Thursday’s Jan. 6 hearing will focus on Trump’s efforts to convince Pence to overturn the election
Thursday’s Jan. 6 select committee hearing will focus on President Trump’s efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to summarily overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.
Committee aides told reporters on Wednesday that the presentation and testimony on Thursday will address the emergence of the theory pushed by lawyer John Eastman that Pence could unilaterally reject electoral votes cast in several states Trump lost.
The aides, who spoke on background, said that the public will hear how this theory was roundly rejected by lawyers in the White House counsel’s office, who informed Trump that the vice president did not have the authority to carry out such a plan. Pence himself also rejected Trump’s theory.
The committee will also examine the “pressure campaign” that Trump waged both in private and public in the days leading up to Jan. 6 to try to convince Pence to carry out the plan, even as he was being advised that it was not legal. That pressure campaign, aides said, “directly contributed to the attack on the Capitol, and put the vice president’s life in danger.”
Finally, the committee plans to use the hearing to “demonstrate that there’s an ongoing threat to democracy” from people who are still pushing the debunked view that the 2020 election was rigged and should have been overturned.
Much of presentation on Thursday will be led by Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., aides said. In-person testimony will be given by Greg Jacobs, who served as Pence’s chief counsel, and J. Michael Luttig, a former federal judge who advised Pence in the lead-up to Jan. 6. As with previous hearings, videotaped testimony from other witnesses will also feature prominently.
The hearing will mark the third so far, offering a public account of what the select committee has learned over the course of its 11-month investigation. During the initial primetime hearing last Thursday, Cheney and Thompson outlined how the panel plans to present its findings on what they described as Trump’s “sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power.”
In a video released by the panel on Tuesday, Cheney suggested that the select committee is planning to present evidence that Trump “plotted” with Eastman and others to convince Pence to block the vote certification even though he “had no factual basis for what he was doing, and he had been told it was illegal.”
As Cheney noted in the video, a federal judge in California concluded in March that Trump and Eastman likely committed felonies, including obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States, in their effort to overturn the election. Those efforts, the judge said, amounted to “a coup in search of a legal theory.”
During his Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse, Trump repeatedly called on Pence to block the congressional certification of the Electoral College vote when he presided over it that afternoon.
“All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to re-certify and we become president and you are the happiest people,” Trump said to cheers.
The then president also urged his supporters to march to the Capitol to let their displeasure with the election outcome be known, and thousands of them acted on that request. Shortly after the violent mob breached the Capitol building, forcing Pence and his family to evacuate to safety, Trump tweeted that his vice president “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”
A multimedia presentation shown last week included a video clip of a rioter outside the Capitol reading Trump’s tweet about Pence aloud through a bullhorn as rioters ransacked the building. Other footage captured the mob chanting, “Hang Mike Pence!” as they advanced on outnumbered Capitol Police.
Cheney noted that, according to testimony given by former White House advisers, Trump expressed support for the Pence chant, saying “Maybe our supporters have the right idea. Mike Pence deserves it.” Trump has since put out a statement denying he said such a thing.
On Wednesday, committee aides declined to say whether the panel plans to offer more evidence Thursday about what it has learned regarding Trump’s reaction to the threats on Pence’s life on Jan. 6. The hearing, they said, would reveal materials that have not yet been made public documenting where the vice president was on Jan. 6 and what he was doing.
During last Thursday’s hearing, the committee showed a clip of the deposition given by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said that it was Pence who gave the order to send National Guard troops to respond to the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, but that the White House instructed him to say that Trump made the call.
Ultimately, Pence resisted Trump’s appeals to block the election certification process, a decision he has stood by in the face of the former president’s continued criticism.
“President Trump is wrong,” Pence said during a February speech to the conservative Federalist Society. “I had no right to overturn the election.”