he might be implicated in the sprawling inquiry into the insurrection even as he protests his innocence.

The former president in recent weeks has complained more about the investigation, demanding why his former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, shared so much material about 6 January with the select committee, and why dozens of other aides have also cooperated.

 

Trump has also been perturbed by aides invoking the Fifth Amendment in depositions - it makes them look weak and complicit in a crime, he has told associates - and considers them foolish for not following the lead of his former strategist Steve Bannon in simply ignoring the subpoenas.

When Trump sees new developments in the Capitol attack investigation on television, he has started swearing about the negative coverage and bemoaned that the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, was too incompetent to put Republicans on the committee to defend him.

 

The former president’s anger largely mirrors the kind of expletives he once directed at the Russia inquiry and the special counsel investigation when he occupied the White House. But the rapidly accelerating investigation into whether Trump and top aides unlawfully conspired to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory at the 6 January joint session appears to be unnerving him deeply.

 

The portrait that emerges from interviews with multiple sources close to Trump, including current and former aides, suggests a former president unmoored and backed into a corner by the rapid escalation in intensity of the committee’s investigation.

 

A spokesperson for Trump did not respond to requests for comment.

 

But as Trump struggles to shield himself from the select committee, with public hearings next year and the justice department said to be tracking the investigation, the path ahead is only likely to be more treacherous.

 

The former president is especially attuned to his potential for legal exposure, even as he maintains he did nothing wrong in conferring about ways to overturn the 2020 election and encouraging supporters to march on the Capitol. He has expressed alarm to associates about repeated defeats in court as he seeks to stop the select committee obtaining some of the most sensitive of White House documents about 6 January from the National Archives, on grounds of executive privilege.

The reality is that with each passing day, the committee seems to be gathering new evidence about Trump’s culpability around the Capitol attack that might culminate with recommendations for new election laws – but also for prosecutions.

 

Donald Trump supporters outside the Capitol building in Washington on 6 January.

I think that the justice department will keep a keen eye on what evidence the committee has accumulated, as well as looking out for witnesses for a potential case,” said Ryan Goodman, a former special counsel at the Department of Defense now a law professor at New York University.

 

“One of the outcomes of the committee’s work and the public hearings will be to demonstrate individuals who might be wanting to come forward as witnesses and that’s got to be very important to justice department prosecutors,” Goodman said.

 

House investigators are expected to soon surpass more than 300 interviews with Trump administration officials and Trump political operatives as part of a process that has yielded 30,000 documents and 250 tips via the select committee’s tip line.

 

The flurry of recent revelations – such as the disclosure of Meadows’s connection to a powerpoint outlining how Trump could stage a coup, as first reported by the Guardian – raises the specter that the select committee is swiftly heading towards an incriminating conclusion.

 

Trump’s associates insist they are not worried, at least for the moment, since the select committee has yet to obtain materials covered by executive privilege either through Meadows or the National Archives that could ensnare Trump personally.


Mugisha Eric

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