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The Fifth Amendment Got a Workout in January 6 Testimony

Garrett Ziegler was an aide to White House trade advisor and natural B-movie villain Peter Navarro during the previous administration*. But Ziegler was a mighty piece of work himself. From the Daily Beast:

Garrett Ziegler, who recently went on a sexist tear against former White House colleagues, took to Telegram to post the personal information of men he identified as agents. “This is one of the two feds who signed the ‘Receipt for Property’ form, which detailed—at a very high level—the fishing expedition that the FBI performed at Mar-a-Lago,” Ziegler said on both Truth Social and Telegram. The former Trump administration staffer that worked under White House trade adviser Peter Navarro further listed out the FBI agents’ date of birth, work emails and linked to alleged family members’ social media accounts. “Hope he doesn’t get a good night’s sleep for the rest of 2022,” Ziegler wrote on Truth Social, responding to another Truth Social user’s photos of one of the alleged FBI officials who signed off on the inventory receipts on the warrant.

Went on a sexist tear, you say? From CNN:

In the 27-minute livestream, Ziegler used vulgar and misogynistic language to attack Cassidy Hutchinson and Alyssa Farah Griffin, two women who worked for the Trump White House but have since publicly broken from the former President and cooperated with the January 6 panel. He also accused the January 6 House select committee of being “anti-White,” without any evidence. (The nine-member panel is led by Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, who is Black.) “They’re Bolsheviks,” Ziegler said in the stream, referring to the far-left communists who led the Soviet Union, “so, they probably do hate the American founders and most White people in general. This is a Bolshevistic anti-White campaign. If you can’t see that, your eyes are freaking closed. And so, they see me as a young Christian who they can try to basically scare, right?”

As it happens, his sexist tear came not long after Ziegler had been deposed before the House select committee investigating the events of January 6. Ziegler was nowhere near as eloquent under oath as he was on the internet later. The transcript of his session was among 34 released by the committee Wednesday as it prepares its entire 800-some-page report. And in most of those transcripts—including Ziegler’s, especially—the magic word is “Fifth.”

You see, in an attempt to save time and effort, the various inmates of Camp Runamuck were allowed to simply say, “Fifth,” to assert their constitutional right against self-incrimination. And judging by the number of times that right was invoked, it appears that almost anything said inside that crab bucket of a White House was self-incriminating—a possibility that, given that White House, I’m willing to entertain. (My favorite is the apparatchik who replied, “Fifth” when asked where they’d gone to college. The answer was Duke, and I completely understand.)

Garrett Ziegler, sexist ranter, was particularly cautious that he avoid the clever web of words in which committee counsel was attempting to enmesh his ass. His first invocation of the Fifth came when he was asked how he’d obtained his job in the White House. But there were other, more intriguing ones. For example,

Q: Were you expecting violence in the Capitol…on January 6, prior to that date?
A: I’m invoking my right to silence under the Fifth Amendment.

Q: Did you instruct your wife or suggest your wife leave town prior to January 6 because of concerns about violence?
A: I’m invoking my right to silence under the Fifth Amendment.

Now, I am perpetually impatient with the argument that asserting one’s Fifth Amendment right is tantamount to an admission of guilt. I was impatient when the former president* used that argument against Hillary Clinton’s staffers who’d taken the Fifth to defend themselves against the congressional snipe-hunters when Clinton was secretary of State. For example, at a rally in Colorado in 2016, El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago—a man who’d invoked the Fifth 97 times during his first divorce proceeding—said, “Her staffers took the Fifth. So many people took the Fifth Amendment there was nobody left!” The 34 transcripts released Wednesday are the living embodiment of what the former president* was talking about.

There was some speechifying against the committee itself; Jeffrey Clark, the guy whom the plotters allegedly had lined up to be attorney general to give his blessing to the ‘fake electors’ scam, spent a long time haranguing the committee for what he said were its “pretenses” of fairness. Then he availed himself of the Fifth Amendment…120 times, beginning with whether or not he’d worked at the Department of Justice.

If god’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world, they’ll all find gaily wrapped grants of immunity in their Christmas stockings. At which point, the only fifths in which they find comfort will be whatever they pour out when the day’s testifying is done.

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