House committee asks Charlottesville witnesses to appear at Wednesday hearing

One of the 24 people House investigators are questioning today in connection with last month’s racist rally in Charlottesville has told the Guardian that his presence has been “an inconvenience” to the panel. Four…

House committee asks Charlottesville witnesses to appear at Wednesday hearing

One of the 24 people House investigators are questioning today in connection with last month’s racist rally in Charlottesville has told the Guardian that his presence has been “an inconvenience” to the panel.

Four House witnesses have disclosed they were not notified of their depositions being scheduled, some were asked to attend in places that did not permit them to speak, while others were only offered a limited seating capacity.

By telephone, nearly all of the people being questioned said they had been given no choice in the matter or received no explanation from the committee. Some, including Aaron Morisha, who helped coordinate permits and accommodation for the rally, said they felt “kicked to the curb” by the special House investigative committee.

“So many people were not provided an opportunity to have a voice,” Morisha said.

In addition to Morisha, the White Lives Matter movement – an ultra-nationalist group that Morisha co-founded – was also one of three organizations whose executives and directors will testify.

“They kept us out of their decision to schedule our deposition on Friday,” said Morisha, who plans to attend the hearing on Wednesday.

A person who was set to appear today as a witness on behalf of League of the South – an ultranationalist group that was behind the rally – was asked to appear on Wednesday after a request was filed with the attorney general’s office, according to his lawyer.

The House investigative committee, which has heard testimony from people associated with both the Traditionalist Worker party (MWP) and the White Lives Matter movement, has been organized by Republican majority members of the House judiciary and homeland security committees in the wake of the Charlottesville protest last month in which a 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 others were injured.

Members of the committee met late on Wednesday evening to discuss witness scheduling after Morisha was notified that his deposition had been rescheduled. The panel’s chairman, Glen Mulready, said some people would now be available for questioning on Thursday, and others would be available on Tuesday.

Mulready told the Guardian that the committee would move to subpoena witnesses as a “last resort”, which they had not yet done.

“There has been evidence of conduct [that] should be concerning, which has caused the committee to act,” Mulready said.

One of the scheduled witnesses is Madison Harbridge, a white supremacist speaker who previously appeared at the White Lives Matter rally in Cleveland. When the Guardian showed up to his court appearance on Friday morning, Harbridge’s lawyer, Allan Roth, said that the prosecutor had advised her to turn over her questions to the House committee for Saturday’s deposition, which would include comments she had previously declined to answer.

Roth said there had been a misunderstanding about who was handling Harbridge’s deposition and that his client was happy to give the panel her answer to the questions. Harbridge was scheduled to be the sole witness Thursday.

The House’s presiding officer, Democrat Wilfredo Ferrer, said “nothing was taken lightly” in scheduling the hearings, which had been advertised for the last 10 days. In addition to Morisha, Harbridge and Mulready, six others were invited to testify, but will now not appear Thursday, Ferrer said.

Harbridge is listed as “the lead organiser” for the white supremacist group Power to the People. She faces a court appearance on Friday on federal charges related to her failure to register as a foreign agent. The group’s leader, Frank Almond, has also been indicted.

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