The Jan. 6 committee held its third public hearing Thursday, focusing on Mike Pence, his resistance to a pressure campaign from then-President Donald Trump to go along with a scheme to overturn the election and the eagerness of the mob to punish the then-vice president for his perceived disloyalty.
Among the biggest revelations:
- Top legal advisers to Pence testified that lawyer John Eastman's plan for Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory was illegal, baseless and without any historical precedent, and they advised Pence as such.
- If Pence had followed Trump's orders to hand him the election, a constitutional crisis would have ensued, according to J. Michael Luttig, the former federal judge who advised Pence about his role in certifying the 2020 election.
- Although he was moved into a secure bunker during the riot, Pence was a mere 40 feet from rioters who were threatening his life.
- Prior to Jan. 6, Eastman acknowledged that what he and Trump pushed Pence to do was not legal, according to a senior aide to Pence. After the riot, Eastman sought a presidential pardon via Rudy Giuliani, according to an email the committee displayed.
- Get caught up on Day 1 and Day 2 of the hearings.
Ginni Thomas open to talking to Jan. 6 committee: report
Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, told the Daily Caller on Thursday she'd be willing to speak to the Jan. 6 committee.
“I can’t wait to clear up misconceptions. I look forward to talking to them,” she said according to the website, without elaborating on what the “misconceptions” are.
Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said earlier in the day that the panel planned to ask her to meet with them, and told reporters a short time later that "we have sent Mrs. Thomas a letter."
Thomas's role has come under increasing scrutiny since it was revealed she'd sent then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows text messages after the election, including one a week after Election Day encouraging President Donald Trump not to concede. The Washington Post, citing three sources involved with the probe, reported on Wednesday that she'd also corresponded with Trump lawyer John Eastman.
In a post on his Substack Thursday, Eastman, a former Clarence Thomas law clerk, said Ginni Thomas had sent him an email on Dec. 4, 2020, asking him “to give an update about election litigation to a group she met with periodically” called the Frontliners.
He does not say if he met with the group, but said "at no time did I discuss with Mrs. Thomas or Justice Thomas any matters pending or likely to come before the Court.”
Justice Department says Jan. 6 committee interview transcripts ‘critical’ to criminal investigation
Justice Department officials have renewed their request for the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to turn over transcripts of witness depositions, saying that the documents are “critical” to its sprawling investigation.
“It is now readily apparent that the interviews the Select Committee conducted are not just potentially relevant to our overall criminal investigations, but are likely relevant to specific prosecutions that have already commenced,” read a letter sent to the committee on Wednesday.
“Given this overlap, it is critical that the Select Committee provide us with copies of the transcripts of all its witness interviews.”
Read more here.
Democrats praise Pence as committee outlines Trump's campaign to get him to overturn election results
In response to the committee presentation on the pressures Trump placed on Vice President Mike Pence to reject the election results, several Democrats praised Pence's loyalty to the American people and to democracy.
"We should be grateful Republicans like Vice President Pence refused orders from Donald Trump and put our country over their own political interests," Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., tweeted. "It took courage. And it might not happen that way next time."
Other Democratic lawmakers like Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., supported Pence's decision to certify the election in the face of rioters storming the Capitol yelling "Hang Mike Pence" who were featured in committee footage Thursday. "He [Pence] was correct to resist Trump's pressure to unlawfully overrule the will of the people," she tweeted.
Meanwhile, Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., recognized Pence's decision to break ranks with Trump came at the right time: "Pence demonstrated his loyalty for 4 years but he knew he had a higher duty on January 6th to the United States Constitution," she tweeted.
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said Pence did "the right thing and stood up for the good of our Constitution and our country by not following Trump’s orders."
Giuliani declines to respond to Herschmann testimony, says investigation is a 'witch hunt'
Rudy Giuliani was asked about video testimony played during Thursday's hearing in which Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann said that the former New York City mayor acknowledged that Pence didn't have the authority to block certification of the 2020 election.
"I shouldn’t really talk about that. The set of rules that I had with the committee was that my answer and question would be confidential. Now, the committee leaked because the committee is an irresponsible group," Giuliani said to a reporter in Binghamton, N.Y., at a campaign event for his son, Andrew Giuliani, who is running for governor.
Giuliani repeatedly refused to address Herschmann's comments, lashing out at the Jan. 6. committee instead.
"I’m going to tell you that the committee is a witch hunt. I’m going to tell you that the committee is an extension of Russian collusion, might as well be Russian collusion, too," he said. "I was telling the truth, the president was telling the truth, you don’t think they’re lying now? What, they changed it all of a sudden?"
Luttig concludes testimony with a stark warning for 2024, saying Trump remains 'a danger'
Luttig, in stark remarks near the close of Thursday’s hearing, warned that Trump and his supporters remain a “clear and present danger to American democracy” because they have so often indicated their desire to try again in 2024 to overturn the presidential election, if they lose.
“I have written that today, almost two years after that fateful day in January of 2021, that still, Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy,” Luttig began.
