- A Secret Service inspector confirmed that the loading dock was in the restricted area around the Capitol.
- His response appeared to undermine a central part of Couy Griffin’s defense against the January 6 charges.
- The trial of the founder of “Cowboys for Trump” is expected to end on Tuesday.
Former Vice President Mike Pence spent hours hiding in an underground Capitol loading dock as a pro-Trump crowd converged on the building to block certification of current President Joe Biden’s election victory , a Secret Service inspector confirmed in the second trial on Monday. Uprising of January 6, 2021.
From the witness stand in a Washington, D.C. courtroom, Secret Service Inspector Lanelle Hawa said Pence spent “several hours, about four or five hours” at the Capitol’s loading dock after being deported. of the Senate Chamber on January 6.
His testimony came in the case of Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin, a New Mexico county commissioner facing two misdemeanor charges related to his alleged participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Griffin’s defense strategy tested an argument underlying hundreds of Jan. 6 cases: that Capitol grounds were restricted, in part, because of Pence’s attendance for certification of the Electoral College vote.
At the request of Griffin’s defense attorney, Judge Trevor McFadden greenlit questions about Pence’s precise location over Justice Department objection, raising national security concerns . Prosecutors argued, in part, that the disclosure would jeopardize the “continued safety of the Vice President of the United States.”
But on Monday, prosecutor Kimberly Paschall ended up asking Hawa for Pence’s precise location.
Hawa said she took Pence up a flight of stairs to a “safe place.”
“Where was it?” Pascal asked.
“Underground,” Hawa replied.
When asked for a more specific answer, Hawa identified the location as the loading dock.
“It’s located under the Capitol building, sort of under the plaza on the Senate side,” Hawa said, adding that he was there for several hours.
In a book published last year, ABC White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl reported on the existence of photographs showing Pence in an underground area on Jan. 6. But the Justice Department and the Secret Service had not previously confirmed that Pence hid at the loading dock and remained there for several hours.
Hawa confirmed that the loading dock is within the restricted area established by the Secret Service on January 6. The answer appeared to undermine Griffin’s defense – and resulted in testy cross-examination.
Griffin’s defense attorney, Nicholas Smith, asked Hawa if she had ever met anyone who had entered a restricted area unknowingly. When Paschall objected, Smith protested that the prosecutor’s approach was becoming increasingly “vexatious”.
Smith then offered Hawa hypothetical scenarios of whether the Secret Service security perimeter would shift if a Vice President or other beneficiary traveled.
When Paschall objected, Smith exclaimed, “Judge, she just objects to every baseless question.”
Paschall said she didn’t like Smith’s tone and asked to lower the “temperature”.
Griffin chose not to have a jury decide his fate and instead have a judge review the evidence and render a verdict, in a so-called trial bench. The proceedings were only supposed to last one day, but McFadden, a Trump appointee, set closing arguments for Tuesday.
With his signature cowboy hat beside him, Griffin seemed encouraged by parts of Monday’s proceedings. He nodded affirmatively as his attorney, Smith, questioned Capitol Police Inspector John Erickson. Smith focused his questioning on showing that while there were fences around the Capitol with signs indicating the grounds were closed, Griffin climbed over stone walls that did not appear to have those markings.
“They should know not to climb the wall,” Erickson said at one point. Erickson also noted that temporary plastic “snow fences” had been erected along the wall but were torn down on January 6.
McFadden, who briefly served in the Justice Department before the Senate confirmed it in 2017, seemed interested in the line of questioning. The judge stopped at one point to inquire about a photograph of one of the walls.
“No signs or anything on that wall, though?” He asked.
“That’s right,” Erickson said.
Prosecutors did not charge Griffin with destroying property, attacking police or entering the Capitol building. His case did not have the drama of the first trial on January 6, in which the defendant’s teenage son, Guy Reffitt, testified against his father. That trial, which ended with guilty verdicts on all five counts, also featured testimony from Capitol police officers who recalled their encounter with Reffitt as he walked up the steps to the outside the Capitol in a tactical vest and helmet.
But Griffin’s trial drew notable onlookers, including a supporter who wore a black biker vest emblazoned with the words “Release the Kraken.” Also in the courtroom was John Crabb, a career prosecutor who heads the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, DC.