The Department of Justice has acknowledged Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was away from the Capitol at the time of the Jan. 6 attack and only returned later to cast the key votes certifying the 2020 election, Politico reported Thursday.
"The government incorrectly stated that Vice President-elect Harris was present in the U.S. Capitol at the time of the attack," prosecutors wrote in a Tuesday court filing in one Jan. 6 case. "In fact, Vice President-elect Harris was not present at that particular time, though she was present earlier in the day and was present later that day."
Another prosecutor disclosed the mistake in court last week at a sentencing hearing for Eric Torrens, one of the offenders in the attack. After Chief Judge Beryl Howell said Torrens' actions contributed to the disorder that prompted then-Vice President Mike Pence and Harris to be evacuated from the Senate chamber, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie Carter added the government had "recently learned" Harris wasn't there when the Capitol was breached, Politico reported.
According to Politico, though the admission may have limited legal importance, it indicates that some fundamental facts about the attack remain murky.
Citing an unnamed source, Politico reported Harris' movements on Jan. 6 confirmed she exited the Capitol after a Senate Intelligence Committee briefing that morning, a detail that was reported in some news accounts within days of the attack.
The source told Politico that Harris had always been planning to leave the building at that time.
It's unclear why DOJ included the erroneous information in the first place and continued to do so for months, including in The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.
In a series of charging documents and other court filings, DOJ has cited Harris' supposed presence as a given and an indication of the disruption caused by the defendants' actions, Politico reported. More recently, prosecutors seem to have stripped down the narrative in their Capitol attack indictments, the news outlet reported — even though many still contain arguably misleading language about Harris.
Prosecutors have several options to address the erroneous filings, the news outlet noted. They could leave the language about Harris in place, although that could open up some opportunities for defense attorneys to highlight the error, Politico reported.
They could also file "superseding" indictments that drop that erroneous language, but that would require presenting more evidence to a grand jury — or ask judges to strike the language, the news outlet reported.
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