Jan. 6 hearing updates: Pence resisted Trump’s pressure to reject electoral votes
Then-Vice President Mike Pence faced relentless pressure from President Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, but stood firm against doing so, witnesses told the House committee looking into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said Pence was pressed "to go along with an unlawful and unconstitutional scheme to overturn the 2020 election and give Donald Trump a second term in office that he did not win.”
But Greg Jacob, an attorney for Pence, testified that the then-vice president "never budged from the position" that it was impossible for one person to "unilaterally decide" who would be president.
It was the third of seven hearings expected this month to present evidence from the committee's months-long investigation into the connection between Trump's voter fraud conspiracy claims and the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.
Before the hearing began, committee leaders said they want to invite Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to speak to the panel. The Washington Post reported that the committee has evidence of Ginni Thomas communicating with lawyer John Eastman about overturning the 2020 election. Thomas told the Daily Caller she would “look forward” to speaking with the panel.
- Pence was in personal danger: A confidential informant from the far-right Proud Boys told the FBI that the group "would have killed Mike Pence if given the chance," according to a court filing shared by the committee. Pence was just 40 feet away from the rioters during the Capitol insurrection, the panel revealed.
- Pence's legal role in the election count: Jacob testified that the vice president did not consider it his role legally to decide the election. “There was no way that our framers … would ever have put one person, particularly not a person who had a direct interest in the outcome … in a role to have decisive impact on the outcome of the election," he said. Jacob said Trump ally Eastman admitted the Supreme Court would reject his plan to have Pence reject electoral votes. Retired federal Judge J. Michael Luttig testified that there was "no support whatsoever" in either the Constitution nor in U.S. laws for the vice president "frankly, ever to count alternative electoral slates from the states that had not been officially certified."
- Seeking a presidential pardon: Eastman emailed Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani seeking a preemptive pardon for his role in what occurred, according to evidence presented by the committee. Eastman did not receive a pardon.
New photos show Pence in secure area on Jan. 6
The committee released never before-seen photos of former Vice President Mike Pence sheltering in a "secure location" during the attack.
The photos, which were obtained from the National Archives, show the vice president hiding among parked cars, garbage and recycling bins and traffic cones throughout the afternoon of Jan. 6.
In one, Pence can be seen looking at a tweet from former President Trump "asking rioters to leave the Capitol." Other photos depict Pence on the phone surrounded by staffers. During his four and a half hours in the secure location, Pence "continued the business of government," committee member Pete Aguilar said, primarily by calling congressional leaders and other officials.
Luttig warns that Republicans could follow the same playbook — and succeed — in 2024
J. Michael Luttig concluded his testimony with a warning about the future.
The retired federal judge, who spoke at length during Thursday's hearing about the perils facing American democracy, characterized the events of Jan. 6 not only as a dark moment in history, but one that could happen again — and next time, with more success.
He said that former President Donald Trump and his supporters pose a clear and present danger to democracy, and not because of the 2021 Capitol attack.
"It's because to this very day, the former president, his allies and supporters pledge that in the presidential election of 2024, if the former president or his anointed successor as the Republican Party presidential candidate were to lose that election, that they would attempt to overturn that 2024 election in the same way that they attempted to overturn the 2020 election but succeed in 2024 where they failed in 2020," he said.
Luttig said he would never otherwise make such a claim except for the fact that the former president and his allies are saying so themselves. He accused them of "executing that blueprint for 2024 in open and plain view of the American public."
"I repeat, I would have never uttered one single one of those words unless the former president and his allies were candidly and proudly speaking those exact words to America," he added.
Proud Boys informant told FBI group would have killed Pence if given the chance
The committee shared a court filing by the Department of Justice that revealed a confidential informant from the far-right Proud Boys, which played a major role in the Capitol siege, told the FBI that the group "would have killed Mike Pence if given the chance."
"Make no mistake about the fact that the vice president's life was in danger," Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said.
Aguilar said the violent mob got within 40 feet of the former vice president as Pence was taken to a secure location within the Capitol complex.
Aguilar added the informant said "other members of the group ... said that anyone they got their hands on, they would have killed, including [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi.
'I should be on the pardon list,' John Eastman wrote in an email
Following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, attorney John Eastman emailed Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani seeking a preemptive presidential pardon for his role in what occurred.
“I’ve decided I should be on the pardon list if that’s still in the works,” he wrote, according to the email presented as evidence by the Jan. 6 committee.
He did not receive one.
