Thursday’s hearing on the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol, the third hearing thus far, focused on Vice President Mike Pence’s refusal to go along with former President Trump’s scheme to overturn the 2020 United States election.
Pence’s aides testified that his refusal “never wavered” under immense pressure from Trump and that he was targeted on January 6, where rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence.”
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John Eastman, Trump’s lawyer who spearheaded the assertion that Pence could reject the results of the election, conceded that his argument would likely be rejected in court.
A former judge told the committee that he believed that Trump and his allies continue to pose a “clear and present danger” to US democracy because they say they plan to overturn the 2024 election if Trump – or whichever Republican he supports – loses.
Here are some highlights:
- Pence’s life was in danger, the panel says.
- Even after riots, Trump lawyers pushed Pence to overturn the results of the election.
- There is no constitutional basis to overturning elections, say experts.
- Trump remains a “danger” to US democracy, says a former judge
- The first two public hearings this month by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack have focused on Trump’s alleged role in the 2021 riots.
Below is a timeline of the hearing as it unfolded:
Republicans continue to condemn January 6 hearings
Republican lawmakers and officials excoriated the January 6 hearings again on Thursday, calling them a “witch-hunt.”
“Real America doesn’t care about the January 6th Committee. Gas is over $5 per gallon!” tweeted Representative Jim Jordan, the ranking Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Shortly after the hearing ended, the House Judiciary GOP account tweeted “ANOTHER HEARING. ANOTHER DUD,” and said that the committee “hasn’t produced any new bombshell evidence”.
RT if you’re watching the U.S. Open over this BORING January 6th Committee hearing.
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) June 16, 2022
Ex-judge says Trump still ‘clear’ danger to US democracy
Luttig, the retired federal judge, has said Trump and his allies remain a “clear and present danger to American democracy”.
A conservative jurist who was appointed to the federal judiciary by former Republican President George W Bush, Luttig said Trump and his allies are already pledging that they “would attempt to overturn” the 2024 elections if it doesn’t go their way.
“I don’t speak those words lightly,” Luttig told the committee. “I would have never spoken those words ever in my life – except that that’s what the former president and his allies are telling us.”
Eastman sought presidential pardon
Eastman, who helped spearhead efforts to overturn the election according to the committee, sought a presidential pardon in the final days of the Trump presidency.
“I’ve decided that I should be on the pardon list if that is still in the works,” Eastman wrote in an email to Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, according to the panel.
While Eastman did not receive a pardon, when he testified at the committee behind closed doors, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 100 times to avoid answering questions, Congressman Aguilar said.
Liz Cheney outlines what comes next
As the hearing draws to a close, Cheney summed up that the panel had thus far shown that Trump knew “his claims in a stolen election were false”, that Pence could not legally refute the electoral count, and the efforts Trump made to pressure the Vice President.
“President Trump’s pressure campaign to stop the electoral count did not end with Vice President Pence,” Cheney said. “It targeted every tier of federal and state elected officials. We will examine all of those threats. And we will examine the Trump team’s determination to transmit materially false electoral slates, multiple state officials in the executive and legislative branches of our government.”
Eastman kept pushing for Pence to overturn vote after riot
Even after the riot, Eastman kept pushing for Pence to refuse to certify Biden’s victory, Jacob has told the committee.
He said he showed Pence Eastman’s request, which came via email, a day or two after the January 6 events, and the then-vice president called the push “rubber room stuff”.
Jacob said he interpreted the expression to mean that continuing to ask Pence to overturn the election was “certifiably crazy”.
Pence’s ‘life was in danger’: Congressman
Broadcasting an animated rendition of Trump’s supporters storming the Capitol, the panel said rioters came within 12m (40 feet) from where Pence was sheltering inside the building.
“Make no mistake about the fact that the vice president’s life was in danger,” Congressman Pete Aguilar said. “A recent court filing by the Department of Justice explains that a confidential informant from the Proud Boys told the FBI the Proud Boys would have killed Mike Pence if given a chance.”