“That’s not because of what happened on Jan. 6. It’s because, to this very day, the former president, his allies and supporters pledge that in the presidential election of 2024, if the former president or his anointed successor as the Republican Party presidential candidate were to lose that election, that they would attempt to overturn that 2024 election in the same way that they attempted to overturn the 2020 election, but succeed in 2024, where they failed in 2020,” he continued.
Luttig added that “they are executing that blueprint in open and plain view of the American public.”
Cheney says next hearing will focus on Trump's efforts to lean on state officials to change election outcome
Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said in her closing remarks that the next hearings held by the committee will focus on Trump and his aides' efforts to pressure GOP-controlled state legislatures and state officials and Trump's threat to stop the electoral count.
Cheney said that the committee will show how Trump's pressure campaign targeted every tier of federal and state-elected officials. The panel will also examine the Trump team's determination to send "materially false electoral slates" from multiple states to the legislative and executive branches of the government.
"An honorable man receiving the information and advice that Mr. Trump received from his campaign experts and his staff, a man who loved his country more than himself, would have conceded this election," she said. "Indeed, we know that a number of President Trump's closest aides urged him to do so."
With Thompson's gavel, Thursday's hearing has concluded.
Committee highlights ruling by federal judge who said Trump likely broke the law
The committee on Thursday repeatedly highlighted the March ruling from a federal judge that indicated Trump likely broke the law in his efforts to block the Jan. 6 certification proceedings.
In that ruling, U.S. District Judge David Carter, who is presiding over a civil suit involving the House committee, wrote that Trump and Eastman “launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history.”
He added that “their campaign was not confined to the ivory tower — it was a coup in search of a legal theory. The plan spurred violent attacks on the seat of our nation’s government, led to the deaths of several law enforcement officers, and deepened public distrust in our political process.”
Cheney and Aguilar both cited and quoted from the ruling during Thursday’s hearing.
Carter, who was nominated to the federal court by President Bill Clinton, closed his 44-page ruling with a warning: “If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears Jan. 6 will repeat itself.”
In his ruling, Carter found that Trump “likely attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress” on Jan. 6, 2021, which would be a crime.
Pence mum on Jan. 6 hearing during appearance in Ohio
Former Vice President Mike Pence appeared at a roundtable event on energy in Ohio Thursday during the committee hearing on Donald Trump's efforts to convince him to overturn the election results.
Pence made no mention of the hearing during the public portion of the roundtable with Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and energy executives, and did not respond to reporters' questions about the proceedings.
Pence, who's been eyeing a run for president in 2024, complained about high gas prices, and said that "under the Trump-Pence administration, we unleashed American energy." "With the right leadership, we can do it all again," he added later.
Eastman repeatedly pleaded the Fifth to the committee
The committee aired footage showing a deposition with Eastman, who repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right in response to questions.
When asked whether he had told Trump that then-Vice President Pence could move to reject electors from seven states, Eastman replied with one word: "Fifth."
"Dr. Eastman pled the Fifth a hundred times," Rep. Pete Aguilar said at the conclusion of the deposition footage.
Eastman emailed Rudy Giuliani to get a presidential pardon after Jan. 6
Rep. Aguilar revealed that Eastman emailed Rudy Giuliani in the days after Jan. 6 asking to be included on a list of potential recipients for a presidential pardon.
"I've decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works," Eastman's email reads.
Eastman's request came after a Jan. 7 phone call with White House attorney Eric Herschmann, who told him to stop pursuing baseless theories to overturn the election and to find the best criminal defense lawyer he could. "You're going to need it," Herschmann said during the fiery call before hanging up.
Eastman did not receive a presidential pardon.
Ivanka Trump told committee she overheard Trump's phone call to Pence on morning of Jan. 6
The president's daughter said in video testimony the committee played during the hearing that she heard what Trump was saying to Pence during a phone call the morning of Jan. 6.
"The conversation was pretty heated," she told the committee about the conversation.
She also told the panel, "It was a different tone than I heard him take with the vice president before."
The committee didn't play any video testimony that showed Ivanka Trump directly testifying to what specifically the president said to Pence. Another aide said in video testimony that Ivanka Trump told her that Trump called the vice president "the p-word." Another White House aide said he remembers Trump calling Pence a "wimp."
Video: Rioters blame Pence for not going along with Trump's plan to reject electoral votes
Aguilar: 40 feet is all that separated Pence from mob that chanted to hang him
The committee revealed new details of Pence’s harrowing experience on Jan. 6, including that he remained in an underground secure location inside the Capitol for more than four hours.
At times, Pence's location in that bunker was only 40 feet away from rioters who had stormed their way inside the Capitol and chanted their wishes to hang the vice president, Aguilar said.
“Approximately 40 feet — that’s all there was — 40 feet between the vice president and the mob,” Aguilar said.
Jacob, in his testimony, also revealed that Pence had never left the Capitol during the ordeal, remaining on the grounds from the time he was initially whisked off the chamber floor as insurrectionists made their way inside the building to the time he re-entered the chamber to continue the certification process.
Trump called Pence a 'wimp' and the 'p-word' during 'heated' Jan. 6 phone call, according to testimony
Trump called Pence the morning of Jan. 6 from the Oval Office and had a "heated" conversation with the vice president, calling him disparaging names just before Pence was set to go to the Capitol that day to count the electoral votes in front of Congress.