Eastman made the argument that the vice president could reject electoral votes. His role in pushing that theory was forcefully opposed by other members of the White House counsel's office.
One of those White House lawyers was Eric Herschmann, who testified that he told Eastman after the insurrection that he needed to get a criminal defense attorney.
Eastman invoked the Fifth Amendment 100 times during his own Jan. 6 deposition, the committee said.
Panel reveals Jan. 6 rioters were just 40 feet from Pence in the Capitol
The House select committee revealed today that rioters came within 40 feet of former Vice President Mike Pence during the Capitol insurrection as Pence was being escorted to a safer location.
Panel member Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., told former Pence counsel Greg Jacob, who was a witness in today's hearing, that the 40 feet was roughly the distance between the two of them in the hearing room.
Jacob said he could hear the din from the rioters inside the Capitol but he was not aware they came that close.
At 2:24 .pm. ET on Jan. 6, former President Trump tweeted that Pence "didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution."
Former deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews said in a video clip that played before the committee that it "felt like [Trump] was pouring gasoline on the fire by tweeting that."
Aguilar said the panel's investigation found that immediately after that tweet was sent, crowds inside and outside of the U.S. Capitol surged.
Pence was evacuated just two minutes after Trump's tweet was posted, taken to a secure location underground with various staff for more than four hours.
Video has shown that some rioters chanted "Hang Mike Pence!" as they began to breach the Capitol.
Jacob testified that Pence never left the Capitol throughout the attack.
"When we got down to the secure location, Secret Service directed us to get into the cars, which I did," Jacob said. "And then I noticed that the vice president had not, so I got out of the car that I had gotten into and I understood that the Vice President had refused to get into the car."
He added: "The Vice President did not want to take any chance that the world would see the Vice President of the United States fleeing the United States Capitol. He was determined that we would complete the work that we had set out to do that day, that it was his constitutional duty to see it through, and that the rioters who had breached the Capitol would not have the satisfaction of disrupting the proceedings beyond the day on which they were supposed to be completed."
The panel showed never-before-publicly seen photos of Pence in a secure location at the Capitol complex. While there, he made calls to administration officials to check on their safety, the committee said.
But Pence himself got no call from Trump checking on his safety — even though the rioters had been turning against the vice president. Jacob said Pence and his wife, then-second lady Karen Pence, reacted "with frustration" that Trump had not called to check on Pence's safety.
Witnesses describe the tense call between Trump and Pence on the morning of Jan. 6
After a brief recess, the Jan. 6 committee turned its focus to the events of Jan. 6 and, in particular, the mounting pressure that day from former President Donald Trump on former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election results.
It showed clips of video testimony from a number of Trump and Pence associates describing a morning phone call between the two.
Nicholas Luna, an assistant to the president, said he remembered hearing Trump use the word "wimp." Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who served as the national security adviser to Pence, described Trump's message as something along the lines of "you're not tough enough to make that call."
The president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, was one of several family members inside the Oval Office that morning. She told investigators that she came into the room as the phone call was happening, and that Trump was using a "different tone" than she'd heard him use with Pence previously.
Julie Radford, her chief of staff, recalled Ivanka Trump saying she overhead an "upsetting" conversation between her father and Pence, in which the president called the the vice president "the p-word."
Greg Jacob, one of the day's witnesses and an attorney for Pence, described the vice president's mood after the phone call as "steely, determined and grim."
Lawmakers then connected the substance and tone of that phone call with Trump's later public comments about Pence as the Capitol riot unfolded.
Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif. said their investigation found that early drafts of the Trump speech gave at the Ellipse rally included no mention of Pence, saying he revised the speech to include further criticism of Pence by name and then "further ad-libbed."
"I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so," Trump said in his speech to the Stop the Steal rally around noon. "Because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. … All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become president, and you are the happiest people."
When Pence issued his public letter explaining why he would proceed with certifying the results, the crowd at the Capitol erupted in anger, the committee said, adding that Pence was the target of their ire.
The committee previously revealed that Trump, hearing about chants to "hang Mike Pence," suggested his supporters had the right idea.
The committee presented evidence that Trump continued to publicly lambast Pence even after he knew about the escalating violence at the Capitol. His chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was reportedly notified of the situation by 2 p.m. at the latest, and quickly informed Trump — before Trump issued a 2:24 p.m. tweet criticizing Pence for not having the "courage to do what needed to be done."
Sarah Matthews, a former Trump administration deputy press secretary, told investigators that "it felt like he was pouring gasoline on the fire by tweeting that."
