November 27, 2021

Jan. 6 panel faces both risk and reward with Alex Jones, Roger Stone

The House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol faces both risk and reward by turning to two Trump allies with a history of lying as it seeks to map out the planning and financing of the Jan. 6 rallies.

The select panel on Monday subpoenaed known conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones as well as Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of former President Trump whom he pardoned a conviction on five counts of lying to Congress during the Mueller investigation, as well as witness tampering and obstruction of a proceeding.

But the committee sees both as having key information about the planning and financing of the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally near the White House, where Trump encouraged his supporters to “fight like hell.”

Stone claimed he was invited to “lead a march to the Capitol,” and while he no-showed the day of the rally, Jones did participate in the trek across the National Mall, leading rioters to a spot where a rally organizer had secured a permit to demonstrate on the Capitol grounds.

“They’ve clearly demonstrated a willingness if not a propensity to lie. Roger Stone was convicted of lying to Congress — and testifying before Congress is the exact thing they'd be asking him to do — and of course Alex Jones is a Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist and 9/11 denier. So there is concern about their willingness to tell the truth, and there is also a strong risk that, as such public and ardent supporters of Donald Trump, these could be two more people that flout the subpoena powers of Congress, leaving the committee to decide whether to pursue a criminal referral for contempt of Congress,” said Barbara McQuade, who served as a U.S. attorney during the Obama administration.

“So why did they decide they wanted to hear from these liars in the first place?” she asked. “Even if they are liars, if you can get their text messages, emails, and other documents that might be in some way revealing.”

For Stone, the committee seems interested in connecting dots between those close to Trump and extremist groups, noting that Stone was flanked by members of the Three Percenters on Jan. 6 who served as his personal security detail, including one who has since been indicted for their involvement in the rally.

For Jones, the committee has questions both about his furtherance of Trump’s false claims of election fraud as well as his work in arranging a donation that he claims funded 80 percent of the rally where Trump spoke.

“We need to know who organized, planned, paid for and received funds related to those events, as well as what communications organizers had with officials in the White House and Congress,” Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement as he released subpoenas for the duo along with three others tied to the rally planning.

In a Monday evening statement, Stone said he “had no advance knowledge of the events that took place at the Capitol on that day,” while Jones did not respond to request for comment.

Some warn that the two may seek to capitalize off their involvement with the committee and threaten to undermine an investigation Democrats have sought to imbue with gravity.

“They risk legitimizing Alex Jones and Roger Stone to some degree as people that have a valid role in the conversation,” said Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches law at the University of St. Thomas.

McQuade said the committee is already seeing that effect to a degree with Stephen Bannon, the one-time White House strategist now being prosecuted by the Department of Justice for contempt of Congress after he failed to show for a deposition or provide documents.

“In the same way that Steve Bannon is now playing the role of the martyr and his court appearances are practically performance art, I think Stone and Jones could be similar. I’m sure Stone probably would love nothing more than to enter the courthouse doing his Nixon peace signs,” she said.

But both see value in deposing them.

“They are people who exist on the sensational. You're not expecting an objective viewpoint from either one of them or a dispassionate discussion of relevant information. What I think they're after in subpoenaing them is who they had contact with. If their network were coordinating with administration and getting people to Washington, that is relevant,” Osler said, stressing the need for “controlling the witness.”

“Probably there's specific information they want to know and they’re hoping to go after that information in a surgical strike.”

McQuade said the committee may not get entirely truthful information from either man but the process will still get them on the record.

“I think the reason the committee is subpoenaing their documents and their testimony is so that the committee can confront them with the documents. It’s hard for witnesses to make things up out of whole cloth when you have their email messages or text messages,” she said.

“Even if you don't believe them when you ask questions, you're at least locking them into one version of the story under oath. That makes it difficult for them to tell a different story later to justify their behavior as more facts become known. Changing their story would require admission of lying the first time.”

Both Stone and Jones have faced recent legal battles tied to their false statements.

Stone was set to report to prison for 40 months just days before Trump commuted his sentence. He was convicted of lying under oath, withholding documents and threatening harm to another potential witness if they cooperated with investigators.

Jones is facing a defamation suit from the parents of Newtown, Conn., victims after the InfoWars host called the 2012 school shooting a “hoax.” He’s been found liable by default after failing to produce documents required in the case.

Either would be likely to face fresh charges if found to be untruthful to the committee.

“Even people that have a tendency to lie in a lot of different contexts have strong motivation not to lie under oath because it puts them at risk,” said Bruce Green, a law professor at Fordham University and a former federal prosecutor.

“I don’t know if Congress thinks that Stone has personal knowledge and information but why shouldn't they try to get it from him? Either he’ll provide truthful testimony or he won't, and if he doesn't he's at risk. Maybe he’s learned his lesson.”

Osler said he doesn’t think the committee is interested in a “perjury trap” — a tool at times wielded by prosecutors to ensnare those who might otherwise be involved in criminal activity.

“I hope that their goal in calling Jones and Stone isn't just to set them up for perjury — that they have a larger mission than that because getting Roger Stone to commit perjury is like hitting a ball off a tee. ... I’m not so cynical as to think they’re going to be satisfied for ringing up Alex Jones for lying. I do think they have their sights set higher than that,” he said.

“I think that the members of this committee see the Jan. 6 insurrection as a major historical event that will be studied in 100 years and that there's the imperative in real time to get the story of how it unfolded.”

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