Jacob: Pence refused to leave the Capitol complex on Jan 6
As rioters entered the Capitol on January 6th, many in search of the vice president, Pence and his staff were evacuated to a “secure location” in the complex, and there was a discussion whether they should leave.
Pence refused to get in the cars provided by the Secret Service, his former counsel Greg Jacob said.
“The Vice President did not want to take any chance that the world would see the Vice President of the United States, fleeing the United States Capitol,” Jacob testified.
He said Pence “was determined” to finish his constitutional duty of presiding over the electoral count, “and rioters who breached the Capitol and would not have the satisfaction of disrupting proceedings beyond the day on which they were supposed to be held”.
Witnesses describe tense call between Trump and Pence
Witnesses have described a tense call between Trump and Pence on the morning of the riots.
The then-president hurled insults at his vice president that day for refusing to overturn election results, according to the witnesses.
Nicholas Luna, a former Trump aide, said in a recording he remembered Trump calling Pence a “wimp”.
Ivanka Trump, the former president’s daughter, recalled that the conversation was “heated”.
“It was a different tone than I’d heard him take with the vice president before,” she said in a video.
Julie Radford, Ivanka’s former chief of staff, said the former presidential adviser told her that Trump had called Pence “the P-word”.
Pence aides rebuke Trump statement that Vice President was in agreement with him
Former aides to Pence have rejected a statement by the Trump campaign on January 5, 2021 that stated the two were “in total agreement that the Vice President has the power to act”.
“We were shocked and disappointed because whoever had written that statement out, it was categorically untrue,” Jacob said.
Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, also said in a video played at the hearing that the statement “misrepresented the vice president’s viewpoint without consultation”.
Pence counsel warned standoff might ‘have to be decided in the streets’
Jacob, Pence’s council, has said he warned John Eastman that interference by Pence in the election certification would cause an “unprecedented constitutional jump ball situation”.
“As I expressed to him, that issue might well then have to be decided in the streets,” Jacob told the panel. “Because if we can’t work it out politically, we’ve already seen how charged up people are about this election. And so, it would be a disastrous situation to be in.”
Eastman acknowledged Supreme Court would rule against Pence interference: Witness
Jacob has said that John Eastman, the Trump lawyer who was pushing for the vice president to overturn election results, acknowledged that the Supreme Court would unanimously rule against such interference.
“Wouldn’t we lose nine to nothing in the Supreme Court?” Jacob recalled asking Eastman.
“And again, he initially started: ‘Well, maybe we’d only lose seven to two.’ But ultimately [Eastman] acknowledged that no, we would lose nine-zero. No judge would support his argument.”
There was a risk that the lawyers in the White House Counsel’s Office would resign in protest of the President’s effort to force the VP to violate the Constitution.
Fox News host Sean Hannity expressed concern that the entire White House Counsel’s Office could quit: pic.twitter.com/Vho2SaByWr
— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) June 16, 2022
Pence never wavered in rejecting Trump’s call to overturn results: Counsel
Jacob, Pence’s counsel, has said the former vice president never wavered in rejecting calls by Trump and his allies to use his position to overturn the 2020 election results.
“The vice president never budged from the position… which was that it just made no sense from everything that he knew and studied about our Constitution – that one person would have that kind of authority,” Jacob told the committee.
Theory that vice president can alter results is ‘constitutional mischief’: Former judge
Luttig, the retired federal judge, has said the notion that the vice president had a substantive – not merely ceremonial role – in the counting of electoral votes is “constitutional mischief”.
“I would have laid my body across the road before I would have let the vice president overturn the 2020 election on the basis of that historical precedent,” Luttig said.
Today we intend to show that’s American people that January 6th was not an isolated incident. The president latched on to a dangerous theory and would not let go. pic.twitter.com/TwUuvRCcvJ
— Rep. Pete Aguilar (@RepPeteAguilar) June 16, 2022
Plan to halt vote count ‘perfectly legal’ Giuliani told crowd on Jan 6, 2021
The committee played a video that showed former New York mayor and Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani addressing the crowd at the Ellipse before they stormed the US Capitol January 6, 2021.