Greg Jacob, Pence's chief counsel, said he and other top Pence aides were at Pence's residence when the vice president was notified that Trump was calling him.
"The vice president stepped out of the room to take that call and no staff went with him," Jacob said in his live testimony during the hearing.
The committee then showed never-before-seen photos of Trump's family in the Oval Office, including his older children and their significant others, during the time of that call.
"It wasn't a specific formal discussion; it was very sort of loose and casual," Ivanka Trump said in video testimony played by the committee.
Eric Herschmann, a White House lawyer, said he could only hear the president's end of the call in the Oval Office, telling the committee in video testimony played during the hearing, "It started off with a calmer tone and everything and then became heated."
"The conversation was pretty heated," Ivanka Trump told the committee.
Nicholas Luna, former assistant to Trump, said in audio testimony played during the hearing that he heard Trump calling Pence a "wimp" during the phone call.
Trump also called Pence the "p-word" during the phone call, Trump aide Julie Radford told the committee after speaking with Ivanka about the conversation.
Referring to Pence after the phone call, Jacob said, "When he came back into the room, I would say he was steely, determined, grim."
McCarthy on Jan. 6 said the White House was downplaying siege, Pence aide says
In a previously-recorded deposition, the vice president's chief of staff Marc Short said he spoke with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on the phone on Jan. 6 after the Capitol was breached. McCarthy said that the White House "was not taking the situation as seriously as it should," according to Short.
Short testified that he did not know if McCarthy had spoken to Trump at that time.
Aguilar: Trump's prepared Jan. 6 remarks didn't mention Pence — but Trump improvised
Aguilar said that Trump’s initial prepared remarks for his Jan. 6 speech at the Ellipse that prompted the storming of the Capitol didn’t include any mention of Pence, but that Trump improvised extensively to include stark criticism of his vice president — a move Aguilar said helped incite the insurrection and prompted threats of violence against Pence.
“As will be discussed in detail in a future hearing, our investigation found that early drafts of the Jan. 6 ellipse rally speech prepared for the president included no mention of the vice president. But the president revised it to include criticism of the vice president and then further ad-libbed,” Aguilar said.
The committee then played video of Trump’s speech at the Ellipse, in which he referred to Pence critically multiple times.
“I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so. Because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election,” Trump said.
“All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people,” he said.
“Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us, and if he doesn’t, that will be a, a sad day for our country,” Trump added a moment later.
“Mike Pence, I hope you’re going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country. And if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you,” he said. “I hope Mike has the courage to do what he has to do.”
Staff wanted Trump to calm things down at Capitol before he tweeted criticism of Pence
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Trump about the violence unfolding at the Capitol before the president posted a tweet criticizing Vice President Mike Pence for not having the "courage" to overturn the election, according to White House staffers.
The committee played testimony from Ben Williamson, a former aide to Meadows, who told the Jan. 6 committee that he saw Meadows walking in the direction of the Oval Office before Trump posted that tweet at 2:24 p.m. on Jan. 6, after rioters had breached the Capitol. (Meadows refused to testify before the committee himself.)
"I know Ben Williamson and I were conferring and we thought that the president needed to tweet something and tweet something immediately," Sarah Matthews, a former White House press aide, told the committee in another clip shown during the hearing. "And I think when [press secretary] Kayleigh [McEnany] gave us that order of 'don’t say anything to the media,' I told her that I thought the president needed to tweet something."
Williamson said, “I believe I had sent him [Meadows] a text saying that we may want to put out some sort of statement because the situation was getting a little hairy over at the Capitol.”
Matthews said she remembers sitting with Williamson and another White House staffer when she received a notification on her phone.
"We all got a notification, so we knew it was a tweet from the president. And we looked down, and it was a tweet about Mike Pence," she said.
Trump says he wants 'equal time'
Trump, in a post on his Truth Social platform, demanded “equal time” from the networks airing the Jan. 6 hearings.
“I demand equal time,” he posted, before the hearing kicked off around 1 p.m. ET.
The committee hearing has resumed
The committee has returned from recess to focus on then-Vice President Pence's day on Jan. 6.
Jacob: I warned Eastman violence was a possible outcome
Jacob, continuing his description of a Jan. 4 Oval Office meeting, recalled warning Eastman and others that, if they got their wishes, violence was a likely outcome.
Later in the Oval Office discussion, Jacob recalled Eastman telling him that, if the Supreme Court never became involved with a hypothetical case about the vice president’s decision to reject electors, it could buy time for states to figure out a way to find pro-Trump elector slates. (Eastman, Jacob said, posited that under the “political question doctrine” — a legal belief that the court shouldn’t hear cases that are inherently political — the high court justices might just avoid the question altogether.)
“If the courts stay out of it, that means we’ll have the 10 days to allow states to resolve that,” Jacob recalled Eastman saying.
Jacob said he responded by saying, “I expressed my vociferous disagreement.”
“Among other things, if the courts did not step into resolve it, there was nobody else to resolve it,” Jacob said.
