– (The Hill) On Thursday, the House committee probing last year’s attack on the US Capitol held its third public hearing, furthering its case that former President Trump used White House powers to stage a coup attempt.
According to the panel, the effort failed only because Trump’s weeks-long drive to recruit other White House officials failed to persuade his own vice president, Mike Pence, to join him. Despite Trump’s pleas, Pence refused to reject the state electoral votes that confirmed Trump’s defeat, a stubbornness that, according to a conservative judge who testified Thursday, saved the country from “a revolution within a constitutional crisis.”
The select committee relied heavily on Pence’s own words — “Trump is wrong; I had no right to overturn the election,” he said in February — as well as the in-person testimony of two former Pence advisers: former federal judge J. Michael Luttig and Greg Jacob, Pence’s former top lawyer — to make their case.
The public hearing on Thursday yielded five key insights.
Mike Pence is being praised.
On Capitol Hill, where Pence served in the House for a dozen years before moving on to state politics and then the White House, the ultra-conservative Pence is not a favourite of Democrats.
Pence, on the other hand, was depicted as a hero by the select committee on Thursday, as a vice president who dared to defy his own party’s standard bearer and put his country’s needs ahead of Trump’s.
“Our democracy overcame Donald Trump’s plot and the bloodshed of January 6th, thanks in part to Mike Pence,” said the panel’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).
It’s a strange coalition, and it’s fraught with dangers for both Pence and the Democrats who are praising him for his valour.
It’s no secret that Pence wants to run for president in 2024, and bolstering his image as the country’s saviour might hurt Democrats in the election.
However, Pence’s involvement in the Jan. 6 probe could harm his own status in the Republican Party, where Trump is the most popular figure in the country, and crossing the former president can mark the end of a political career.
In the short term, though, members of both parties’ committees are only too delighted to have his assistance — even if it is only indirectly — in building their case against Trump.
Vice Chairman of the Committee Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) remarked, “Vice President Pence knew that his oath of office was more essential than his fealty to Donald Trump.”
Rep. Peter Aguilar said, “Vice President Pence did the right thing that day” (D-Calif.). “He kept his word and upheld his pledge to uphold and defend the Constitution.”
Trump’s programme has no legal foundation.
While Pence was praised for his bravery, Trump campaign attorney John Eastman was portrayed as a villain by the committee.
Eastman proposed two paths for Trump to rewind the election, all of which revolved around Pence foregoing his ceremonial duty to certify the election results.
The committee expended a lot of time and effort demonstrating how broadly those theories were dismissed.
Greg Jacob, Pence’s top lawyer in the White House, told the committee, “There is practically no premise more un-American than the notion that any one person would choose the American president.”
“There was no way our framers, who abhor concentrated power and had broken away from George III’s tyranny, would ever have put one person, especially not one who has a direct interest in the outcome because they were on the election ticket, to have a role, let alone a decisive impact on the outcome,” he said.
Eastman, who once clerked for the judge, was also chastised by J. Michael Luttig, a conservative legal icon and former Fourth Circuit Appeal Court judge who advised Pence in the run-up to Jan. 6.
“The theory advanced by Mr. Eastman had no basis in the constitution or laws of the United States at all.” “None,” Luttig stated emphatically.
Even some campaign staffers were sceptical about Eastman’s legal guidance.
In evidence aired Thursday, Jason Miller, a former senior advisor to the Trump campaign, told the committee that campaign lawyers Justin Clark and Matt Morgan believed Eastman was “crazy” and informed “everyone who would listen” about it.
Lawyers forewarned of street violence.
To the White House lawyers who had summarily rejected Eastman’s scheme, the danger was as obvious as the illegality.
“‘Are you out of your effing mind, right?’ I asked. And I was quite direct. ‘You’re utterly insane,’ I said. ‘You’re going to turn around and tell 78 million or more people in this country that this is how you’re going to invalidate their votes because you think the election was rigged?’ I asked. Eric Herschmann, a White House lawyer, stated.
“And I told them they wouldn’t put up with it; I told them you’d spark riots in the streets.”
Eastman, who did not feel the courts would see proper to weigh in on the political issues Jacob’s legal counsel would create, also engaged into a furious discussion with Jacob.
“I told him there was no one else who could resolve it if the courts didn’t step in,” he added. “It’s possible that this will be addressed through street violence.”
Luttig saw the possibility for harm as well.
“Had the Vice President of the United States followed the President of the United States, America would have been thrown into what would have amounted to a revolution within a paralysing constitutional crisis,” Luttig stated of Eastman’s plan.
Eastman was well aware that his theory was flawed.
Jacob tried to persuade Eastman to abandon the tactic by comparing it to former Vice President Al Gore’s rejection of the election results in 2000.
“You wouldn’t want Kamala Harris to have that type of power in 2024, when Republicans, in my opinion, will win the election.” “I’m sure you do, too, John,” Jacob said.
“‘Absolutely,’ he replied. Kamala Harris won’t be able to do it in 2024, and Al Gore won’t be able to do it in 2000, but I believe you should do it now.'”
Eastman was pleading with Jacob on Jan. 6 to convince Pence to reject the vote despite “one more pretty minor transgression.”
“Now that the precedent has been set that the Electoral Count Act is not quite as sacrosanct as previously claimed,” Eastman wrote in an email that day. “I implore you to consider one more relatively minor violation and adjourn for ten days to allow the legislatures to complete their investigations.”
Eastman had already rejected most of his own legal arguments, according to the committee, which displayed an October document prepared for Trump that was redlined by the attorney.
“Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the President of the Senate has the authority to make the decision on his own,” Eastman pointed out.
The committee’s most shocking finding was that Eastman requested that fellow campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani “be on the pardon list if it is still in the works.”
Future warnings – as well as plans
The committee’s main purpose is to show voters not just how close America came to losing its democratic system that day, but also how it may happen again.
Luttig, who challenged Trump’s continued and unfounded assertions that there is and was massive voting fraud, gave that warning firmly.
“This erroneous and dangerous assertion that the former president will win the 2020 presidential election has shattered Americans’ faith in their national elections.”
Even more concerning, the former president promises that his reelection will not be “taken” from him the next time around, and his Republican Party colleagues and supporters obediently guarantee the same,” Luttig noted in his opening statement.
He warned future candidates before the committee that they might “succeed in 2024 where they failed in 2020.” I don’t say those things casually.”
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According to Thompson, the committee’s chairman, those concerns may influence the legislation the committee recommends after its hearings.
“Among a variety of other activities, we will be considering Judge Luttig’s and other experts’ perspectives on potential modifications to the Electoral Count Act,” he stated.