The House January 6 committee on Friday released another wave of witness interview transcripts.
The new release is part of a steady stream of transcript drops that the House select committee has put out over the past week, complementing the release of its sweeping 845-page report.
Transcripts of interviews with some of the most intriguing figures in the committee’s probe were released Friday.
Those witnesses include Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas, who told the committee that she regretted texts she sent to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows encouraging election reversal efforts. Trump White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato – whose interview transcript was also released Friday after the committee publicly questioned his credibility in its report – pushed back on another key witness’ claim that he had recounted to her a dramatic episode involving Trump in his motorcade.
Former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, meanwhile, shed new light on how a Trump team shift in strategy came to be, with the transcript of his interview released Friday.
The latest transcript drop comes as the panel winds down its work with the House majority set to change hands from Democrats to Republicans next week at the start of the new Congress.
The transcripts released so far have shed new light on how the House committee conducted its investigation of the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol – and new details about what key witnesses told the panel.
Here are some of the highlights from the latest disclosures:
Then-President Donald Trump wanted to trademark the phrase “Rigged Election!” days after Election Day in 2020, according to emails provided by Jared Kushner to the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol.
On November 9, 2020, then-Trump aide Dan Scavino emailed Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, with the request from Trump.
“Hey Jared! POTUS wants to trademark/own rights to below, I don’t know who to see – or ask…I don’t know who to take to,” the email from Scavino reads, according to a transcript of Kushner’s testimony to the committee, which was released by the panel on Friday.
Two phrases were bolded in the email: “Save America PAC!” and “Rigged Election!”
Kushner forwarded the request and discussed it on an email chain that included Eric Trump, the President’s son; Alex Cannon, a Trump campaign lawyer; Sean Dollman, the chief financial officer of Trump’s 2020 campaign, and Justin Clark, a Trump campaign lawyer.
“Guys – can we do ASAP please?” Kushner writes.
Eric Trump responded saying “Both web URLs are already registered. Save America PAC was registered October 23 of this year. Was that done by the campaign?”
Dollman responds: “‘Save America PAC’ is already taken/registered, just confirming that. But we can still file for ‘Save America.’”
Kushner’s response, according to the transcript, was “Go.”
A feeling that courts weren’t comfortable with Trump’s legal challenges to the 2020 election drove the Trump team’s pivot to state legislatures, former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the House January 6 committee earlier this year.
The theory that the US Constitution lets state legislatures intervene in the presidential election results first came up within the week after the election, Giuliani told congressional investigators. But he and then-fellow Trump attorney Jenna Ellis looked more closely at the idea when the lawsuits challenging the results weren’t getting traction.
“We just got a bad feeling that these judges didn’t – they didn’t want to hear witnesses, citizens, American citizens, and that if American citizens could get up and testify, there were so many of them that it would make a very big difference,” Giuliani said in his May deposition.
The theory that a state legislature could override the results of a state’s presidential vote is considered a fringe one, and Congress recently enacted statutory changes to limit legislatures’ ability to do so.
At one point, Giuliani said, “It seemed to me the courts didn’t want to be involved in a political question like this. And there was a kind of a discomfort too. Somehow we were trying to think, well, who would resolve something like this. And we started reading the Constitution.”
Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a conservative activist and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, told the committee that when she said she was “disgusted” with then-Vice President Mike Pence in a text on January 10, 2021, she wasn’t referring to his refusal to stop the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s win, but rather to her frustration with him not talking up election fraud claims. There was no evidence of widespread election fraud in the election.
“I was frustrated that I thought Vice President Pence might concede earlier than what President Trump was inclined to do,” Thomas said, according to a transcript released Friday. “And I wanted to hear Vice President Pence talk more about the fraud and irregularities in certain states that I thought was still lingering.”
“I wasn’t focused on the Vice President’s role on January 6th,” she said, when asked specifically if the text – previously reported by CNN – was connected to how he handled that day.
At another point in the interview, Democratic Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin asked Thomas what specific episodes of fraud concerned her.
“I can’t say that I was familiar at that time with any specific evidence,” she said, pointing instead to what she heard from “friends on the ground” and “grassroots activists” who had “found things suspicious” at polling places.
“I don’t know specific instances,” she said. “But certainly I think we all know that there are people questioning what happened in 2020, and it takes time to develop an understanding of the facts.”
The committee had only limited questions about Ginni Thomas’ interactions with her husband and his role on the Supreme Court – an area she would likely be able to decline to answer questions about, given the confidentiality allowed for married couples.