“You’d be in this situation where you have a standoff between the president of the United States and the vice president of the United States," Jacob said he told Eastman. As a result, the issue “might well be resolved through violence in the streets," he added.
VP aide Marc Short was so worried Trump would 'lash out,' he warned Pence’s secret service
As tensions between Trump and Pence brewed, Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, was so worried that Trump would “lash out” against the vice president that he warned Pence’s secret service detail on Jan. 5, Aguilar said.
“My concern was for the vice president’s security, and so I wanted to make sure the head of the vice president’s Secret Service was aware that likely, as these disagreements became more public, that the president would lash out in some way,” Short said in a video of his deposition.
“In fact, Mr. Short was so concerned about it that he talked with the head of the Vice President’s Secret Service detail on Jan. 5,” Aguilar said.
That level of concern, Aguilar explained, came after a phone conversation between Short and Trump adviser Jason Miller. Short explained that he had called Miller because he was irritated over a “badly false” statement from Trump that claimed that Pence agreed that he had the power to overturn the 2020 election.
The committee is taking a 10-minute break
The committee recessed for 10 minutes for about 10 minutes. Rep. Aguilar said they will return to present evidence that then-Vice President Pence was in danger on Jan. 6.
Pence lawyer: Eastman 'expressly requested' in Jan. 5 meeting that Pence 'reject the electors'
In live testimony, Greg Jacob, Pence's chief counsel, said that John Eastman came to the White House on Jan. 5 and explicitly asked that the vice president "reject the electors" when he was set to count the votes before Congress.
During an Oval Office meeting with Eastman and Trump a day earlier, Jacob said that Eastman said he wouldn't recommend that Pence take that action.
"What most surprised me about that [Jan. 5] meeting was that when Mr. Eastman came in, he said, 'I’m here to request that you reject the electors,'" Jacob said, adding that during a meeting on Jan. 4, Eastman "had said, 'I’m not recommending that you do that,' but on the 5th, he came in and expressly requested that."
Jacob said he had grabbed a notebook before heading into the Jan. 5 meeting with Eastman and he wrote down "requesting VP reject." The committee showed an image of those notes during the hearing.
"I was surprised because I viewed it as one of the key concessions the night before," Jacob said about Eastman's reversal.
Jacob: Eastman admitted legal theory that VP could overturn electors wouldn't hold up
Jacob, recalling an Oval Office meeting with Trump, Eastman and Pence, said he told Eastman that the legal theory underscoring the claim that the vice president had the power to reject electors was bunk — and that Eastman himself eventually admitted it.
“John, basically, what you have is some text that may be a little ambiguous, but nothing else,” Jacob said, describing how he remembered speaking to Eastman. “Including that nobody would ever want that to be the rule,” Jacob added.
“Wouldn’t we lose 9-0 in the Supreme Court?” Jacob said he asked Eastman.
Jacob said Eastman initially replied that the Supreme Court loss would be closer to “7-2” before, as Jacob recalled, acknowledging that “no judge would support” the argument — and that the decision would have been 9-0.
Eastman was dismissive when told overturning election would cause 'riots in the streets': White House lawyer
White House lawyer Eric Herschmann said in video testimony to the committee that during a phone call with John Eastman, he warned him about the repercussions of trying to pressure Pence to overturn the 2020 election on Jan. 6.
"I said, 'Are you out of your f’ing mind?'" Herschmann said, recalling the conversation to the committee.
“I said, 'You’re going to cause riots in the streets' and he said words to the effect of, there has been violence in the history of our country in order to protect the democracy, or to protect the republic."
Hannity repeatedly expressed concern to Meadows, including 'next 48 hours' on Jan. 5
In the days before the rally, Fox News host Sean Hannity expressed concern to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows about the effort by lawyer John Eastman to push Pence to overturn the election, the committee said.
In a text sent to Meadows on Dec. 31, 2020, shown by the committee, Hannity, a close Trump ally, said he was concerned there would be a revolt in the White House counsel's office. Jason Miller, a Trump campaign adviser, said in video testimony shown by the committee, that Trump lawyers thought Eastman was crazy.
"We can’t lose the entire WH counsels office. I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told. After the 6 th. He should announce will lead the nationwide effort to reform voting integrity. Go to Fl and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks people will listen," Hannity texted Meadows.
On Jan. 5, a day before the insurrection, Hannity sent two texts to Meadows: "I[’]m very worried about the next 48 hours," and "Pence pressure. WH counsel will leave."
Former Pence aide Troye, several House Democrats are on hand
Like past Jan. 6 hearings, a number of House Democrats were present at Thursday's proceedings.
They include: Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, Wash.; and Reps. Susan Wild, Pa.; Steve Cohen, Tenn.; Ayanna Pressley, Mass.; Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas; Mary Gay Scanlon, Pa.; and Mikie Sherrill, N.J.
Margaret Grun Kibben, the House chaplain who began her job just three days before the attack, was sitting next to Cohen.
Seated behind the witnesses was Olivia Troye, who served as a Pence aide focused on homeland security and coronavirus issues.
After she left the White House in the summer of 2020, Troye became a fierce critic of Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Weeks before the Capitol attack, she warned that she feared violence on Jan. 6 because of Trump’s rhetoric.
