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Trump, says it was illegal, always pressured Pence to reverse his loss

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WASHINGTON President Donald J. Trump continued to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to agree to a plan to unilaterally reverse his election loss even after he was told it was illegal, according to detailed testimony Thursday by the House committee investigating the Jan 6 attack.

The committee showed how Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign, aided by little-known conservative lawyer John Eastman, led his supporters to storm the Capitol, sending Mr. Pence fleeing for his life as rioters demanded his execution.

In the third public hearing this month to present its findings, the panel recounted how Mr Trump’s actions had brought the nation to the brink of a constitutional crisis and raised new questions about whether they were also criminals. He released videotaped testimony in which Mr. Pence, White House lead counsel Greg Jacob, said Mr. Eastman had admitted to Mr. Trump two days before the riot that his plan to do for Mr. Pence to obstruct voter certification violated the law.

Following the riot, Mr. Eastman asked for forgiveness after being told by one of Mr. Trump’s top White House lawyers that he had been exposed to crime for masterminding the scheme, according to an e -mail displayed by the committee during the session.

The panel also offered a reconstruction of Mr Pence’s heartbreaking day on January 6. It started with a heated phone call in which Mr Trump berated him like a wimp and questioned his manhood for resisting his order to obstruct the election count. It became more serious when the president, knowing his supporters were attacking the Capitol with the vice president inside, tweeted public condemnation of him, further stoking a crowd chanting Hang Mike Pence!

We’re lucky for Mr. Pence’s courage on Jan. 6, said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and committee chair. Our democracy came dangerously close to disaster.

Through the testimony of a conservative jurist, Mr. Jacob and other West Wing aides, and Mr. Pences’ own words, the committee dismantled the legal argument on which Mr. Trump and Mr. Eastman, showing that it had no legal or historical value. precedent and went against the fundamental principles of American democracy. They also showed that the pair knew their plans weren’t legit, but still insisted on going ahead.

If Mr. Pence had gone along with Mr. Trump’s demands, it would amount to a revolution in a constitutional crisis, J. Michael Luttig, a retired conservative federal appeals court judge, testified before the panel, using a radical language to describe the threat to the rule of law. Judge Luttig, who had advised Mr. Pence against taking such steps immediately before, added Thursday that if Mr. Trump had succeeded, it would have constituted the first constitutional crisis since the founding of the Republic.

And he warned that the threat remains, calling Mr Trump and his supporters a clear and present danger to American democracy.

The themes of the January 6 House committee hearings

Panel investigation continues; On Thursday, he wrote to Virginia Thomas, the wife of Judge Clarence Thomas, requesting an interview after obtaining an email exchange she had with Mr Eastman. Ms Thomas, known as Ginni, is reviewing the request, a person familiar with the matter said.

During the hearing, the panel revealed that in the days following the Jan. 6 attack, Mr. Eastman told Mr. Trump’s personal attorney and confidant, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in an email. mail that he would like to be included in a list of people. for Mr. Trump to pardon before leaving office. The committee showed a video clip of Mr Eastmans’ testimony in which he answered Fifth categorically to a series of questions about his plan to invalidate the election results. He invoked the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination 146 times during the interview, the panel said.

In one of the most dramatic moments of the hearing, the committee displayed a graphic of Mr. Pence’s escape from the Senate Chamber as rioters stormed the Capitol. At 2:26 p.m., the crowd was just down the hall from him to his left, just 40 feet away. He also showed never-before-seen photographs of Mr Pence huddled in his office off the Senate floor during the chaos, as his wife closed the curtains so they couldn’t be seen, and of the vice president in a loading dock somewhere in the Capitol complex. , when he had refused to be evacuated from the premises.

The vice president didn’t want the world to see the image of the vice president of the United States fleeing the Capitol, Mr. Jacob said.

The portrait that emerged of Mr Pence was that of a man who risked his life to prevent a collapse of democracy set in motion by the president himself.

