By Zachary Cohen, Jamie Gangel, Sara Murray and Pamela Brown, CNN
The House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, has recently interviewed former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and has been in talks with former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as well as former National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, multiple sources tell CNN. Chao and DeVos, both members of former President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, resigned a day after the attack on the US Capitol and discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from power.
News of Chao’s cooperation, and the committee’s discussions with DeVos and O’Brien have not been previously reported. O’Brien is expected to appear virtually before the panel on Friday, according to a source familiar with the probe. CNN has reached out to O’Brien.
The development comes after former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the panel on Tuesday. The 25th Amendment was a topic of focus during Pompeo’s meeting, CNN previously reported.
Additionally, sources tell CNN the committee is still negotiating terms for a potential interview with former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe. Given the classified nature of Ratcliffe’s former role, there are unique issues the two sides have to work out, the sources said.
At least nine Cabinet-level officials who were still in their roles on January 6 are known to have cooperated with or are engaging with the committee.
Like Pompeo, DeVos and Chao are known to have explored the idea of possibly removing Trump from power via the 25th Amendment in the immediate aftermath of the January 6 attack. While Pompeo served out his tenure as Secretary of State, DeVos and Chao both sent letters of resignation to Trump on January 7.
As national security adviser, O’Brien was not a member of Trump’s Cabinet but sources say he was involved in high-level discussions about the 25th Amendment immediately following January 6. In a statement to CNN, he denied that, saying, “I was at no time involved in discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment.”
CNN previously reported that O’Brien considered resigning from his post over Trump’s response to the violence that day but ultimately decided to remain in the job.
O’Brien was out of town on January 6 but his deputy, Matthew Pottinger, was in Washington and told his boss that day he was resigning. Pottinger testified publicly during the committee’s last hearing focused on Trump’s 187 minutes of inaction as the violence unfolded.
A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment on cooperation with DeVos, O’Brien and Chao.
A spokesperson for Chao declined to comment. A spokesperson for DeVos disputed the notion that DeVos is actively in discussions about scheduling an interview, but provided no further comment to CNN.
Zeroing in on talk of the 25th Amendment
Multiple former Cabinet officials who have been interviewed by the committee were asked about the 25th Amendment, according to numerous sources familiar with the investigation. But the panel still appears to be seeking information about those discussions following January 6.
In a June interview with USA Today, DeVos acknowledged publicly for the first time that she discussed the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment with other Cabinet members and then-Vice President Mike Pence following January 6.
Devos told USA Today that before she resigned, she explored whether using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office was a viable option. DeVos said Pence told her he would not support using the 25th Amendment and that his backing would be necessary for such an effort to be successful.
Sources have told CNN that Chao, the wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, had similar discussions prior to stepping down as Secretary of Transportation.
During her public testimony before the committee during a hearing earlier this summer, Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified that after the attack on the Capitol, Pompeo warned Meadows that Cabinet secretaries discussed whether to invoke the 25th Amendment.
“You’re technically the boss of all the Cabinet secretaries,” Hutchinson quoted Pompeo telling Meadows. “And you know if the conversations progressed, you should be ready to take action on this.”
Several other Trump Cabinet officials are known to have met with the committee already, including former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, former Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.
The committee also met with former Attorney General William Barr but he had left the administration prior to January 6. Trump’s former acting White House chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney met with the panel last month.
Both Wolf and one of his top deputies, Ken Cuccinelli, sat for interviews with the committee several months ago, sources said. CNN previously reported the interviews.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.
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CNN’s Annie Grayer and Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.