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Trump says Liz Cheney deleted evidence of Jan. 6 troops. There isn’t any.

“Why did American Disaster Liz Cheney … ILLEGALLY DELETE & DESTROY most of the evidence, and related items, from the January 6th Committee of Political Thugs and Misfits. THIS ACT OF EXTREME SABOTAGE MAKES IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR MY LAWYERS TO PROPERLY PREPARE FOR, AND PRESENT, A PROPER DEFENSE OF THEIR CLIENT, ME. All of the information on Crazy Nancy Pelosi turning down 10,000 soldiers that I offered to to [sic] guard the Capitol Building, and beyond, is gone.”

—Former president Donald Trump, in a social media post, Jan. 1

There’s a recurring pattern to Trump’s spreading of false information. First, he repeats a false claim endlessly, no matter how often it is debunked. Then, he elevates it every so often with a dusting of new information, usually a falsehood derived from a modicum of fact.

This New Year’s post on Trump’s Truth Social platform is a good example of the tactic.

Regular readers know we’ve shown, time and again, that Trump and his allies have simply invented the claim that he requested 10,000 troops before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, twisting an offhand comment into a supposed order to the Pentagon. A federal judge recently considered testimony on this point and dismissed a Trump aide’s account as “incredible.”

Now, Trump has seized on House GOP claims that some records are missing from the archives of the House select committee that investigated Jan. 6, including Trump’s actions. The Democratic chair who headed the committee denies anything was lost; instead, he says some sensitive materials were withheld from the House archive to protect witnesses.

But here’s the kicker: The special counsel who is prosecuting Trump for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election — although not for the Capitol insurrection itself — says the withheld materials have already been provided to Trump as part of discovery in the case.

Let’s take a tour through Trump’s morass of misinformation, in which he falsely accuses from former congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), vice chair of the committee, of destroying documents.

In 2021, we explored this claim twice and debunked it, each time awarding Four Pinocchios. Then, in late 2022, the Jan. 6 committee released its report and dozens of transcribed interviews that provided new details on the meetings in which Trump claims he requested troops at the Capitol.

That report underscored how Trump has little basis to make this claim, saying that he brought up the issue on at least three occasions but in such vague and obtuse ways that no senior official regarded his words as an order.

Trump, as usual, in his most recent post yet again claims that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejected his request for troops. But the evidence shows Trump did not issue any formal request — so there was nothing for Pelosi to heed. The committee report said it found “no evidence” to support the claim that he ordered 10,000 troops.

Moreover, the committee said that when he referenced so many troops, it was not because he wanted to protect the Capitol. He “floated the idea of having 10,000 National Guardsmen deployed to protect him and his supporters from any supposed threats by left-wing counter protesters,” the report said.

In November, U.S. District Judge Sarah B. Wallace evaluated the 10,000-troops claim when she considered arguments that Trump should be removed from the Colorado ballot because he inspired an insurrection. She concluded that Trump engaged in an insurrection through incitement but said a president was not covered by the 14th Amendment and so Trump could remain on the ballot — a ruling that was celebrated by the Trump campaign at the time.

In her ruling, Wallace rejected testimony about Trump’s supposed troop order from a fervent Trump supporter, Kash Patel, who was chief of staff to the acting secretary of defense on Jan. 6.

“The Court finds that Mr. Patel was not a credible witness,” Wallace wrote. “His testimony regarding Trump authorizing 10,000-20,000 National Guardsmen is not only illogical (because Trump only had authority over about 2,000 National Guardsmen) but completely devoid of any evidence in the record.”

In a footnote, she elaborated: “Trump, as commander of the D.C. National Guard, only had direct authority over around 2,000 Guardsmen. To mobilize 10,000-20,000 Guardsmen, he would have had to contact the Governors of other States and they would have had to then give orders, or he would have had to federalize the Guardsmen from those States. In either case, there would have been significant official action taken. No record of such action was produced at the Hearing.”

(In a separate case, the Colorado Supreme Court in December removed Trump from the ballot, saying he was covered by the 14th Amendment. Trump this week plans to appeal the ruling.)

Trump is seizing on House GOP claims that the committee archive is missing some records. Not only is that claim rejected by the chair of the Jan. 6 committee, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), but not even Republicans have claimed “most” of the documents are missing. Instead, we are talking about videos and some sensitive materials — and there is no indication any of these materials concerned the alleged troop order.

First, the committee did not include raw videos as part of the permanent records, but instead provided official transcripts of the video interviews.

“Based on guidance from House authorities, the Select Committee determined that the written transcripts provided by nonpartisan, professional official reporters, which the witnesses and Select Committee staff had the opportunity to review for errata, were the official, permanent records of transcribed interviews,” Thompson wrote in a July letter to Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), who has raised questions about the completeness of the committee archive. In other words, the text of any video interview is still available for review.

Thompson also said that some materials gathered by the committee contained “law enforcement sensitive operational details and private, personal information that, if released, could endanger the safety of witnesses.” That material was sent to the White House and the Department of Homeland Security for archival purposes because the Jan. 6 committee dissolved before a full review of the sensitivity of this material was completed, Thompson wrote.

However, according to special counsel Jack Smith, who is prosecuting Trump, those sensitive materials from the White House and the Secret Service were provided to Trump months ago as part of pre-trial discovery.

When Trump claimed in a filing that the materials were missing, the special counsel countered that they were already in his possession. “Prior to filing the present motion, the defendant did not seek additional information or clarification regarding the Government’s production of these materials, nor did he ask whether the production included the sensitive, non-public Select Committee interview transcripts that he now seeks — which it did,” Smith said in an October filing.

Judge Tanya Chutkan in November denied Trump’s request to subpoena members of the Jan. 6 select committee in an effort to find the allegedly missing materials.

Cheney, in a tweet Tuesday, dismissed Trump’s claims, telling the former president “you and your lawyers have had the J6 cmttee materials (linked below) plus the grand jury info & much more for months. Lying about the evidence in all caps won’t change the facts. A public trial will show it all.”

A spokesman for Trump and a spokesman for Loudermilk did not respond to requests for comment.

Despite this fact check, we are resigned to the fact that we’ll spend the next 10 months listening to Trump falsely claiming he offered 10,000 troops — and that members of the committee like Cheney destroyed evidence that would exonerate him. But be forewarned — neither claim is true, no matter how often Trump says it is.

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This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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