Jan. 6 panel reveals GOP lawmakers sought Trump pardons after Capitol attack

Conservative Reps. Matt Gaetz and Mo Brooks were among those who sought pardons for their roles in the plot to overturn the 2020 election, Trump officials testified.

Rep Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., at a Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington on April 28.Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images file

At its first public hearing, the Jan. 6 committee teased that multiple Republican lawmakers had asked then-President Donald Trump for pardons for their roles in the effort to overturn the 2020 election.

On Thursday, the panel named names and offered specific details about how those requests were made.

The list comprised Trump's closest congressional allies: Republican Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

Perry and Biggs denied asking for a pardon.

Five days after the Capitol attack, Brooks sent an email to White House officials with the subject line: "Pardons."

Brooks said that he had been instructed by Trump to send the letter and that it was "pursuant to a request" from Gaetz for pardons for those two and other lawmakers.

"I recommend that President give general (all purpose) pardons to the following groups of people: ... Every Congressman and Senator who voted to reject the electoral college vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania," Brooks wrote to the White House.

On Jan. 6, 2021, 127 Republicans voted to object to Arizona's election results; 145 Republicans voted to object to Pennsylvania's results.

A Trump White House lawyer, Eric Herschmann, said he specifically remembered Gaetz’s seeking a pardon. 

“The general tone was: We may get prosecuted because we were defensive of, you know, the president’s positions on these things,” Herschmann said in recorded testimony played during Thursday's hearing. “The pardon that he was discussing, requesting, was as broad as you could describe. …

"He mentioned Nixon. And I said Nixon’s pardon was never nearly that broad.”

Another Trump White House official, Cassidy Hutchinson, testified that the band of conservative lawmakers seeking pardons was made up largely of the same people who attended a now-infamous Dec. 21, 2020, meeting at the White House with Trump and his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, a former member of Congress, as they strategized how to overturn Joe Biden's election victory and keep Trump in power.

In recorded testimony, Hutchinson rattled off several lawmakers by name, including Gaetz, Brooks, Biggs and Gohmert.

Another, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, "talked about congressional pardons, but he never asked me for one," Hutchinson testified.

Instead, she said, "it was more for an update on whether the White House was going to pardon members of Congress."

Jordan was the face of Trump's congressional defense during his two impeachment proceedings. Nearly all are members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, formerly led by Meadows and closely aligned with Trump.

Hutchinson testified that Perry, who played a critical role in Trump's election plot, also asked for a pardon; Greene, who had called Jan. 6 "our 1776 moment," asked then-White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin for a pardon, Hutchinson said.

John McEntee, who was personnel director for Trump's White House, testified in a previous deposition about discussions about a blanket pardon for Trump family members and anyone else involved in Jan. 6.

"Umm, I know [Trump] had hinted at a blanket pardon for the January 6th thing for anyone," McEntee said, "but I think he had for all the staff and anybody involved."

Revelations that more than a half-dozen GOP lawmakers sought presidential pardons from Trump suggest that they were aware they were potentially breaking the law, committee members argued.

"The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you’ve committed a crime," said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a vocal Trump critic who played a prominent role in Thursday's hearing.

At an earlier hearing, the Jan. 6 panel revealed that conservative attorney John Eastman, the architect of the Trump effort to overturn the election, also had requested a pardon from the president.

Neither Eastman nor any of the GOP lawmakers ultimately got pardons.

Perry said in a statement that he never asked for a pardon for himself or other lawmakers.

“At no time did I speak with Miss Hutchinson, a White House scheduler, nor any White House staff about a pardon for myself or any other Member of Congress — this never happened,” he said.

Biggs said in a statement posted to Twitter late Thursday that the Jan. 6 committee “continues to pursue me with the false allegation that I sought a presidential pardon.”

“To the extent Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House staffer, believes I requested a presidential pardon, she is mistaken,” Biggs said.

Asked for comment, a Gaetz spokesman pointed to a tweet by Gaetz: "The January 6 Committee is an unconstitutional political sideshow."

As the hearing ended, Brooks issued a statement saying he would voluntarily testify before the panel if five conditions are met, including that his testimony be made in public and that only members of Congress be permitted to ask questions.

Brooks later told reporters he had spoken directly with Trump about presidential pardons, and that Trump told him to put his request in writing.

Asked how Trump responded after sending the email requesting pardons, Brooks responded, “Well, bottom line is the president thought it would be best just to let it play out. I agreed with him. We let it play out.” 

After the hearing, Greene tweeted the clip of Hutchinson saying she had heard she had asked for a pardon.

"Saying 'I heard' means you don’t know," Greene said. "Spreading gossip and lies is exactly what the January 6th Witch Hunt Committee is all about."

Later, Greene tweeted: "You know who needs to be pardoned? Julian Assange and Edward @Snowden."

Assange faces extradition to the U.S. to be tried on federal charges for publishing classified documents. Snowden remains in Russia, where he was granted asylum, after he fled there after he leaked classified documents.