“I’m actually very concerned that there will be violence on Jan. 6th because the president himself is encouraging it,” Troye said on MSNBC in late December 2020.
“This is what he does. He tweets, he incites it and he gets followers and supporters to behave in this manner and they believe they are being patriots because they’re supporting the president," she said.
Jacob: 'Unbroken historical practice' for VP to not reject electoral votes
Jacob, during his live testimony, said that he and Pence delved into every last detail and piece of information possible in search of evidence that the vice president had the ability to reject the electoral votes of the states.
They never found any.
Over “230 years of history,” Jacob said, it was an “unbroken historical practice” that the vice president did not have such authority.
Jacob also said he confronted Eastman, telling him that under his logic. former Vice President Al Gore would have had the power to declare himself the winner of the 2000 election. He then said that Eastman agreed that Gore did not have that authority.
“Part of my discussion with Mr. Eastman was, ‘If you are right, do you not think Al Gore might have liked to have known that he had the authority to declare himself president,” Jacob said.
“Did you think that the Democrat lawyers just didn’t think of this very obvious quirk that he could use to do that?” Jacob continued. “And of course, he acknowledged Al Gore did not and should not have had the authority at that point in time.”
Eastman wrote in Oct. 2020 questioning theory that Pence could overturn the election
John Eastman, the Trump lawyer who wrote memos arguing that then-Vice President Mike Pence could overturn the 2020 election, wrote in October 2020 that he didn't believe that theory.
The committee presented a letter that "proposed that the vice president could determine which electors to count at the joint session of Congress," which was covered in notes from Eastman tearing the argument apart, Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said.
Eastman's comments in blue said, "The 12th Amendment only says that the President of the Senate opens the ballots in the joint session and then, in the passive voice, that the votes shall then be counted."
"Nowhere does it suggest that the President of the Senate gets to make the determination on his own," his notes continued.
Pence's top lawyer: VP said he couldn't 'wait to go to heaven' to praise founders for the Constitution — with just one quibble
Greg Jacob, Pence's chief counsel, said that in a discussion with the then-vice president about the Constitution and the role given to the vice president to count electoral votes, Pence spoke about wanting to discuss the document with the nation's founders.
"I recalled in my discussion with the vice president, he said, 'I can't wait to go to heaven and meet the framers and tell them the work that you did in putting together our Constitution is a work of genius. Thank you. It was divinely inspired. There is one sentence that I would like to talk to you a little bit about,'" Jacob recalled about their conversation.
Giuliani acknowledged Pence couldn't overturn election on morning of Jan. 6, but said opposite at rally
Rudy Giuliani seemed to acknowledge on the morning of Jan. 6 that Pence didn't have the authority to overturn the 2020 election, but said the "exact opposite" just a few hours later, said Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif.
The committee then played a clip from the interview it conducted with Eric Herschmann, who was a White House attorney at the time. Herschmann said that on the morning of Jan. 6, as he was getting dressed, Giuliani called him "out of the blue."
"We had an intellectual discussion about [John] Eastman — I don’t know if it’s Eastman’s theory, per se, but the VP’s role. And you know, he was asking me my view and analysis and the practical implications of it. And when we finished, he said, 'Look, I believe, that you know, you’re probably right,'" Herschmann told the panel.
However, Giuliani disregarded that when he spoke to Trump supporters at the White House ellipse later that morning.
"It is perfectly appropriate given the questionable constitutionality of the Election Counting Act of 1887 that the vice president can cast it aside and he can do what a president called Jefferson did when he was vice president," Giuliani said at the rally, according to a video clip played during the hearing. "He can decide on the validity of these crooked ballots, or he can send it back to the legislators, give them five to 10 days to finally finish the work."
Jan. 6 hearing points to why some lawmakers are trying to change the Electoral Count Act
A theme of the hearing Thursday is the Electoral Count Act, an 1887 law that governs the process of certifying presidential elections in Congress, which has traditionally been a formality. Allies of then-President Donald Trump sought to exploit the law to push Vice President Mike Pence to overturn his 2020 election defeat.
A bipartisan group in the Senate is close to a deal to clarify that law to prevent future coup attempts, members say, including by making it explicit that the vice president doesn’t have unilateral power to discount certain electoral votes, as Trump wanted Pence to do. (Pence refused, and Trump’s defeat was cemented.)
They also want to raise the threshold for objecting to a state’s electors — and thus forcing a debate in Congress about them — from one member of each chamber to 20 percent in the chambers.
Many Democrats and Republicans say the 1887 law is poorly written and ought to be clarified in order to protect against future attempts to steal an election.
Greg Jacob, Pence's legal counsel at the time, told the committee: “There is no justifiable basis to conclude the vice president has that kind of authority.”
Pence's chief counsel said their legal team concluded in Dec. 2020 the vice president had no power to overturn an election
Pence's chief legal counsel, Greg Jacob, said that they concluded in December 2020 that the vice president had no power to overturn an election.
Pence called Jacob over to his West Wing office in early December and asked about the role he would play in counting electoral votes before Congress on Jan. 6, Jacob testified at the hearing. The vice president said he recalled being in Congress when then-Vice President Al Gore gaveled down a number of objections raised about electoral votes in Florida.