A respected conservative judge is now a critic of his party — and former clerks
Retired federal Judge J. Michael Luttig, testifying in front of the Jan. 6 House committee, was questioned Thursday by one of his former law clerks about the role of another in the insurrection.
Committee senior counsel John Wood noted the dynamic before proceeding to question Luttig about the role of fellow former clerk John Eastman in efforts to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Luttig, a widely respected conservative judge who sent dozens of clerks to the Supreme Court after almost being nominated for the bench himself, had advised Pence to reject the advice of Trump ally Eastman, who had urged Pence to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Law professor and former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal called the scenario "the nightmare for every federal law clerk ever."
"I think of the two judges for whom I clerked akin to my parents, and every one of the clerks part of the family," Katyal tweeted.
Luttig served as a federal appeals court judge for 15 years, earning a reputation as one of the country's most prominent and conservative judges, as NPR's Nina Totenberg has reported. He was frequently mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee himself in the Bush administration and sent more than 40 clerks (known as "Luttigators") into Supreme Court clerkships. Of those, 33 worked for Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
Another one of Luttig's clerks was Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a staunch Trump ally who has downplayed the events of Jan. 6 and publicly criticized the committee hearings. The two appear to have been close — Cruz described Luttig in 2016 as being "like a father to me."
Luttig has broken with Cruz and some of his other high-profile proteges as an increasingly outspoken critic of Trump and the Republican Party.
He told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year that several final straws prompted him to action:
- the Republican National Committee's resolution calling people associated with fake electors as engaging in "legitimate political discourse" and its censuring Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for their roles on the House panel;
- and Trump's public attacks on Pence for saying he couldn't overturn the election and on Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell over his criticism of the RNC.
That more Republicans aren’t standing up to “this nonsense, this utter madness,” is “the definition of failed leadership," he added.
The 68-year-old, with his son's help, had set up a Twitter account just weeks before Jan. 6 and turned to social media to try to help Pence reject Trump's request to overturn the election results.
"The only responsibility and power of the Vice President under the Constitution is to faithfully count the electoral college votes as they have been cast," he tweeted on the morning of Jan. 5. Pence cited that thread the next day in his letter explaining why he certified the results.
Luttig has remained active on Twitter ever since and has frequently used it to troll former clerks like Cruz and Eastman, who have been friends since clerking together in 1995.
In one thread, he called Eastman's legal analysis "incorrect at every turn." In another, he commented on a video of Cruz saying that then-Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson would be "the most extreme and furthest left justice to ever serve" on the court:
"I would not hesitate to retract my endorsement of Judge Jackson for the Supreme Court if there were anything at all to Senator Cruz's statement, but there is not," Luttig wrote. "In fact, quite the opposite is the case."
Luttig has also criticized Cruz offline for his role in the events leading up to the Capitol riot.
“Once Ted Cruz promised to object, January 6 was all but foreordained, because Cruz was the most influential figure in the Congress willing to force a vote on Trump’s claim that the election was stolen,” he told TheWashington Postin March. “He was also the most knowledgeable of the intricacies of both the Electoral Count Act and the Constitution, and the ways to exploit the two.”
Luttig said Cruz's actions show the need to overhaul the 1887 Electoral Count Act to prevent a single senator from having such an outsize influence on the outcome of a presidential election. Luttig is working with lawmakers to rewrite the act.
“Such is Republican politics of the moment, that presidential and congressional aspirants will purchase the former president’s blessing and approval at any price,” Luttig told the Post.
The Justice Department asked again to see the committee's transcripts, saying the lack of sharing is complicating its Jan. 6 probe
The Justice Department has asked the lead investigator for the House Jan. 6 select committee for speedy access to transcripts of witness interviews, arguing the lack of information-sharing is complicating its ongoing criminal probe.
Top DOJ officials have renewed a request they first made in April — before the panel launched blockbuster public hearings in which they quoted from prosecutors' court filings and played video featuring defendants in an ongoing seditious conspiracy case against the far-right Proud Boys group.
The committee will turn over transcripts in "due time," but not by the end of the week, Chair Bennie Thompson told reporters after the hearing.
"We will work with them, but we have a report to do," he said. "We are not going to stop what we are doing to share information that we've gotten so far with the Department of Justice."
The transcripts will be critical to help prosecutors assess the credibility of people they consider witnesses or subjects of investigations, wrote the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., and the assistant attorneys general in charge of the criminal and national security divisions in a letter dated June 15.
