Witnesses Testify Top Trump Allies Ignored Warnings of Violence Leading Up to Jan. 6 Attack
Cheney: ‘What exactly did President Trump know? When exactly did President Trump know?’
- Published In: Politics
- Last Updated: Jun 17, 2022
The select committee presents its third Congressional hearing on the Jan. 6 insurrection. The next hearing will take place on June 21 at 1 p.m. Eastern. (Wyoming Truth Photo)
By Jacob Gardenswartz
Special to the Wyoming Truth
WASHINGTON—In the days leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, when then-Vice President Mike Pence was set to certify President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, officials supporting former President Donald Trump’s unverified claims of widespread election fraud were warned repeatedly that their plans to deny the outcome of the election had the potential to unleash violence and yet they proceeded with those plans anyway, officials testified Thursday.
The third public hearing of the House select committee investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection explored Trump’s attempts to pressure Pence not to formalize Biden’s victory, a largely ceremonial role the vice president is required by law to fulfill. Panel members sought to show the violence at the Capitol was directed by Trump towards Pence in response to his refusal to go along with the plan to keep Trump in power.
“Mike Pence understood that his oath of office was more important than his loyalty to Donald Trump,” said vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), one of two republicans serving on the committee. “He did his duty. President Trump unequivocally did not.”
Among the most startling revelations was the disclosure that as the siege of the Capitol was underway, Pence was at one point just 40 feet away from the rioters. “The vice president’s life was in danger,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) testified.
Lawmakers zeroed in on efforts by John Eastman, a little-known conservative lawyer and former law professor who witnesses said advised Trump that Pence had the ability to unilaterally declare Trump the victor in the election, or at least, delay the certification of Biden’s win and return the issue to the states.
Witnesses appearing before the committee testified that officials, including Trump, were repeatedly told Eastman’s proposals were illegal. Eastman himself acknowledged that fact, former White House aides testified, yet he continued to press forward to help Trump cling to the presidency.
“Had Vice President Pence obeyed the orders from his president,” retired federal appellate court judge and Pence advisor J. Michael Luttig argued, it “would’ve plunged America into what I believe would’ve been tantamount to a revolution within a Constitutional crisis.”
Greg Jacob, former legal counsel to Pence, testified that after he expressed concerns to Eastman about the potential for violence on Jan. 6, Eastman responded that the election “may well have had to be decided in the streets.” Former senior Trump advisor Eric Herschmann told the committee in a closed-door deposition that after he expressed similar concerns of violence, Eastman responded, “There’s been violence in the history of our country to protect our republic.
Lawmakers played clips of officials testifying that Trump knew the rioters had breached the Capitol and Pence was in danger when he tweeted that Pence didn’t have the “courage” to overturn the election. Top White House officials recalled Trump berating Pence on the phone earlier that morning as a “wimp.”
Even after the Capitol had been ransacked, Eastman continued his crusade to overturn the election, according to the committee. Jacob, the former Pence counsel, spoke of an email he received from Eastman late in the evening of Jan. 6 asking him to consider “one more relatively minor violation” of the law and delay certifying the election.
Despite the mounting pressure, Pence ultimately did preside over the certification of Biden’s victory. In a speech earlier this year which was referenced by the committee, Pence said he believed, “There is no idea more un-American than the notion that one person could choose an American president.”
Towards the conclusion of the three-hour hearing, the longest to date, lawmakers said they had obtained an email Eastman sent Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani in the days after the attack asking if he might be added to a “list” of possible pardons Trump would grant before leaving office. During his deposition with the committee, Eastman invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination more than 100 times, lawmakers said. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is pursuing a criminal investigation into his efforts to subvert the election, the New York Times reported.
During the hearing, Cheney invoked then-Sen. Howard Baker’s infamous question in the Nixon Watergate investigation: “What exactly did President Trump know? When exactly did President Trump know?”
The next hearing is scheduled for June 21 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time.