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Jan. 6 Panel Explores Links Between Trump Allies and Extremist Groups

In their relations with President Donald J. Trump in recent years, Roger J. Stone Jr., his longtime political adviser, and Michael T. Flynn, who was briefly his national security adviser, have followed a similar trajectory.

Both were either convicted of or pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the investigation into the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia. Both were pardoned by Mr. Trump after the 2020 presidential election, and both supported Mr. Trump in his relentless, multi-layered efforts to reverse the outcome and stay in power.

The two were, in a sense, back together on Tuesday, when both were mentioned in the blink of an eye at the House Select Committee hearing by Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s last chief of staff. Ms. Hutchinson told the panel that on January 5, 2021, a day before the Capitol was stormed, Mr. Trump instructed Mr. Meadows to contact Mr. Stone and Mr. Flynn.

Ms. Hutchinson admitted she didn’t know what her boss had said to the men. But her testimony marked the first time it was revealed that, on the eve of the Capitol attack, Mr. Trump had opened a channel of communication with a few allies who had not only worked for him for weeks to challenge the results of the election. . , but also had extensive ties to extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, who would soon be at the forefront of the violence.

The question of whether there was communication or coordination between the far-right groups that helped storm the Capitol and Mr. Trump and his aides and allies is one of the main ones facing the Jan. 6 investigators.

Other than a criminal charge—or anything else that could force the details of the calls into the public sphere—it can be difficult to figure out exactly what Mr. Meadows discussed with Mr. Stone and Mr. Flynn.

Since late last year, Mr. Meadows to comply with a committee subpoena requesting his testimony for the weeks leading up to Jan. 6 — a move that jeopardized his indictment for contempt of Congress’ allegations. As for Mr Stone and Mr Flynn, both have repeatedly exercised their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination during their own interviews with the committee.

Mr Flynn’s interview was especially noteworthy, according to a recording of it played during the hearing on Tuesday. Mr. Flynn, a former three-star general who still receives a military pension, argued for the Fifth Amendment even when asked whether he believed the violence at the Capitol was wrong and whether he supported the lawful transfer of presidential power.

Ms. Hutchinson also told the panel that she recalled hearing about the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers while planning for Mr. Trump’s public event near the White House on Jan. 6 — a time, she explained. off, when the former president’s attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, had been nearby.

It is possible that Mr Stone and Mr Flynn will receive more attention when the panel reconvenes for its next public hearing in July. That’s when Maryland Democrat Representative Jamie Raskin said he plans to lead a presentation that will focus on the roles far-right groups such as the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and the 1st Amendment Praetorian played in the attack. on the Capitol. Mr. Raskin has also promised to investigate the connections between those groups and the people in Mr. Trump’s orbit.

Both Mr Stone and Mr Flynn fit that description, having had extensive ties to far-right groups in the post-election period. Many of the contacts came during pro-Trump demonstrations in Washington when the men were guarded by members of the groups, who served as their bodyguards.

For more than a year, Mr. Stone has repeatedly denied any role in the violence that erupted at the Capitol. Shortly after Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony, he denied in a social media post that Mr. Meadows had called him the day before the attack.

Mr Flynn’s attorney did not respond to numerous requests for comment about his client’s role in the events of January 6 and the weeks leading up to it.

As early as December 12, 2020, the 1st Amendment Praetorian protected Mr Flynn when he appeared as a speaker at a pro-Trump march in Washington. Members of the Oath Keepers joined the group as security at the event, including the organization’s leader, Stewart Rhodes, who has since been charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the Capitol attack.

The 1st Amendment Praetorian also helped Flynn’s former attorney, Sidney Powell, collect open source intelligence on allegations of voter fraud that eventually channeled into a series of conspiracy-laden lawsuits she filed to challenge the voting results, according to the leader of the group, Robert Patrick Lewis.

Mr Lewis said he played a minor role in another, even bolder, attempt to reverse the election. He has claimed that on Dec. 18, 2020, he drove Mr. Flynn and Ms. Powell to the White House for an Oval Office meeting where they tried to persuade Mr. Trump to use his national security apparatus to confiscate nearby voting machines. . the country in its bid to stay in power.

On January 6 itself, according to audio recordings obtained by The New York Times, a few members of the 1st Amendment Praetorian protected Mr. Flynn again. Around the same time, according to court documents filed in a recent defamation lawsuit, a member of the group, Philip Luelsdorff, was briefly present in the so-called war room at the Willard Hotel where pro-Trump lawyers, including Mr. Giuliani and John Eastman, had a shop to plan objections to the electoral college vote count certification.

Ms. Hutchinson told the House Committee that Mr. Stone and Mr. Flynn were also at the Willard on Jan. 6. She further testified that her boss, Mr. Meadows, wanted to make plans to visit the war room, a decision she felt was “inappropriate”. She testified that Mr. Meadows eventually decided not to go to the hotel and “said he would call in instead”.

Stone, a Florida native, had ties to the Proud Boys well before Trump lost the election, especially Enrique Tarrio, the group’s former chairman, who lived in Miami before his arrest for sedition in connection with the Capitol bombing.

In 2019, after Mr. Stone was indicted by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III on charges related to investigations into Russian attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential race, Mr Tarrio responded by wearing a T-shirt that reads “Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong” at one of Mr. Trump. At one point, Mr. Tarrio’s personal cellphone has a voicemail recorded by Mr. Stone.

On January 6, while staying at the Willard, Mr. Stone maintains close contact with members of both the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. A proud Florida boy named Jacob Engels accompanied him to Washington and served as a sort of aide-de-camp for him on January 5 and 6.

At the same time, a small detail of Oath Keepers was also appointed to Mr. Stone to provide personal protection. At least four members of the detail are accused of attacking the Capitol.

Even if the House committee doesn’t provide new insights about Mr. Stone at the next hearing, the Justice Department’s investigation into the Capitol bombing may reveal something new about his ties to the Oath Keepers in the United States. the special.

One of Mr. Stone’s security detail was Joshua James, an Alabama oath keeper. In March, Mr. James guilty of sedition.

As part of his deal with prosecutors, Mr. James agreed to cooperate with the government’s extensive investigation into the attack on the Capitol.

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