After asserting his Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination 21 times in a row during his testimony before the Jan. 6 committee, John Eastman, former outside legal adviser to former President Donald Trump, was asked if he planned to continue invoking his right to silence.
His lawyer, Charles Burnham, piped up. “If I may,” he said, according to a transcript of the exchange, “Dr. Eastman will probably assert the Fifth in response to that question, but from my perspective as counsel the answer is yes.”
The committee then announced it was taking a 5-minute break.
The transcript of Eastman’s testimony, taken last December, was one of 34 such documents released Wednesday evening by the committee, hours after it abruptly announced that it would delay the release of its final report on the Capitol attack until Thursday.
The witnesses whose transcripts were published constituted just a small fraction of the more than 1,000 people interviewed over the course of the committee’s six-month investigation into the events of Jan. 6, 2021. The testimony of the vast majority of Trump’s inner circle, including daughter Ivanka Trump and attorney Rudy Giuliani, remain under wraps. But nearly all of the published transcripts reflect uncooperative witnesses—including Eastman, conspiracy monger Alex Jones, white nationalist Nick Fuentes, MAGA wunderkind Charlie Kirk, and onetime national security adviser Michael Flynn—who spent part, if not all, of their depositions pleading the Fifth.
Eastman, whom the committee criminally referred to the Justice Department alongside his former boss earlier this week, asserted his Fifth Amendment rights so often that he eventually shortened his answers to one word, repeating, “Fifth,” over and over again.
Others, like Kirk, invoked the Fifth when asked basic details. When asked his age during his May testimony, Kirk replied, “On advice of counsel, I’m invoking my Fifth Amendment right not to testify and decline to answer the question.” Answering the next question—about what state he was living in—ably enough, Kirk then apparently decided he had shared enough personal information for one day. Asked what his level of education was, he repeated, “On advice of counsel, I’m invoking my Fifth Amendment right not to testify and decline to answer the question.”
Republican operative Roger Stone was even less forthcoming, declining to share both his age and where he lived. When the committee asked if he understood the Fifth Amendment protected his right “to refuse to answer questions if the truth would be incriminating,” he pleaded the Fifth.
“I will just say that all we want is the truth, which, I believe by your own assertion in the public record, you have stated is not itself incriminating,” a committee member told him, going on to ask if Stone believed he could open himself up to prosecution by answering their questions truthfully.
He pleaded the Fifth.
Alex Jones was questioned in January for little over an hour, with the committee concluding its deposition after it became clear Jones planned “to refuse to answer all of the select committee’s questions today,” as one member put it. Still, Jones apparently couldn’t resist getting one jab in at committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Asked in the middle of testimony if he was going to continue asserting the Fifth, he replied that he was doing it because “Adam Schiff forges documents.”
Jones’ lawyer, Norm Pattis, objected, trying several times to get his client’s attention as Jones continued, “I don’t trust Congressman Schiff. He’ll forge documents…. I want to tell you guys everything, but I don’t trust Congressman Schiff.”
“Alex, may we have a moment, please?” Pattis asked.
“Yeah. I don’t even know how to control this stuff, Norm,” Jones replied. “It’s a different system than I have.”
Michael McDonald, the Republican Party chair for Nevada who allegedly took part in a fake elector scheme, asserted his right to silence more than 200 times during his February testimony, according to KLAS 8. In cases such as his, the committee spent time reading text messages and email fragments into the record, showing him in one instance a text he’d written about Trump, Giuliani, and then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanting to go “full attack mode.”
“When did you write when you wrote, quote, ‘there’s more to come’?” one committee member asked about another text message he sent in the immediate aftermath of the presidential election.
“Based on advice from my attorney, I’ll be invoking my Fifth Amendment privilege,” McDonald replied, as he’d done dozens of times already.
“All right,” the member replied. “Thank you.”
It was unclear why the committee delayed the release of its full report further into a holiday season that is likely to prove a distraction from politics for much of the public. Among other factors that could have affected the committee’s timeline are Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s high-profile visit to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, which included an address to the House chamber in the evening.