"Grand jury investigations are not public and thus the Select Committee does not and will not know the identity of all the witnesses who have information relevant to the department's ongoing investigations," wrote Matthew Graves, Kenneth Polite and Matthew Olsen.
The recipient of the letter is Timothy Heaphy, the chief investigative counsel for the committee and himself a former U.S. attorney during the Obama administration.
The delay in getting access to the transcripts complicates the ongoing Justice Department criminal probe, already the largest and most complex in history, the DOJ officials said.
At least two Proud Boy defendants facing trial on seditious conspiracy and other charges have cited the congressional hearings as a basis to postpone their criminal trial in Washington, D.C., from early August until after the midterm elections this year.
House investigators so far have refused to turn over transcripts to DOJ but instead said they would be released en masse in early September, as the committee finishes its work and publishes a final report.
A judge has not yet ruled on a request to delay the Proud Boys trial. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough appeared to consent to a delay in a new court filing.
"While we do not know precisely when copies of the transcripts will be released, if they are released as anticipated in early September 2022, the parties to this trial will face unique prejudice because the jury for the August 8 trial will have already been sworn..." he wrote in court papers filed Thursday.
With additional reporting by Lexie Schapitl.
As of 2:42 p.m. ET, the committee is in recess for a period of 10 minutes.
Pence didn't budge under relentless pressure, Jacob says
Greg Jacob, Mike Pence's former counsel, said that John Eastman told him: "Al Gore did not have a basis to [overturn the election results] in 2000, Kamala Harris shouldn't be able to do it in 2024, but I think you should do it today."
The pressure on Pence to do that was apparently relentless, Jacob told the Jan. 6 hearing.
On Jan. 4, Jacob and Pence met with Eastman, Jacob said. During that meeting, Eastman laid out two theories on how Pence could overturn the election. One, he could reject the electors; two, he could declare a 10-day recess and send slates back to "disputed" states. No state was disputed.
"The vice president never budged from the position that I described as his first instinct, which was that it just made no sense that one person could unilaterally decide the president of the United States," Jacob said.
White House Chief of Staff Meadows apparently agreed that Pence couldn't overturn election, according to Marc Short
Marc Short, former Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, believed White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that he agreed that Pence did not have the legal authority to overturn the 2020 election results.
"I believe that's what he told me," Short said in a videotaped deposition that the House panel played on Thursday afternoon.
"I believe Mark had told so many different people so many things that it's not something I would accept as resolved," Short added.
The committee played a video clip of former Trump White House attorney Eric Herschmann's deposition in which he recalled a conversation he had with attorney John Eastman. The committee has described Eastman as the architect of the plan to keep Trump in power after he lost the presidential election. Eastman maintained it was possible for Pence to overturn the election as he presided over the Senate.
“I said, ‘Are you out of your effing mind?’” Herschmann said. “I said, ‘You’re completely crazy.’ I said, ‘You’re going to turn around and tell 78 plus million people in this country that ... you’re going to invalidate their votes, because you think the election was stolen.' ”
In a separate videotaped deposition, Jason Miller, an aide to then-President Donald Trump, said White House counsel Pat Cipollone “thought the idea was nutty and at one point confronted Eastman with the same sentiment."
The accounts from top White House staff are a continuation of a theme of the hearings: that Trump’s aides privately acknowledged that what they were suggesting was illegal, even as they publicly worked to overturn the results of the election.
Ginni Thomas said she looks forward to talking to Jan. 6 committee
Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, told the Daily Caller on Thursday that she would “look forward” to speaking with the House Jan. 6 committee after its leaders said they will invite her to testify about her contact with Trump allies in the lead up to Jan. 6.
“I can’t wait to clear up misconceptions. I look forward to talking to them,” Daily Caller reported her as saying.
Thomas has worked with the Daily Caller in the past, including producing an interview with her husband.
Eastman himself knew his legal theory to overturn election would be rejected by the Supreme Court, a witness says
Greg Jacob, counsel to then-Vice President Mike Pence, said he spoke with Trump ally John Eastman on Jan. 5, the day before the riot. In the conversation, Jacob said Eastman admitted the Supreme Court would vote 9-0 against his legal plan to have Pence step in and reject electoral votes.
Jacob said at first, Eastman thought they would have some support from the court, but ultimately acknowledged the Supreme Court would vote 9-0 against him.
Jacob added that Eastman said he didn't think the court would take it up.