Justice Thomas had no idea she was texting Meadows, Ginni Thomas told the investigators.
“He first learned of my text messaging with Mark Meadows in March when he was in the hospital and this committee released them,” she said in her interview.
Ginni Thomas told the House select committee she regretted the text messages she was sending to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows after the election.
“I regret the tone and content of these texts … I really find my language imprudent and my choices of sending the context of these emails unfortunate,” Thomas said.
Thomas’ mea culpa to the committee, captured in a transcript of her September interview that was released publicly Friday, marks a rare moment of public reflection from one of the more intriguing avenues the House panel pursued, after obtaining Meadows’ texts. Thomas, a longtime conservative activist, had been sending Meadows messages about challenging the election’s results. She explained to the committee at her interview she was concerned about a concession of the election before accusations of fraud were fully explored.
“It was an emotional time. I was probably just emoting,” she said, in response to direct questions from Rep. Adam Schiff. “Some of these are just things I was showing were moving through the movement and I’m regretting that they became public … Certainly I didn’t want my emotional texts to a friend released and made available.”
An attorney for Thomas said in a statement Friday that her “post-election activities” after Trump lost in 2020 were “minimal and mainstream.”
“Her minimal activity was focused on ensuring that reports of fraud and irregularities were investigated,” attorney Mark Paoletta said in the statement. “Beyond that, she played no role in any events following the 2020 election. She also condemned the violence on January 6.”
One of key witnesses in the House committee’s investigation, former White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato, told the panel he couldn’t recall details from the day of January 6, 2021, amid what he called “the fog of war” during the US Capitol attack.
Ornato has been a central figure in the investigation ever since former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified that he relayed to her how then-President Trump angrily tried to redirect his motorcade to the Capitol that day – another detail that Ornato told the committee he didn’t recall.
Ornato told the committee that most of his job on January 6 involved relaying information he received to then-chief of staff Mark Meadows and said he couldn’t recall specific details when asked about who was trying to encourage Trump to send out a statement that day.
“I’ll be honest with you, it was a very chaotic time in trying to get the information, and it was usually late information or it wasn’t accurate or it was the fog of war and it was misrepresented. And it was very – a very chaotic day, so I don’t recall those specific details,” Ornato said.
During a public hearing in June, Hutchinson testified that Ornato told her Trump was angry he couldn’t go to the Capitol on January 6 after his speech at the Ellipse and that, during the ride back to the White House, he reached toward the front of the car to grab at the steering wheel.
According to Ornato’s November testimony to the committee, which was released Friday, Ornato did not recall the conversation with Hutchinson and said he was “shocked” by her testimony.
“I was called to put it on,” Ornato told the committee, referring to Hutchinson’s televised testimony, “and I was shocked and surprised of her testimony and called Mr. Engel and asked him, ‘What is she talking about?’”
Ornato said that Robert Engel, the lead Secret Service agent in Trump’s motorcade on the day of the US Capitol attack, didn’t know what Hutchinson was referring to. Hutchinson testified that Ornato relayed the story about Trump’s outburst to her back at the White House, while Engel was in the room.
The committee makes clear in its final report it did not find Ornato’s testimony credible.
An attorney on Trump’s post-election legal team questioned some of the statistics being used to support claims of mass fraud, pointing out that many supposedly dead voters in Georgia likely sent in their ballots before they died, according to a January 6 committee transcript released Friday.
The committee read an email from the attorney, Katherine Friess, to Giuliani during the panel’s interview with him. In the email, Friess weighed in on a chart being prepared for Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican.
“Many of the dead voters on the Georgia list sent their vote in before they passed. I don’t think this makes a particularly strong case, and I think it’s possible that Chairman Graham will push back on that,” Friess said in the email, according to the committee investigators who were questioning Giuliani.
CNN previously reported that another Trump lawyer, Christina Bobb, told the committee that Graham promised to “champion” Trump’s election fraud claims, saying: “Just give me five dead voters.” And Georgia election officials told Trump they found two votes cast in the names of dead people, not 5,000 as the former president suggested.
Friess said in her email that she was raising the issue so that everyone is aware of “what the data actually says.” Hundreds of names on the list were of people who had died after their ballot was received, according to the committee’s description of the chart.
An attorney who represented Friess in litigation she brought to block a committee subpoena of her phone records did not immediately respond to CNN’s inquiry about her email.