Make no mistake that the vice presidents’ lives were in danger, said Rep. Pete Aguilar, a Democrat from California, who led much of the session.

The committee traced a series of remarkable events that began in December 2020, when Mr. Trump and his allies realized they had exhausted all legal avenues to void the election and focused on trying to keep Mr. Trump in power through Congress. Seeking to exploit ambiguities in the Electoral Count Act, an 1887 law that defines the process by which Congress finalizes a presidential election, they argued that the vice president, who presides over the ceremonial session, could unilaterally throw out votes. elections for Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Jacob testified that his boss knew early on that the plan was illegal. Mr Pence’s first reaction to hearing this, Mr Jacob said, was that there was no way it was justifiable.

When it came time to stand up to Mr. Trump, Mr. Pence told his staff, this may be the most important thing I’ve ever said, Mr. Jacob said.

On January 4, Mr. Pence and Mr. Jacob sat in the Oval Office with Mr. Trump and Mr. Eastman. At the meeting, Mr. Jacob recalled, Mr. Eastman admitted to the former president that his plan violated the Voter Count Act.

Still, Mr. Trump and Mr. Eastman pushed on, continuing meetings and calls the next day. Mr. Jacob took notes. On January 5, Mr. Eastman told him directly: I am here to ask you to reject voters.

But as they discussed the legal arguments, it became clear that Mr Jacob had the law on his side. Mr. Eastman admitted his theories would fail 9-0 in the Supreme Court, Mr. Jacob said.

The pressure on Mr Pence has begun to worry his chief of staff, Marc Short. A day before the mob violence, Mr. Short became so concerned about Mr. Trump’s actions that he issued a warning to a Secret Service agent, according to videotaped testimony the panel released Thursday: The president was going to publicly turn against the vice-president. , and potentially creating a security risk for Mr. Pence.

Other aides and advisers were also imploring Mr Eastman to abandon the plan.

You’re going to riot in the streets, testified Eric Herschmann, a White House attorney, whom he told Mr. Eastman. In videotaped testimony, he said Mr. Eastman responded: There has been violence in the history of our country to protect democracy or to protect the Republic.

Mr Jacob said his faith sustained him through the ordeal. He took his Bible out to a safe place with Mr Pence and read a passage in which Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den after refusing an order from the king, but is protected by God.

Later that evening, with the Capitol secure, Mr. Eastman emailed Mr. Jacob again, still seeking to overturn the election.

Mr. Jacob showed it to the vice-president. His answer ? It’s rubber chamber stuff.

Mr. Jacob called what Mr. Eastman was doing crazy.

A federal judge has already found in a civil case that Mr. Trump and Mr. Eastman most likely committed two felonies in their attempts to void the election.

The panel never heard of Mr Pence himself and at one point considered issuing a subpoena to obtain his testimony.

But Mr Thompson said he ruled out a subpoena for Mr Pence after receiving important information from two of his top aides: Mr Short and Mr Jacob.

In a speech in February, Mr. Pence berated Mr. Trump, saying the former president was wrong in saying that Mr. Pence had the legal power to change the election results and that the Republican Party had to agree the result and look to the future.

President Trump is wrong, Mr. Pence said in a speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization. I had no right to cancel the election.

The Jan. 6 panel presented the televised hearings as a series of feature-length chapters exposing the various ways Mr. Trump has tried to cling to power. After an initial prime-time hearing that drew more than 20 million viewers, during which the panel sought to establish that the former president was at the center of the conspiracy, investigators focused their second hearing on how which Mr. Trump spread the lie of a theft. election.

Future hearings are expected to focus on how Mr. Trump and his allies pressured state officials to void the election; attempted to interfere with the Department of Justice; created pro-Trump voter lists in states won by Mr. Biden; and gathered a crowd that marched on the Capitol, while the president did nothing to stop the violence for 187 minutes.

The committee has scheduled two more hearings, June 21 and 23, at 1 p.m.

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