Jacob said that Eastman had also told him that Al Gore should not have been able to use his legal argument to overturn the election in 2000 and that Vice President Harris shouldn’t be able to do it in 2024 — but that Pence should follow his outlined plan on Jan 6. anyway.
The other witness on the day, former Judge J. Michael Luttig, added that Eastman's argument to have Pence overturn the election was "constitutional mischief." He repeated his assertion that Eastman's argument that there was historical precedent for Pence to overturn the election was not true.
"If I had been advising the vice president of the United States on Jan. 6, and even if then-Vice President [Thomas] Jefferson and even then-Vice President John Adams and even then-Vice President Richard Nixon had done exactly what the president of the United States wanted his vice president to do, I would have laid my body across the road before I would have let the vice president overturn the 2020 election on the basis of that historical precedent," Luttig said.
Why is everyone talking about the 12th Amendment?
Witnesses at today's hearing, which centers on the pressure campaign to get then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 electoral college results, keep discussing the 12th Amendment.
The 12th Amendment outlines the electoral vote counting process, which was at the crux of Trump and his allies' scheme to overturn the 2020 election results. The amendment, ratified in 1804, also addresses how a president can be certified into office.
"The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted...The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President," it reads.
Attorney John Eastman, who the committee claims was the architect of Trump's plan to disrupt the certifying of votes in order to change the results of the 2020 election, maintained that the vice president could overturn the electoral college results.
J. Michael Luttig, a former federal judge and adviser to vice president Mike Pence, testified that Eastman's claims are not supported by the Constitution.
Here's the full text of the 12th Amendment:
"The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;–the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;
The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. [And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.
The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States."
Witnesses disagree over the wording in the Constitution, but agree it says VP couldn't overturn election
Greg Jacob, former Vice President Pence's lawyer at the time, said in his testimony Thursday that he first had a conversation with Pence about the Jan. 6 certification process about a month prior, around Dec. 7, 2020.
"The vice president called me over to his West Wing office and told me he had been reading and seeing things that he had a significant role to play on January 6," Jacob told the House committee.
Jacob told Pence he would put together a memo on what the legal rules were for Pence's role that day.
“We concluded that a sentence in the Constitution that is inartfully drafted" was the primary legal explanation for a vice president's role in an election certification, as well as an act from1887, Jacob said. But Jacob said that Pence did not interpret that to mean he could make a sole decision when it came to deciding the election.
“There was no way that our framers… would ever have put one person, particularly not a person who had a direct interest in the outcome… in a role to have decisive impact on the outcome of the election," Jacob said.
“Our review of text, history and frankly just common sense, all confirmed the vice president's first instinct on that point," he said, adding that there was "no justifiable basis" that Pence had any authority to change the outcome of the election on Jan. 6.
Retired federal judge J. Michael Luttig, who is also a witness in the hearing, disagreed with Jacob's description that the single line in the Constitution was unclear, calling it "pristine clear."
Luttig said "There was no support whatsoever in either the Constitution of the United States nor in the laws of the United States for the vice president, frankly, ever to count alternative electoral slates from the states that had not been officially certified."
Luttig also referenced the memo from Trump ally John Eastman, who drafted the plan to have Pence overturn the election results. Luttig said Eastman's memo said there was historical precedence for doing so; Luttig said Eastman was incorrect.
Panel leaders say Trump broke the law by trying to pressure Pence
Committee leaders Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney said the hearing today will reveal the details of a pressure campaign led by former President Donald Trump against his vice president — one that Thompson labeled "an unlawful and unconstitutional scheme to overturn the 2020 election and give Donald Trump a second term in office that he did not win.”
Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, added: “What the president wanted the vice president to do was not just wrong; it was illegal and unconstitutional."
Thompson began his remarks by referencing a video clip of the former vice president in February, describing how he did not have the power to overturn the results of the presidential election.
“There is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” Pence said at the time.
“I agree with that, which is unusual because former Vice President Mike Pence and I don’t agree on much,” said Thompson, who served alongside Pence in the House of Representatives from 2001-2013.
Thompson briefly described the role of a vice president in overseeing the counting of electoral votes, noting that Trump “wanted Mike Pence to do something no other vice president has ever done” — reject the votes and either declare Trump the winner, or send the matter back to the states.
Both Thompson and Cheney praised Pence for resisting Trump’s demands.
“We are fortunate for Mr. Pence for his courage,” Thompson said, adding that once Pence made it clear he wouldn’t bend to Trump’s will, the former president “turned the mob on him.”
“A mob that was chanting 'Hang Mike Pence!', a mob that had built a hangman's gallows just outside the Capitol,” Thompson recalled.
