1/6 panel: Plan for Pence to reject ‘crazy’, ‘crazy’ voters | News, Sports, Jobs
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s closest advisers viewed his last-ditch efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to suspend Congressional certification of his 2020 election defeat as “nuts,” “mad” and even likely to incite riots if Pence follows suit, witnesses revealed in blunt testimony Thursday before the Jan. 6 committee.
Startling new evidence has revealed Trump’s heated conversation mocking Pence with vulgar names on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, before the defeated president took the stage at a rally near the White House. From there he sent his followers to the Capitol to “fight like hell” since the Vice-Chair was to chair a joint session.
The panel highlighted the physical danger to Pence as rioters approached within 40 feet of the location in the Capitol where he 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 is heard saying on video as the crowd prepares 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” rioters nearby. When asked if Trump had ever checked on Pence during the siege, Jacob replied: “He does not have.”
With live testimony and other evidence from its year-long investigation, the panel opened its third hearing this month in a bid to demonstrate that Trump’s repeated false allegations of voter fraud and the desperate attempt to staying in power 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. Publicly and privately, Trump waged a pressure campaign that put his vice president at risk as he was to preside over the joint session of Congress to certify the election.
Trump aides and allies have privately warned bluntly against his efforts, though some have continued publicly to support the president’s bogus claims of voter fraud. 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 your theory is this is how you’re going to invalidate their votes?” said Herschmann. He warned: “You will cause riots in the streets.”
A text message from Sean Hannity of Fox News to Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about the plan in the run-up to Jan. 6 reads: “I am very worried for the next 48 hours.”
Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller said those around Trump called the plan “mad.”
The committee declared the plan illegal and a federal judge ruled “more likely than not” Trump committed crimes in his attempt to stop certification.
In a social media post on Thursday, Trump again decried the hearings as “witch hunt,” cover blasted by “false 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 more un-American idea” than the one he was asked to follow – reject the votes of Americans.
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 attorney who pushed back against Eastman’s ideas for Pence, and retired federal judge Michael Luttig, who called Eastman’s plan, his former clerk, “wrong at every turn.”
Jacob said it became clear to Pence early on that the Founding Fathers did not intend to give any single person, including a person running for office, the power to affect the outcome of the election.
Under “never moved” from that initial vantage point, and was determined to stay at the Capitol that night and finish the job, despite the threats, Jacob said.
Luttig, a conservative academic, said in a hesitant but firm voice that Pence had obeyed Trump’s orders, saying “Trump as the next president would have plunged America into what I believe would have been tantamount to a revolution in a constitutional crisis in America.”
Thursday’s session presented new evidence of the danger Pence faced as rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence” with a makeshift gallows outside the Capitol as the Vice President fled with the senators into hiding.
The president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, testified about “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.”
In another development Thursday, Thompson said the panel would ask Virginia “Gini” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for an interview amid disclosures of the conservative activist’s communications with people in 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 – told him he had simply lost.
With 1,000 interviews and approximately 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 alternative 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.
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 scrutiny, and the panel is also questioning several candidates for elected office who were among the rioters.
The panel, which is expected to deliver a final report on its findings later this year, wants its work to be a record in the history of 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.