- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 23, 2022

The chairman of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol said Sunday that former Attorney General William P. Barr has spoken with investigators about a draft executive order that would have directed the Trump Defense Department to seize voting machines.

“We’ve had conversations with the former attorney general already. We have talked to Department of Defense individuals,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

However, a spokesman for Mr. Thompson told The Washington Times that the investigators’ talks with Mr. Barr, as referenced by the committee chairman, did not deal with the draft executive order.

“The chairman was speaking generally about informal engagement with the former AG prior to the recent production of records from the Archive,” the spokesman said.   

Mr. Thompson was responding to a question about whether his panel planned to speak with Mr. Barr about the draft order, reportedly given to then-President Donald Trump, that would have directed the Defense Department to seize voting machines in battleground states following his reelection loss.

The committee obtained the draft executive order, which Mr. Trump never issued, as part of its document request from the National Archives last year. Politico first reported about the draft order.

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It is not known who wrote the order that would have directed the secretary of defense to “seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention.”

Mr. Thompson said he wants to know why the order was proposed.

“Just the draft itself is reason enough to believe that it was being proposed. Our job is to get to the facts and circumstances of how far did they go,” he said. “So, we will move forward on that investigation, and we will look and see specifically how far that plan went.”

The committee is reading through more than 700 pages of records it has acquired from the National Archives. The panel also has issued subpoenas to many individuals, including former Trump White House staffers and organizers of a Jan. 6 rally that preceded the riot.

Mr. Barr served as the Trump administration’s attorney general from February 2019 to December 2020.

“Part of our plan is to continue to engage all those individuals that we deem necessary and important to our investigation. Some we’ll talk to, some we will do in deposition under oath. Others we will offer hearing opportunities,” Mr. Thompson said.

“But I can assure you, as we develop this information, we will clearly present it to the public. We plan at this point to have a series of public hearings showing the use of federal assets, Department of Justice, Department of Defense and other agencies to actually stop the duly election of a president. So, we’ll do it in due time,” he said.

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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