Cheney played a clip of testimony from Marc Short, Pence’s then-chief of staff, in which Short said Pence had conveyed his position that he couldn't do what Trump was asking of him “many times" to his boss.
Cheney added that Trump plotted with attorney John Eastman to pressure Pence. She quoted a federal judge, who wrote, “based on the evidence, the court finds that it is more likely than not that President Trump and Dr. Eastman dishonestly conspired to obstruct the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.”
Cheney also played a clip of Pence’s former chief counsel Greg Jacob saying that he believed Eastman acknowledged on Jan. 4, 2021 — two days before the insurrection — that his proposal violated the Electoral Count Act.
Jacob is testifying live before the committee today.
Today's hearing is focused on Mike Pence — but he isn't testifying himself
While today's hearing will focus largely on former Vice President Mike Pence, and will hear testimony from two of his close associates, he himself won't be in the room.
Pence has spoken publicly about the Jan. 6 attack, telling the conservative Federalist Society this February, "I had no right to overturn the election" despite former President Donald Trump's claims — and urging — to the contrary.
But whether Pence will play an in-person role in the House panel's proceedings remains an open question, asPoliticoreports. Committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., has said it's still engaging Pence's lawyers, and hasn't ruled out the possibility that he might testify.
Thompson suggested in January that he would likely issue a formal invitation to Pence that month, but has since backtracked and indicated that his testimony might not be necessary since his close aides — including today's witness, Greg Jacobs — are cooperating so extensively.
Citing people familiar with Pence's thinking, The New York Times reported earlier this week that he has grown "increasingly disillusioned with the idea of voluntary cooperation" for several reasons.
He reportedly told aides that the committee is heading in a partisan direction by openly considering making possible criminal referrals to the Justice Department, a move he considers designed to hurt Republican congressional candidates in November.
The sources also said that Pence is annoyed with the way the committee has publicly described its interactions with his top aides, implying a closer degree of cooperation than in reality. He reportedly sees that as part of a pattern of Democrats trying to turn his team against Trump, The Times explains.
The former vice president is among a small group of Republicans reportedly considering running for president in 2024 regardless of whether Trump enters the race.
It's not known how closely Pence is following the Jan. 6 public proceedings. Pence's aides declined to comment to Politico on his intentions or whether he will be watching this month's hearings.
Why a federal judge said Trump "likely violated two federal criminal statutes."
In a video previewing today's hearing, Rep. Liz Cheney, the top GOP official on the House select committee, referenced a federal judge's finding that former President Trump's actions before Jan 6 "likely violated two federal criminal statutes."
U.S. District Court Judge David Carterwrote in March that when Trump pressured former Vice President Mike Pence to dispute the electoral vote count on Jan. 6, he "more likely than not" tried to illegally obstruct Congress.
Carter also determined that Trump's former legal advisor, John Eastman, the lawyer who devised a plan for Pence to overturn the election, "furthered the crimes of obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States."
"If Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution," Carter wrote in his ruling that Eastman had to hand over documents to the Jan. 6 committee.
"If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears January 6 will repeat itself."
While Eastman won't be testifying today, his legal advice to Trump will be a key focus of the hearing.
Eastman wrote a two-page memo in December 2020 proposing that Pence should refuse to count electoral votes from the seven states whose elections the Trump campaign contested, according to the court case. Under that plan, that refusal would have then resulted in Trump winning the election with 232 electoral votes. If Congress had declared that a candidate wasn't able to win the election without 270 electoral votes, Pence could have sent the election to the House of Representatives. The House, which was Republican-majority at the time, then could have voted to certify Trump as the winner.
Trump and Eastman met with Pence and his legal counsel, Greg Jacob, who is testifying today, at the White House in January 2021, days before the Jan. 6 attack. It was then the Vice President was presented with the plan to overturn the election and pressured by the President to do so.
Committee asks wife of Justice Clarence Thomas to testify
The chairman of the Jan. 6 committee Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters after Thursday's hearing that the panel had sent a letter to Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to speak to the committee in the wake of reporting by The Washington Post that the committee has evidence of Thomas communicating about overturning the 2020 presidential election.
Ginni Thomas communicated with lawyer John Eastman, who the committee says was central to a pressure campaign against then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject the election results when Congress convened on Jan. 6 to count the Electoral College vote, according to the reporting.
Ginni Thomas told the Daily Caller Thursday that she "looked forward" to talking to the committee to "clear up misconceptions."
