June 17, 2022
The third hearing by the House select committee investigating the January. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol focused in on a wide-ranging pressure campaign that then-President Donald Trump put on his own vice president, Mike Pence, to disrupt the transfer of power that day, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The hearing on Thursday, June 16, was led by Representative Pete Aguilar (D-California), according to committee aides; while John Wood, a senior investigator for the committee, was involved in questioning witnesses.
The committee in its second hearing on Monday reviewed evidence that Trump was told repeatedly by White House insiders, including his own attorney general, William Barr, that his claims that the 2020 election was riddled with fraud weren’t true. Trump, who refused to acknowledge the lack of evidence of election fraud, continued to assert that the election had been stolen. The committee says those claims helped inspire the mob on January 6 to storm the Capitol.
During the second public hearing, former Attorney General William Barr said the voter fraud claims were “disturbing allegations.” Witnesses testified on former President Donald Trump’s efforts to cast doubt on the election, which the committee alleges triggered the attack on the Capitol.
Trump has denied wrongdoing related to the riot and called the committee’s probe a sham.
On Thursday, the committee detailed how Trump, over the course of several weeks leading up to January 6, pushed Pence—who as vice president presided over the counting of Electoral College votes—to refuse to accept votes for Joe Biden from a handful of battleground states, throwing the election into chaos. The former president was following a playbook sketched out by lawyer John Eastman in a memo entitled “January 6 scenario.”
The scheme detailed by Eastman was based in part on the existence of fake slates of electors from seven battleground states—including Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia—signed by Trump backers. The hearing outlined evidence from the committee’s investigation into efforts to submit those slates, according to committee aides.
Under Eastman’s plan, Pence would refuse to count ballots in states that had multiple slates of electors. That would leave Trump with a majority of votes, and “Pence then gavels President Trump as re-elected,” according to the memo.
After expected objections from Democrats, Pence would send the matter to the House, where each state would have one vote. Since Republicans at the time controlled the delegations of 26 states, “President Trump is re-elected,” Eastman wrote.
Another version of the plan involved sending the electoral votes back to state legislatures, which would determine which electoral slates to send to Congress. More than 100 Republican House members and several Republican senators challenged votes from states such as Pennsylvania—challenges the House and Senate ultimately rejected.
Pence consulted with several experts about Eastman’s plan, including former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge J. Michael Luttig, who hagreed to appear at the committee’s hearing Thursday.
In a letter distributed to members of Congress on January6, Pence wrote that, while some thought he could accept or reject electoral votes unilaterally, he didn’t think he had the “authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the Joint Session of Congress.”
In a speech to the pro-Trump crowd at the Ellipse near the White House on January. 6, Eastman said, “All we are demanding of Vice President Pence is this afternoon at 1:00 he let the legislators of the [states] look into this so we get to the bottom of it.”
“All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president,” Trump said in his January 6 speech to the crowd, which followed Eastman’s.
After Trump’s speech, a large crowd started moving toward the Capitol. Trump later tweeted that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” Members of the mob that broke into the Capitol began chanting “hang Mike Pence”—and Trump was said to have privately agreed that they “might be right.”
Indeed, Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), vice chairwoman of the select committee, in her opening statement at the panel’s first hearing said that Trump, aware of the chants, responded: “Maybe our supporters have the right idea.”
At the Thursday hearing, the committee planned to feature video evidence showing the danger Mr. Pence faced on January 6, committee aides said.
Research contact: @WSJ