Jacob said he prepared a memo overnight that explained the rules on Jan. 6 and said Pence's initial theory about a vice president overturning an election was that there was "no way" the nation's framers "who had broken away from the tyranny of George III "would ever put one person...in a role to have decisive impact on the outcome of the election."
"Our review of text history and frankly, just common sense, all confirmed the vice president's first instinct on that point, there is no justifiable basis to conclude that the vice president has that kind of authority."
Cheney lays out plot to have Pence halt the electoral vote count
Cheney laid out the plot that Trump and his allies put together to have Pence halt the counting of the electoral vote.
She explained that on Dec. 13, 2020 — the day before the Electoral College met — attorney Kenneth Chesebro sent a memo to Rudy Giuliani claiming that the vice president is charged with “making judgments about what to do if there are conflicting votes.”
A group of Trump supporters in Arizona — as well as other swing states — had declared themselves the rightful electors of the state, which had the effect of creating two sets of electors: the official group selected by the states and the fake electors. (Cheney said future hearings would delve further into the false electors.)
Chesebro wrote that when the Joint Session of Congress got to Arizona in the alphabetical list of states on Jan. 6, Pence should not count the state’s electoral votes for Biden “because there are two slates of votes.”
Citing a ruling from a federal judge who’d ordered the memo's release, Cheney quoted “that 'the draft memo pushed a strategy that knowingly violated the Electoral Count Act'" and that the “memo is both intimately related to and clearly advanced the plan to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021.”
Luttig: If Pence obeyed Trump, it would have triggered 'constitutional crisis,' 'revolution'
Luttig, the former federal judge who advised Pence about his role in certifying the 2020 election, said that had Pence obeyed orders from Trump to overturn the election, it would have triggered a "constitutional crisis."
"I believe that had Vice President Pence obeyed the orders from his president and the president of the United States of America during the joint sessions of the Congress of the United States on Jan. 6, 2021 — and declared Donald Trump the next president of the United States, notwithstanding that then President Trump had lost the Electoral College vote as well as the popular vote in the 2020 presidential election — 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," Luttig said during questioning from Cheney.
"Which, in my view, and I’m only one man, would have been the first constitutional crisis since the founding of the Republic," he added.
Who is John Eastman, the lawyer who allegedly conspired with Donald Trump?
Rep. Liz Cheney described John Eastman on Thursday as the architect of a "nonsensical theory" designed to keep Donald Trump in office based on claims he knew was false. A federal judge found in a civil case he "more likely than not" had "dishonestly conspired" with Trump to obstruct the counting of electoral votes in a joint session of Congress. And Rudy Giuliani described him as "one of the preeminent constitutional scholars in the United States."
John Eastman is a lawyer and law professor who clerked for the highly regarded conservative federal court judge J. Michael Luttig and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and later ran unsuccessful campaigns for Congress and attorney general in California.
He became well known as a legal commentator on conservative shows, but gained national notoriety in August of 2020, when he wrote an article for Newsweek questioning Kamala Harris's American citizenship, which were later echoed by Trump. He told the New York Times last year that Trump called him in December of 2020 to see if he'd join his legal team.
He filed a brief with the Supreme Court challenging the election results, which failed. It was after that that he pushed a plan centered around Vice President Mike Pence rejecting Biden electors from states he said were disputed. “Under several of the scenarios, the Vice President could ultimately just declare Donald Trump the winner, regardless of the vote totals that had already been certified by the states,” Cheney said. “However, this was false and Dr. Eastman knew it was false. In other words, it was a lie.”
Eastman has been a major target of the committee's probe. The panel said he used his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 146 times when it deposed him, and he'd refused to hand over documents that were subpoenaed. He later sued the committee to block it from getting his emails from the school he taught at, but Judge David Carter has ordered him to turn thousands of emails over. In a ruling in March, Carter said Trump and Eastman “launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history.”
Harrowing video shown of protesters chanting 'Hang Mike Pence'
In a video shown at the hearing, and broadcast live on television, supporters of Trump were seen and heard urging the demise of the vice president.
At one point, the harrowing video showed one marcher on his way to the Capitol before it was breached, warning onlookers that they were prepared to “drag people through the streets” if Pence “caved” to pressure to not overturn the 2020 election.
The video concluded with Jan. 6 rioters chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.”
Who is Greg Jacob?
Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., introduced Greg Jacob, a top aide to Pence whose live testimony will be featured prominently during Thursday’s hearing.
Jacob served as Pence’s legal counsel and was with him at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
He’s become a central figure among lawmakers piecing together the alleged plot by Trump allies to overturn the 2020 election.
Jacob was subpoenaed to appear and has complied. He testified privately before the committee in February.
Who is Michael Luttig?
One of the witnesses testifying in-person Thursday is former federal judge Michael Luttig, who served in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. On Jan. 6, Luttig notably advised then-Vice President Mike Pence about his role in certifying the 2020 election.
In Pence's letter outlining his rationale for certifying the election results, he quoted Luttig: "[T]he only responsibility and power of the Vice President under the Constitution is to faithfully count the Electoral College votes as they have been cast."
