Two key White House aides to testify on Thursday

The two aides in question are Matthew Pottinger, former deputy national security advisor, and Sarah Matthews, a former press aide, according to media reports trickling in from Washington….writes Ashok Nilakantan

The Congressional Committee investigating the Capitol Hill insurrection of January 6, 2021 has lined up for Thursday two key witnesses, both then US President Donald Trump’s top aides, to testify on what happened in the ex-President’s Oval office and the West Wing on the fateful day of the mob attack on the Congress building.

Scheduled to appear on Thursday before the committee’s next public hearing are reportedly two former White House aides — a press aide and a deputy NSC advisor — who are expected to testify as to what Trump was doing when a mob comprising his supporters violently stormed the US Capitol.

The hearing, according to committee member Jamie Raskin, would be a “moment of reckoning” for the US, and is set to focus on Trump’s inaction during the attack.

The two aides in question are Matthew Pottinger, former deputy national security advisor, and Sarah Matthews, a former press aide, according to media reports trickling in from Washington.

Both Pottinger and Matthews were among a group of Trump administration staffers who resigned immediately after January 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the 2020 Presidential election results.

They will join a parade of witnesses — including Trump family members, former administration staffers and Republican state officials — who have testified publicly before the panel or sat for previously recorded depositions.

Matthews, who was first deposed by the committee in February, came to the defence of Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who testified last month about how a frantic Trump ordered Secret Service agents to take him to the Capitol following his January 6 speech on the Ellipse rallying his supporters, according to the New York Post.

The panel has interviewed over 1,000 witnesses, including star witnesses Pat Cipollone, White House counsel to Trump, and Cassidy Hutchinson, top aide to Mark Meadows, white house chief of staff, already over the former President’s behaviour during the riots, during which Hutchinson disclosed in an explosive testimony that Trump had refused to send a tweet calling the crowd off and that he may have suggested they were right to call for Mike Pence to be hanged as she overheard conversations in the West Wing. Cipollone did not deny Hutchinson’s testimony or witnesses prior to that.

Trump ally Steve Bannon was scheduled to stand trial on Monday on contempt charges for his involvement as he had advance knowledge of the insurrection since he had said in messages prior to January 6 that “all hell is about to break loose (tomorrow) on Jan 6”.

File photo taken on Jan. 6, 2021 shows supporters of then U.S. President Donald Trump gathering near the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the United States. (Xinhua_Liu Jie_IANS)

A former Trump strategist had reportedly been in touch with Trump all through, though not physically present in the White House on the fateful day.

Bannon, the former President’s longtime lieutenant and hardcore right-wing agitator, had refused to comply with the committee’s subpoena, and his various last-ditch efforts to head off or delay the trial had failed.

The committee had said he was not entitled to executive privilege of the ex-President as he was not physically present in the White House on that day, though Trump had said he was willing to waive that.

The Secret Service is facing the deadline on Tuesday to hand over text messages from January 5-6, 2021, some of which the agency said it deleted as part of a “device-replacement programme” and secret service periodical protocols.

The committee had subpoenaed the Secret Service for “relevant” text messages and any action reports “pertaining or relating in any way to the events” of January 6 on last Friday after the agency disputed claims that it had erased the messages before an electronic communication request was made, according to a report in the Washington Examiner.

It’s not clear whether data that were “lost” on mobile phones when they were reverted to their factory settings as part of a “pre-planned” system migration could be recovered. The tapes are crucial exhibits to corroborate the events of attacks on Capitol Hill.

The subpoena was issued after Joseph Cuffari, the inspector general in the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of the Secret Service, met with the committee behind closed doors on Friday.

The Secret Service denied any “insinuation” that it had “maliciously deleted text messages” and said it has been cooperative with the office of the inspector general’s evaluation of the events of January 6, 2021.

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