The January 6 committee is alarmed that Donald Trump or his allies may be attempting to tamper with the testimony of witnesses participating in the congressional inquiry.
“Most Americans know that attempting to influence witnesses to testify untruthfully presents very serious concerns,” committee vice chairwoman Liz Cheney said on Tuesday.
The committee shared anonymous testimony on Tuesday from January 6 witnesses detailing mob-style threats from unnamed people inside the Trump camp.
“What they said to me is, as long as I continue to be a team player, they know that I’m on the team, I’m doing the right thing, I’m protecting who I need to protect, you know, I’ll continue to stay in good graces in Trump World,” the witness told legislators.
“They reminded me a couple of times that Trump does read transcripts and to just keep that in mind as I proceeded through my depositions and interviews with the committee,” the witness added.
“He knows you’re loyal, and you’re going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition,” another witness recalled being told.
The Independent has contacted Mr Trump for comment.
Witness tampering is illegal under federal law, including in regards to proceedings before Congress, and is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.
Mr Trump and his allies have certainly been putting pressure on January 6 witnesses in public.
Throughout Tuesday’s hearings, Mr Trump was railing against Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide who provided shocking testimony of the former president allegedly attacking staff and willingly welcoming armed supporters to attack the Capitol.
Posting a stream of messages on his Truth Social app, Mr Trump claimed he “hardly” knows who Ms Hutchinson is, and accusing the former aide of spreading a “sick” and “fraudulent” set of stories.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump’s spokesperson posted on Truth Social that Ms Hutchinson was a “pathetic” person and a “swamp social climber making up stories for her (not even) 15 minutes” of fame.
The January 6 committee said it had called a surprise final hearing for June on Tuesday in part because of “sincere concerns” for Ms Hutchinson’s safety.
It’s not the first time potential witness tampering has come up in the context of the Capitol riot committee.
In February, congressman Pete Aguilar of California accused Mr Trump of trying to sway testimony by offering pardons if he’s re-elected as president.
“I think the question is more for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Where are they? Do they support this? When is enough enough?” Mr Aguilar told CNN.
“When a mob is chanting, ‘Hang Mike Pence,’ it wasn’t enough,” he continued. “When the former president asked [Georgia Secretary of State] Brad Raffensperger to find him 11,000 votes, it wasn’t enough. Now, he’s dangling pardons, if he gets back in office, for individuals. Will that be enough? Or will there be more collective amnesia? I just don’t know where the floor is these days on that side of the aisle.”
The former president has repeatedly discussed pardons related to January 6.
“Another thing we’ll do — and so many people have been asking me about it — if I run and if I win, we will treat those people from Jan. 6 fairly. We will treat them fairly,” Mr Trump said at a rally in January of 2022. “And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons. Because they are being treated so unfairly.”
While he was president, Mr Trump was also prone to attack those giving testimony against him.
In 2019, as the first impeachment process against Mr Trump was underway, the then-president went after former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during her testimonyclaiming on Twitter, “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?”
“It’s very intimidating,” she said in response to the attacks during the hearing. “I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do, but the effect is to be intimidating.”
(The White House said at the time Mr Trump was not engaging in witness intimidation, but rather sharing “the president’s opinion, which he is entitled to” in a process it called a “totally illegitimate, charade stacked against the president.”)