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House January 6 committee hearing examines Trump’s pressure on Pence

The House Jan. 6 committee on Thursday focused on former President Donald Trump’s campaign to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to delay or cancel the 2020 presidential election, calling it a illegal scheme.

The committee aimed to show that Mr. Trump and his allies were continuing to induce Mr. Pence to refuse to certify the election, despite warnings from legal advisers that the plan would violate federal law. The pressure campaign put the vice president in the direct crosshairs of Capitol rioters and put democracy itself on a knife edge, witnesses and lawmakers said.

“[Mr. Trump] clung to a scheme he once again knew was illegal,” Rep. Pete Aguilar, a California Democrat and committee member, said Thursday. “And when the vice president refused to accept it, [Mr. Trump] unleashed a violent mob against him.

Mr Trump called the committee a “kangaroo court” this week and said the Democrats’ sole purpose in holding the hearings was to prevent him from running for a second term in 2024.

Thursday, he continued to speak.

“I DEMAND EQUAL TIME!!!” Mr Trump said on his social media platform, Truth Social, ahead of Thursday’s hearing.

Key to Thursday’s session were testimony and taped depositions dismantling the legal theory put forward by conservative lawyer John Eastman, who proposed that the vice president could, acting as speaker of the Senate, delay or cancel the certification of elections.

“It was wrong and Dr. Eastman knew it was wrong,” said the committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming. “In other words, it was a lie.”

Mr Pence’s former lawyer, Greg Jacob, told the committee he challenged Mr Eastman directly on the theory.

“The story was absolutely pivotal and again part of my discussion with Mr. Eastman was, ‘If you were right, don’t you think Al Gore might have liked to know in 2000 that he had the power to declare himself president of the United States?’ Mr. Jacob told the committee. Mr. Gore was the incumbent vice president in 2001 when Congress certified a close presidential election for his opponent, Republican George W. Bush.

Mr Jacob said Mr Eastman acknowledged in their conversation that Mr Gore “did not and should not have had that authority at the time”.

The committee also revealed on Thursday that Mr Eastman had acknowledged that implementing the plan could trigger unrest.

In taped deposition revealed Thursday, Trump’s former White House attorney Eric Herschmann told the committee that he warned Mr. Eastman that his plan to void the election “would cause rioting in the streets.”

“I said, ‘You’re absolutely crazy.’ I said, “You’re going to turn around and tell over 78 million people in this country that your theory…is how you’re going to invalidate their votes because you think the election was stolen.” And I said, ‘They’re not going to tolerate that,’” Mr. Herschmann said in his deposition.

He said Mr Eastman told him in response that violence would be tolerable in the interest of “democracy”.

“And he said words to the effect of, ‘There has been violence in the history of our country in order to protect democracy, or to protect the republic,'” Mr Herschmann said.

The committee revealed that days after the attack, Mr. Eastman emailed Trump attorney and confidant Rudolph W. Giuliani asking for a presidential pardon.

Mr Jacob told the committee that Mr Pence flatly dismissed the Eastman plan ‘as his first instinct’ and ‘never budged from his position’.

In a letter to Congress on the day of the certification, Mr. Pence denied that he had the authority as vice president to void the election, despite pressure from Mr. Trump.

Mr Pence’s refusal made him a mob target on January 6, the committee said.

“The vice president’s life was in danger,” Mr Aguilar said.

Mr Aguilar said Mr Trump had fueled the fire against his vice president, posting a tweet against Mr Pence accusing him of not having the courage to oppose certification of electoral votes for the current president Biden.

Lawmakers posted a digital diagram showing the crowd was just 40 feet from Mr. Pence’s hideout inside the Capitol, as some in the crowd threatened to hang him.

Thursday’s hearing was the third in a series of public appearances planned by the committee over the next month to unveil the findings of its nearly year-long investigation.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Rudolph W. Giuliani’s name.


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Post expires at 3:50pm on Tuesday June 28th, 2022