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Two Texas congressmen attended White House meeting about overturning 2020 election results, Jan. 6 committee reveals

By Eric Neugeboren, The Texas Tribune

Two Texas congressmen attended White House meeting about overturning 2020 election results, Jan. 6 committee reveals” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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WASHINGTON — Two Republican Texas congressmen — Brian Babin of Woodville and Louie Gohmert of Tyler — participated in a December 2020 White House discussion about whether former Vice President Mike Pence could reject former President Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection loss, the U.S. House Committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol revealed Tuesday.

But it wasn’t immediately clear how Babin or Gohmert participated. The revelation, based on White House visitor logs, came during the seventh meeting of the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection during which Trump supporters sought to stop Pence and Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election win. Babin and Gohmert did not immediately respond Tuesday to requests for comment about the meeting.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida, a committee member who helped lead Tuesday’s hearing, said the Dec. 21, 2020, meeting included discussion of Trump adviser John Eastman’s attempt to overturn the former president’s election loss. Eastman authored a memo that outlined the steps for Pence to take to overturn the 2020 election results by rejecting some of Biden’s Electoral College votes. But on Jan. 6, 2020, Pence went against Eastman and Trump and certified Biden’s win — after people storming the Capitol caused a delay.

Trump supporters called for Pence to be hanged as they descended on the building and disrupted the certification.

The December 2020 meeting also included some of Trump’s most ardent Republican supporters in Congress, according to visitor logs obtained by the committee: Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Andy Harris of Maryland, Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs of Arizona, Jody Hice of Georgia, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. Representative-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia also attended.

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone objected to efforts to overturn the results and was not allowed to be a part of a meeting between Trump, Pence and Eastman on Jan. 4, 2021.

“I thought that the vice president did not have the authority to do what was being suggested under a proper reading of the law. I conveyed that,” Cipollone said in recorded testimony that was played at Tuesday’s hearing.

The meeting is the latest evidence of Gohmert’s inside role in aiding Trump’s plan to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Babin’s name had not previously surfaced in the committee’s hearings.

The committee’s hearings have sought to lay out how Trump and his allies launched a coordinated effort to overturn Biden’s electoral victory, despite knowing claims of widespread voter fraud were unsubstantiated. The committee has devoted hearings to the pressure Trump placed on state legislators in swing states and Trump’s actions immediately following Election Day. The committee has just two GOP members of Congress after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pulled other Republicans from the panel last year.

Tuesday’s hearing chronicled the time between Dec. 14, 2020 — the day the Electoral College voted to confirm Biden’s victory — until the day before the Capitol attack, charting how Trump and his allies continued last-ditch efforts to overturn the election results, even after it had become clear there was no widespread voter fraud.

The hearing had the most references to Texans of any hearing so far. Also mentioned were Alex Jones and Ali Alexander, two prominent far-right figures who called on their supporters to challenge the election results.

These calls became most prominent after Trump tweeted a call for his supporters to travel to Washington on Jan. 6.

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 19, just after a contentious meeting in the White House where Trump’s lawyers repeatedly said there was no evidence of fraud.

Jones, a far-right radio host, urged Trump supporters to heed Trump’s call.

“President Trump in the early morning hours today tweeted that he wants the American people to march on Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021,” Jones told his supporters in a video played at Tuesday’s hearing. “He is calling on we the people to take action and show our numbers. … The time for games is over. The time for action is now. Where were you when history called? Where were you when you and your children’s destiny and future was on the line?”

Alexander led the “Stop the Steal” movement after Biden won the election.

“These degenerates in the deep state are going to give us what we want or we are going to shut this country down,” Alexander said in a speech shown at Tuesday’s hearing.

The hearing linked Alexander and Jones to Roger Stone, a Trump adviser who helped lead conspiracy theories about the election. Kellye SoRelle, a lawyer for the far-right group Oath Keepers, told the committee in recorded testimony that the three people leading the “Stop the Steal” movement were Stone, Jones and Alexander.

“Those are the ones that became the center point for everything,” SoRelle said in recorded testimony.

The committee revealed there was a group chat called “Friends of Stone,” in which Alexander was a member. Texan Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, was also in the group.

Alexander and Jones’ presence in the events leading up to the insurrection worried Katrina Pierson, a longtime conservative fixture in Dallas who was involved in the lineup of speakers for the Jan. 6 rally. Pierson later texted a former campaign staffer that she did not think Trump’s rhetoric led to the violence on Jan. 6.

Pierson texted another rally organizer that Trump “likes the crazies.” She messaged Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows saying, “Things have gotten crazy and I desperately need some direction. Please.”

Pierson also emailed Caroline Wren, also a Texan and a longtime Trump fundraiser, that “POTUS expectations are to have something intimate at the ellipse, and call on everyone to march to the capitol.” That echoed a similar text that Alexander sent to a conservative journalist on Jan. 5: “Ellipse then US Capitol. Trump is supposed to order us to the capitol but we’ll see,” proving that people outside the White House knew of a plan to march to the Capitol.

Stephen Ayres, a member of the Oath Keepers who testified at Tuesday’s hearing, said he was not planning to march to the Capitol until Trump called on people to do so.

“The president got everybody riled up and told everybody to head on down, so we basically were following what he said,” Ayres said.

Jason Van Tatenhove, a former Oath Keepers spokesperson, was the other witness at Tuesday’s hearing. He said Rhodes, the Texan who founded the Oath Keepers, is a “militia leader.” Rhodes implored Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, which allows the president to call up militias to put down a rebellion.

“He had these grand visions of being a paramilitary leader, and the Insurrection Act would’ve given him a path forward with that,” Van Tatenhove testified.

Gohmert’s name has come up often during the House committee hearings. A former White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, said in a recorded testimony that Gohmert was one of five members of Congress to seek a pardon from Trump after the insurrection. Gohmert denied that he ever asked for a pardon related to the Capitol attack.

The House Committee also revealed in an earlier hearing that Gohmert’s chief of staff was copied on an email that said Pence “would benefit greatly from a briefing” by Eastman, who’s known as the architect of the plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. The email was also sent to other people linked to the plot to overturn the election results.

In that same earlier hearing, the House Committee played a video from Gohmert blasting the Justice Department for not investigating the unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud.

“There’s widespread evidence of fraud because people haven’t done their jobs,” Gohmert said in the clip shot on Dec. 3, 2020. “[John] Durham and [William] Barr will deserve a big notation in history when it’s written of the rise and fall of the United States if they don’t clean up this mess, clean up the fraud. Do your jobs and save this little experiment in self-government.”

The U.S. Capitol Police also flagged comments from Gohmert days before the insurrection as potentially inciting violence. In an interview on the conservative news network Newsmax, Gohmert said letting Biden’s electoral victory stand would be “the end of our republic, the end of the experiment in self-government.”

“The ruling would be that you got to go to the streets and be as violent as Antifa and [Black Lives Matter],” Gohmert said. He later said he was not advocating for violence.

Hours after the attack ended, Gohmert voted against the certification of electoral results in Pennsylvania and Arizona.

The committee plans to hold its eighth hearing next week. It will focus on Trump’s actions on Jan. 6.

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