WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s extraordinary effort to undo his 2020 election defeat became increasingly clear Thursday, with testimony describing his pressuring Vice President Mike Pence into vulgar private taunts and public pleas to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the run-up to the January 6 Capitol uprising.
Trump’s closest advisers viewed his latest efforts to end congressional certification of his loss as ‘crazy’, ‘crazy’ and even likely to incite riots if Pence follows suit, witnesses have revealed in brutal testimony on Thursday.
The panel revealed how Trump put his vice president at risk while Pence was presiding over a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021, when the defeated president sent his supporters to Capitol Hill to “fight like hell” over his false claims. of a fraudulent election.
Rioters approached within 40 feet of the spot in the Capitol where Pence and others had been evacuated. Never-before-seen photos showed Pence and his team in cover.
“He deserves to be burned with the others,” a rioter says on video as crowds prepare to storm the iconic building.
“Pence betrayed us,” said another rioter, wearing a Make America Great Again hat in a selfie video inside the Capitol.
Pence’s attorney, Greg Jacob, testified that he could “hear the din” of nearby rioters. When asked if Trump ever checked on Pence during the siege, Jacob replied, “He didn’t.”
With live testimony and other evidence from its year-long investigation, the panel held its third hearing this month in a bid to demonstrate that Trump’s repeated misrepresentations and desperate bid to stay in power have led directly to the Capitol insurrection.
All told, the committee paints a grim picture of the end of Trump’s presidency as the defeated Republican found himself searching for alternatives as courts overturned dozens of lawsuits challenging the vote.
Trump clung to conservative law professor John Eastman’s murky plan to defy the historic precedent of the Voter Count Act and reverse Joe Biden’s victory.
Trump’s aides and allies have privately warned bluntly against his efforts, even as some have publicly continued to support the president’s false campaign claims. Nine people died in the uprising and its aftermath.
“Are you effing out of your mind?” Eric Herschmann, a lawyer advising Trump, told Eastman in recorded testimony presented in court.
“You’re going to turn around and tell over 78 million people in this country that your theory is, is that how you’re going to invalidate their votes?” said Herschmann. He warned: “You will cause riots in the streets.
A text message from Fox News’ Sean Hannity to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, about the plan in the run-up to Jan. 6 read, “I’m very worried about the next 48 hours.”
Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller said Trump’s entourage called the plan “crazy.”
The committee said the plan was illegal, and a federal judge said “more likely than not” that Trump committed crimes in his attempt to stop the certification.
Eastman then sought to be “on the pardon list,” according to an email he sent to Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, shared by the committee.
In a social media post Thursday, Trump again called the hearings a “witch hunt,” blasted the coverage by “the Fake News Networks” and exclaimed, “I DEMAND EQUAL TIME!!! “
On Capitol Hill, panel chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., quoted Pence’s own words that there was “hardly any idea more un-American” than the one he was being asked to follow – dismiss American votes.
By refusing Trump’s demands, Pence “did his duty,” said the panel’s vice chair, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
The panel heard from Jacob, the vice president’s lawyer who pushed back against Eastman’s ideas for Pence, and retired federal judge Michael Luttig, who called Eastman’s plan, his former lawyer, “incorrect at every turn”.
Jacob said it became clear to Pence early on that the Founding Fathers had no intention of giving any one person the power to influence the outcome of the election, and he “never budged. “.
Pence was determined to stay at the Capitol that night and finish the job, even as his security team prepared for his departure, Jacob said.
Luttig, a conservative scholar, said hesitantly but in firm terms that Pence had obeyed Trump’s orders, saying “Trump as the next president would have plunged America into what I believe would amount to a revolution in a constitutional crisis in America.”
Thursday’s session featured dramatic new evidence of the danger Pence faced as rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence” from a makeshift gallows outside the Capitol.
The president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, testified to the “heated” phone call he had with Pence that morning as the family joined in the Oval Office. Another aide, Nicholas Luna, said he heard Trump call Pence a “wimp.” Ivanka Trump’s chief of staff, Julie Radford, said she was told the president called Pence “the p-word.”
In another development Thursday, Thompson said the panel would ask Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for an interview amid disclosures of the conservative activist’s communications with people in the Trump’s orbit before the attack. He did not specify a timeline for this.
“It’s time for her to come and talk,” Thompson told reporters.
The panel’s year-long investigation sheds light on Trump’s final weeks in office as the defeated president clung to the ‘big lie’ of a rigged election even as those around him – his family , his top aides, officials at the highest levels of government — were telling him he had simply lost.
With 1,000 interviews and some 140,000 documents, the committee shows how Trump’s false allegations of voter fraud became a battle cry as he summoned thousands of Americans to Washington and then to Capitol Hill.
Thursday’s hearing unveiled Eastman’s plan to have states send in alternate voter lists from states Trump was contesting, including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. With competing slates for Trump or Biden, Pence would be forced to reject them, sending them back to the states to fix the issue, as part of the plan.
The panel released a video showing Eastman repeatedly invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during an interview with the committee.
More than 800 people were arrested during the Capitol siege, including members of extremist groups facing rare sedition charges for their role in the attack on the Capitol.
The panel is considering sending a referral for criminal charges against Trump to the Justice Department. No president or former president has ever been indicted by the Justice Department, and Attorney General Merrick Garland said he and his team are following proceedings in Congress.
Several members of Congress are also under surveillance, and the panel is also questioning several candidates for elected office who were among the rioters.
In a letter earlier this week, the Justice Department warned the panel that it was complicating the federal investigation and requested transcripts of all witness interviews the panel conducted.
The panel, which is expected to deliver a final report on its findings later this year, wants its work to be a historic record for the most violent attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812.
Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Eric Tucker in Washington and Farnoush Amiri in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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