“Every single thing that has been outlined, as the plan for the day is perfectly legal,” he said.
He cited an incorrect historical reference to what President Jefferson did when he was vice president and said Pence “can decide on the validity of these crooked ballots, or he can send it back to the legislatures [and] give them five to 10 days to finally finish the work”.
Giuliani introduced another of Trump’s attorneys, John Eastman as “one of the pre-eminent constitutional scholars in the United States”.
“All we are demanding of Vice President Pence is this afternoon at one o’clock, he left the legislature to the state look into this so we get to the bottom of it, and the American people know whether we have control of the direction of our government or not,” Eastman told the crowd.
Pence counsel says vice president had no authority to overturn vote
Greg Jacob, former counsel to Pence, has reiterated to the committee that the authors of the US Constitution – known as framers – did not give the vice president the power to overturn presidential election results.
“There was no way that they would have put in the hands of one person the authority to determine who was going to be president of the United States,” Jacob said.
He added that there was also no precedent to back that theory.
“We examined every single electoral vote count that had happened in Congress since the beginning of the country… and critically, no vice president in 230 years of history has ever claimed to have that kind of authority,” Jacob said.
Ex-judge says Pence had no constitutional power to reject election results
Luttig, the retired federal judge, has stressed that the vice president, who also serves as the president of the Senate, has no legal power to change the result of the presidential elections as he oversees its certification.
He said there is no precedent in US history of a vice president interfering in the process to change it.
Luttig cited the powers laid out in the US Constitution’s 12th Amendment that defines the electoral process in the Senate:
“It was pristine clear that the president of the Senate on January 6, the incumbent vice president of the United States, had little substantive constitutional authority, if any at all,” Luttig said, continuing with his slow delivery.
"The President latched on to a dangerous theory and would not let go because he was convinced it would keep him in office."
Take a look at the effect of Donald Trump’s words and actions: pic.twitter.com/oE3RJ4JyrV
— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) June 16, 2022
Pence overturning 2020 election would have caused constitutional crisis: Ex-Judge
J Michael Luttig, a retired federal appeals judge and former informal adviser to Pence, said if the ex-vice president had obeyed Trump’s orders and declared the then-president the winner, it would have caused the first constitutional crisis in US history.
“That declaration of Donald Trump as the next president would have plunged America into what I believe would have been tantamount to a revolution within a constitutional crisis in America, which in my view – and I’m only one man – would have been the first constitutional crisis since the founding of the republic,” Luttig told the committee in remarks he delivered remarkably slowly.
Theory that vice president can overturn election ‘nonsensical’: Thompson
Thompson has said that Trump latched on to the theory that the vice president can dictate the election outcome after failing to persuade Justice Department officials and state lawmakers to overturn the 2020 vote.
Thompson called that push “completely nonsensical and anti-democratic”.
“This theory that the vice president could unilaterally select the president runs completely contrary to our Constitution, our laws and the entirety of our American experience,” Thompson said. “But that didn’t matter to President Trump.”
Chair @BennieGThompson: The former President wanted Pence to reject the votes & either declare Trump the winner or send the votes back to the states to be counted again..
We’re fortunate for Mr. Pence’s courage on January 6th. Our democracy came dangerously close to catastrophe. pic.twitter.com/Rwnrgit2zq
— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) June 16, 2022
January 6 video shows Trump putting pressure on Pence
The panel showed a video that shows “the effect of Donald Trump’s words and actions” committee member Pete Aguilar said. The brief video of events on January 6th showed Trump telling a crowd at the Ellipse: “Mike Pence is gonna have to come through for us and if he doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country.”
A demonstrator said if Pence “caved in”, politicians will be dragged “through the streets”.
The video then showed a crowd outside the US Capitol chanting “bring out Pence” and a makeshift gallows with a noose hanging from it.
Trump aides acknowledged Pence did the ‘right thing’, Cheney says
Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the January 6 panel, has said some Trump aides and allies knew that Pence did the “right thing” by refusing to interfere with the process of the election certification.