Ginni Thomas was previously revealed to have been in touch with Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows via text message between the election and Jan. 6. At the time of those revelations,
Chairman Thompson had said he would recommend the committee ask Thomas to appear before them, but no request was made. Some committee members have said that Thomas didn’t play a significant role ahead of Jan. 6 before the latest reports emerged last night.
The Supreme Court rejected an 11th hour effort by Trump allies to have it step in during the legal fight over the election results, during which dozens of lower court cases were almost uniformly decided against Trump. However, Justice Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito disagreed with that decision.
Justice Thomas was also the lone dissenter when the Supreme Court ruled against Trump as he sought to have his White House records shielded from the Jan. 6 committee investigation.
What has Mike Pence said about Jan. 6?
Despite being the central focus of Thursday's hearing, former Vice President Mike Pence will not appear before the panel. Instead, two witnesses in Pence's orbit — Greg Jacob, an attorney, and J. Michael Luttig, a former federal judge who provided legal counsel to Pence ahead of Jan. 6, will testify.
Pence has, however, publicly defended his decision not to acquiesce to former President Donald Trump's demand that he overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election as he presided over the Senate on Jan. 6.
During a speech to the conservative Federalist Society in February, following Trump blasting his former No. 2 for not doing more to keep him in power, Pence set the record straight in his most stark comments to date.
“There are those in our party who believe that as the presiding officer over the joint session of Congress, I possessed unilateral authority to reject Electoral College votes. And I heard this week that President Trump said I had the right to overturn the election. But President Trump is wrong," Pence said.
"I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone. And frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president."
Pence added: "Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election, and Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024."
Retired Republican judge says Jan. 6 was a "well-developed plan" by Trump to overturn the election "at any cost"
Testifying before the panel today is retired federal Judge J. Michael Luttig.
In a written statement to be entered into the committee's record — first obtained by CNN — Luttig describes the "blood-chilling" events of Jan. 6, claiming that former President Donald Trump and his allies carried out a "well-developed plan...to overturn the 2020 presidential election at any cost, so that he could cling to power that the American People had decided to confer upon his successor."
Luttig is appearing as a fact witness because of his role in advising then-Vice President Mike Pence and his team to reject the advice of attorney and Trump ally John Eastman, who was pushing for Pence to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
In his statement, Luttig writes that Trump and his allies knew "full well that he had lost" and yet carried out a "treacherous plan...no less ambitious than to steal America's democracy."
Luttig, who writes that American democracy stands today "on a knife's edge," will detail in his testimony how Trump assembled a "mob" of his supporters and goaded them into marching to the U.S. Capitol to "disrupt and prevent the counting of electoral votes for the presidency."
He praises Pence for not "obeying" Trump. "There were many cowards on the battlefield on January 6. The Vice President was not among them," he writes.
Luttig, who says he is testifying as a "private citizen, and as a non-partisan disinterested, independent former federal judge...who happens to have been a fact witness to the events [of] Jan 6)," will also comment on the state of the Republican Party. He writes that the party "cynically and embarrassingly rationalizes Jan. 6 as having been something between hallowed, legitimate public discourse and a visitors tour of the Capitol that got out of hand."
Some highlights from the first two hearings
The Jan. 6 committee used the first two of seven hearings to begin laying out their case that former President Donald Trump's continued push of election fraud conspiracies directly resulted in the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020.
During the first hearing, the committee showed new footage of the attack and reminded a prime-time audience of the events that day. During the second, the members of the panel focused on testimony from Trump allies that showed multiple campaigns and administration aides tried to debunk election fraud conspiracies but Trump opted to believe them regardless of the evidence.
- We saw new footage from Jan. 6
Last Thursday's hearing featured U.S. Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, the first law enforcement officer to be injured in the riot. The committee played video of her being violently slammed to the ground by protesters breaking through a barrier outside of the Capitol, knocking her unconscious. It was the first of several injuries she sustained that day. She suffered a traumatic brain injury in the riot
"I couldn't believe my eyes," she recalled of the scene, which she compared to a war zone. "There were officers on the ground. They were bleeding, they were throwing up ... I saw friends with blood all over their faces, I was slipping in people's blood. I was catching people as they fell. It was carnage, it was chaos. I can't even describe what I saw."
That first hearing also featured additional footage from documentary filmmaker Nicholas Quested, who was in Washington filming a documentary about the Proud Boys when the violence broke out, and from Capitol security cameras.