A prominent and well-respected conservative scholar, Luttig was appointed by Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, where he presided from 1991 to 2006.
Luttig began his early career clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and then-Chief Justice Warren Burger.
Aguilar teases committee has information about a 'heated phone call' between Trump and Pence on morning of Jan. 6
Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said that the committee will present evidence that shows former Vice President Mike Pence "withstood an onslaught of pressure from President Trump both publicly and privately" to overturn the election.
Aguilar said this was a "pressure campaign that built to a fever pitch with a heated phone call on the morning of Jan. 6."
Pence prepared a statement saying he wouldn't refuse to count the electoral votes
Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said that Pence prepared a statement the day before the insurrection, and on the day of the riot, that said he wouldn't follow Trump's orders and would count the electoral votes.
"The vice president said, 'This may be the most important thing I ever say,'" Pence's chief counsel, Greg Jacob, recalled about his boss's remarks, referring to the prepared statement.
Trump knew it would be illegal for Pence to refuse electoral vote count, Pence lawyer said
Vice chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said in her opening statement that Trump plotted with lawyer John Eastman to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count the electoral votes from the 2020 presidential election on Jan. 6.
"As a federal court has explained, 'Based on the evidence, the court finds that it is more likely than not that President Trump and Dr. Eastman dishonestly conspired to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021,'" Cheney said.
Cheney played a short clip of Pence's general counsel Greg Jacob telling the committee that Eastman admitted in front of Trump that his plan to have Pence reject the Electoral College vote would violate federal law.
"I believe he did on the 4th," Jacob told the committee, referring to Jan. 4, two days before Pence was set to count the votes in front of Congress and the attack on the Capitol.
'President Trump is wrong': Pence's public rejection of Trump's claims he could have overturned the election
Former Vice President Mike Pence, whose role on Jan. 6 promises to be a focal point of Thursday’s committee hearing, has been unwavering in saying that he had no Constitutional right to overturn the 2020 election.
“I heard this week that President Trump said I had the right to overturn the election. President Trump is wrong,” Pence told the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization, in February.
“There are those in our party who believe that as the presiding officer over the joint session of Congress that I possess unilateral authority to reject Electoral College votes.” He said that belief was wrong.
“I had no right to change the outcome of our election. Kamala Harris will have no right to over turn the election when we beat them in 2024,” Pence said.
During a speech in June 2021 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Pence said that he was “proud” of what he did on Jan. 6 and that there’s “almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.
Pence has called Jan. 6 “a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol,” and said that while he’d spoken to Trump since, “I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye on that day.”
Thompson says committee will invite Ginni Thomas to talk about Jan. 6 'at some point'
Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters Thursday morning that the panel's members think "it’s time" to "at some point, invite her [Ginni Thomas] to come talk to the committee," he said about the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
He declined to provide details about when that invitation would be sent, but said it would happen based on “information we have come upon" regarding her.
Ginni Thomas has become an increasingly focal figure in the reporting around Jan. 6 after text messages and emails she sent became public in which she tried to persuade government officials to help turn over the election results.
Federal judge won’t dismiss contempt charges against Steve Bannon over refusal to cooperate with Jan. 6 panel
A federal judge on Wednesday declined to dismiss contempt of Congress charges against former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon over his refusal to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols issued his ruling immediately after hearing courtroom argument from federal prosecutors and Bannon’s lawyers. The move clears the way for Bannon’s trial to start July 18, but one member of Bannon’s team said he might seek to have it delayed.
Bannon was indicted last November by a federal grand jury, charged with two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions from the House committee investigating the riot. One count accused him of refusing to appear for a deposition and the other was for declining to produce documents requested by the committee.
The committee said it wanted to explore a comment he made on his radio program on Jan. 5, when he predicted that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” That could indicate that “he had some foreknowledge about extreme events that would occur the next day,” the committee said.
Court document in Proud Boys case laid out plan to occupy Capitol buildings on Jan. 6
A document, titled “1776 Returns,” which federal prosecutors said was used by the leader of the Proud Boys, lays out a plan to occupy Capitol buildings on Jan. 6, 2021, using covert operators to let “patriots” inside government offices in an apparent effort to force a new election.
Enrique Tarrio, the former leader of the Proud Boys, and four other members were indicted on seditious conspiracy charges this month. Tarrio has twice been ordered detained until trial.
The nine-page document, filed in federal court Wednesday, lays out a plan to fill buildings “with patriots and communicate our demands.” It’s stated goals include maintaining control “over a select few, but crucial buildings in the DC area for a set period of time” and getting as “many people as possible inside these buildings.”
Photo shows Pence and his family hiding in Capitol on Jan. 6
Photos obtained by ABC News show then-Vice President Mike Pence and some of his family members sitting in a ceremonial room off of the Senate floor Jan. 6 after he was evacuated from the chamber.
One image shows Pence sitting next to his brother, Rep. Greg Pence, R-Ind., and Pence's daughter, Charlotte, sitting on a couch. Pence's wife, Karen Pence, can be seen closing the curtains. The photo was taken by Pence's official photographer, Myles Cullen, ABC News reported.