“You will hear today that President Trump’s White House counsel believed that the vice president did exactly the right thing on January 6, as did others in the White House, as did Fox News host Sean Hannity,” Cheney said in her opening statement.
“Vice President Pence understood that his oath of office was more important than his loyalty to Donald Trump. He did his duty. President Trump unequivocally did not.”
Trump wanted Pence to overturn 2020 elections: Thompson
Thompson has said that Trump wanted Pence to overturn the 2020 election results by refusing to count electoral votes on January 6, 2021.
“The former president wanted Pence to reject the votes and either declare Trump the winner or send the votes back to the states to be counted again,” Thompson said. “Mike Pence said no. He resisted the pressure. He knew it was illegal. He knew it was wrong. We are fortunate for Mr Pence’s courage.”
Hearing is under way
Panel chair Thompson has gavelled in the hearing.
The third January 6 hearing of the month by the congressional committee investigating the 2021 attack on the Capitol is under way.
Time to invite Ginni Thomas to testify, says panel chair
Committee chair Bennie Thompson has said Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, should be invited to speak to the panel.
The Washington Post had reported that the committee obtained emails between Thomas and attorney John Eastman, who was involved in efforts to block the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
The emails showed that Thomas’ efforts to overturn the election were more extensive than previously known, the Post said.
“It’s time for us to invite her to come talk,” Thompson told reporters at the Capitol.
What can the committee do?
The panel has no prosecutorial power, meaning it cannot charge people with crimes. But the committee can make recommendations to the US Justice Department to indict potential suspects.
Democrats are also saying they want to present their findings to the public, so Americans can make a judgement as to what transpired on January 6, 2021.
Pence confidants to testify
The hearing will feature testimonies from Pence confidants who are expected to detail how the former vice president dealt with the pressure to interfere with the election certification process.
Greg Jacob, former counsel to Pence, and J Michael Luttig, a retired federal appeals judge and informal adviser to the ex-vice president, will testify at the third hearing, the panel said.
Hearing ➡️ tomorrow at 1:00pm
• Mr. Greg Jacob, Former Counsel to Vice President Mike Pence
• The Honorable J. Michael Luttig, Retired judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and informal advisor to Mike Pence
— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) June 15, 2022
Hearing to focus on Trump’s effort to pressure Pence
Thursday’s hearing will focus on Trump’s push to pressure Pence to overturn the 2020 elections.
Trump had aired out those efforts publicly early in 2021, appearing to believe that the vice president could halt the certification of the election results.
“If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election,” Trump told supporters on January 6, 2021 before they marched to the Capitol building.
Panel releases video of Capitol tour by Republican
The panel has released a video of a tour led by a Republican lawmaker the day before the attack, showing participants taking photos of stairwells and tunnels in the Capitol complex.
The panel released the footage as it renewed calls for Georgia Representative Barry Loudermilk to speak to the committee about the tour. Loudermilk has so far declined the interview and denied any wrongdoing.
Read more here.
‘Treasonous’: Trump rebukes hearings
Trump has rejected the findings of the public hearings calling the committee “treasonous”.
In a 12-page statement earlier this week, the former president rehashed his false election fraud allegations and accused lawmakers on the panel of pushing to distract from what he called the “rigged and stolen” 2020 vote.
He also said the committee is presenting its own witnesses “without any opposition, cross-examination, or rebuttal evidence”.
Read more here.
Key takeaways from last hearing
The second hearing of the month focused on US officials and ex-aides telling former President Donald Trump that his 2020 election fraud claims were false.
Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue said in a video played on Monday that he told Trump repeatedly that the claims were unfounded, but each time the Justice Department would dismiss one fraud allegation, the former president would bring up another one.
“I told him flat-out that much of the information he’s getting is false and/or just not supported by the evidence,” Donoghue said.
Read the key takeaways from the hearing on Monday, June 13 here.
Welcome to Al Jazeera’s live coverage of a United States congressional committee’s public hearing on its inquiry into the January 6, 2021 US Capitol riot.