- We learned that some White House aides described Rudy Giuliani as intoxicated the night he urged Trump to declare victory
On Monday it was revealed that senior Trump aides debated about whether or not to declare victory on election night 2020. In previously recorded interviews shown at the hearing, some aides said that then-Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who wanted the former president to publicly declare he had won, seemed to have been intoxicated. Other advisers argued against declaring victory on election night. (Trump did ultimately declare victory to an election-night crowd and also pushed baseless claims about election fraud.)
In a video clip at the hearing, Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the campaign, referenced an inebriated Giuliani wanting to speak to the president on election night — telling Miller that he wanted Trump to say that "We won. They're stealing it from us."
Miller told the committee in his recorded testimony that the former New York mayor "was definitely intoxicated” when he talked to him that night.
Bill Stepien, Trump's 2020 campaign manager, said he advised against taking the course that Giuliani was suggesting.
"It was far too early to be making any calls like that, ballots were still being counted," Stepien said. "Ballots were still being counted. Ballots were still going to be counted for days."
Giuliani turned to Twitter on Tuesday morning to refute the claims that he was inebriated. In a tweet that was later deleted, he wrote: "I am disgusted and outraged at the out right lie by Jason Miller and Bill Steppien. I was upset that they were not prepared for the massive cheating (as well as other lawyers around the President) I REFUSED all alcohol that evening. My favorite drink..Diet Pepsi."
- We heard Bill Barr describe how he felt about the debunked conspiracy theory centered on Dominion voting machines
During Monday’s hearing, former Attorney General Bill Barr told the committee that when discussing allegations of voting fraud tied to Dominion machines with Trump that he was “demoralized” over the former president’s insistence that the fraud conspiracy was real.
Claims that the voting machines of Dominion Voting Systems had been tampered with were woven into one of the biggest conspiracy theories to come out of the 2020 election. Dominion later sued Fox in a $1.6 billion defamation suit that is still pending.
“Before the election, it was possible to talk sense to the president and — while you sometimes had to engage in a big wrestling match with him — it was possible to keep things on track,” Barr said in interviews recorded earlier this year with the committee. “I felt that after the election he didn’t seem to be listening.”
Testifying today: Pence's former chief counsel and a conservative judge who advised him
Today's hearing will focus on the pressure former President Donald Trump and his allies placed on then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count electoral votes. The vice president serves as the president of the Senate and can preside over the chamber's daily proceedings and business.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Pence was in the Senate preparing to preside over the official counting of electoral ballots that would result in the certification of the 2020 election and declare Joe Biden the president.
“We’re going to show that that pressure campaign directly contributed to the attack on the Capitol and put the vice president’s life in danger,” an aide told reporters on Wednesday. They’ll also aim to show there’s an ongoing threat by people advocating false views that the election was rigged and that the election should be overturned.
Though the hearing will still be opened by Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney ,R-Wyo., Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., is expected to play a key role in this hearing, similar to how Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., did when the panel met on Monday.
Jan. 6 committee aides told reporters on Wednesday that new information in the form of documents and witness testimony is expected to be shared during the hearing and also noted that committee investigative counsel John Wood will also be asking the witnesses questions.
Two witnesses will testify at Thursday’s hearing: former federal Judge J. Michael Luttig, who advised Pence on his role in the election certification proceedings, and Greg Jacob, who was the chief counsel to the vice president at the time.
Expected to run two hours, the hearing may also feature prerecorded video testimony from Eric Herschmann, formerly Trump's impeachment lawyer, regarding a conversation he had with ex-Trump legal adviser John Eastman the day following the attack on Jan. 6.
"I only want to hear two words coming out of your mouth from now on: orderly transition,” Herschmann said ina video clip shared by Cheney on Twitter. "Find a great f'ing criminal defense lawyer. You're going to need it."
Three more hearings, including Thursday's, are on the docket
Following the postponement of a committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday, the panel has announced it will hold hearings at the following times:
• Thursday, June 16, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. ET
• Tuesday, June 21, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. ET
• Thursday, June 23, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. ET
Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said in a video message Tuesday night that Thursday's hearing will proceed as planned with a focus on the pressure campaign against former Vice President Mike Pence to obstruct the electoral count on Jan. 6.
It's not known what the focus of next week's hearings will be, nor when the committee will hold the session originally planned for Wednesday focused on pressure against DOJ officials. The committee may add additional dates beyond these, since Cheney indicated at the initial prime time session that there would be seven hearings in all. No further guidance about the schedule beyond these dates was offered.