Another photo shows Pence later that day working on a speech, with Charlotte's help, that he would give to Congress once it reconvened after the riot.
Jan. 6 panel releases new surveillance video of tour given on eve of riot
The Jan. 6 committee on Wednesday released new footage of a man who made violent verbal threats against top Democratic lawmakers outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 and, the day before, had been taken on a tour of House office buildings by Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga.
The man is heard in a video outside the Capitol threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
In the days after the deadly riot, Democratic lawmakers raised concerns about tours given of the Capitol complex, which had been closed to members of the public due to pandemic restrictions.
The surveillance footage released Wednesday shows Loudermilk giving a tour to a small group — some wearing red caps — as some individuals take photos of Capitol staircases, tunnels and security checkpoints that are used by lawmakers and staff members daily.
Trump knew Capitol was breached when he disparaged Pence in Jan. 6 tweet, key Democrat says
Then-President Donald Trump knew violence had taken hold at the Capitol on Jan. 6 when he tweeted that Mike Pence wasn’t willing to overturn the election, according to a member of the House committee investigating the riot, who said the panel will show the former vice president was in more physical danger than previously known.
Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., who will play a key role in leading the committee’s third public hearing Thursday, previewed the panel’s findings by telling NBC News that Pence was “evacuated in just the nick of time” from the quickly advancing mob after the disparaging tweet from Trump.
Aguilar said that just minutes after the doors to the Capitol had been breached, while Pence was in his ceremonial office, Trump tweeted that his second-in-command didn’t have the courage to overturn the election results. Moments later, Pence was whisked to an evacuation area by Secret Service agents, Aguilar said.
“We notice right away, you know, within 90 seconds, the vice president is being evacuated right after that Trump tweet,” Aguilar said in an interview with NBC News correspondent Garrett Haake.
“[Trump] knew that there was violence and he still tweeted the vice president didn’t have the courage to do what was necessary,” Aguilar added.
Jan. 6 panel to make case Trump put Pence’s life ‘in danger’ at third hearing
The Jan. 6 committee says it will present evidence Thursday showing how then-President Donald Trump’s aggressive efforts to pressure Mike Pence to unconstitutionally block certification of the 2020 election led to the deadly insurrection and even put the former vice president’s life at risk.
“We’re going to show that that pressure campaign directly contributed to the attack on the Capitol, and it put the vice president’s life in danger,” a committee aide said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
Thursday’s hearing — the third of at least seven planned by the House committee for June — will focus on the internal battle within the Trump White House over whether Pence could unilaterally stop Joe Biden’s election certification and keep Trump in power.
The committee is expected to present new information through exhibits and live and videotaped testimony when the hearing kicks off at 1 p.m. ET.
How to watch the third Jan. 6 hearing
The committee's third hearing, which is expected to focus on the Trump White House's internal battle over whether Vice President Mike Pence could stop the certification of Joe Biden's electoral victory on Jan. 6, will be streamed live on NBC News NOW, NBCNews.com and MSNBC.com. NBCNews.com will also feature a live blog with news and analysis.
NBC News will have live coverage of the hearing, led by “Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt. MSNBC will have special coverage beginning at 12 p.m. ET, led by Andrea Mitchell, Hallie Jackson and Katy Tur, in addition to a live blog.
The hearing, led in large part by Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., will feature live testimony from former Pence counsel Greg Jacob and retired federal judge Michael Luttig, who also advised Pence. Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff at the time, will not be testifying in-person, but his recorded testimony might be used during the hearing, a committee aide said.
Most Americans are following Jan. 6 hearing, liberal poll finds
A majority of Americans are following the House Jan. 6 committee’s public hearings and most believe the panel is conducting important work, a survey taken by a liberal polling group found.
That is certain to reassure the nine-member committee, which has faced intense resistance from Republicans. The poll by Navigator Research, a progressive polling coalition, was conducted from June 9-13 as the committee opened a set of public hearings. Nearly two-thirds of about 1,000 people surveyed had heard either something or “a lot” about the hearings.
Overall, 64 percent of those polled said they supported the committee’s year-long investigation; only 28 percent said they were opposed. Even among Republicans, the committee’s inquiry enjoys a fair amount of support: 40 percent of Republicans backed the investigation, compared to 51 percent who said they were opposed.
Democrats shouldn’t have a tough time beating back GOP arguments that the committee’s work is a diversion from more pressing issues. The pollsters tested an argument that many Republicans have advanced: that the hearings amount to “political theater.” At least four counter-arguments proved more persuasive. The most successful was one emphasizing that the attack on the Capitol harmed police officers while endangering lawmakers, meaning that those responsible should be held accountable.
As committee members discuss whether to make a criminal referral to the U.S. Department of Justice, most Americans want to see Trump face charges, the poll showed. By a 17-point margin (54 percent to 37 percent), people said they would like to see the Justice Department file criminal charges against Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 attack. Only 21 percent of Republicans wanted to see Trump charged, compared to 71 percent who did not.
A plurality of independents supported criminal charges against Trump — 47 percent to 32 percent (21 percent were not sure).