On Thursday, the third public hearing of Jan 6. Riot took place, focusing on how Trump pressured Vice President Mike Pence to deny certifying Biden’s victory.
On Thursday’s hearing, the House panel went further into specifics as to how Trump was pressurizing Pence to side with him on overturning the elections. When Pence refused to do so, his life was put in danger as Trump’s supporters raged during the riot calling to hang him.
Video footage was shown of what Mike Pence said in a speech in front of the Federalist society back in February, saying, “President Trump said that I had the right to overturn the election. But President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. The Presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone.” This statement is further proven by two witnesses, former Pence’s attorney Greg Jacob and retired Republican judge J. Michael Luttig, who testified on Thursday’s hearing, advised Pence that he had no authority to overturn the election. Greg Jacob told Eastman on Jan 6., “Thanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege.”
Even in this hearing, Trump was continuously told that his plan to overturn the election with the help of Pence was illegal, but he went ahead with the plan anyway. This idea of using Pence was put forth by Trump’s attorney, John Eastman, who said that Pence could unilaterally block the certification. Even though the idea was completely rejected by Trump’s attorneys and Pence’s team, Trump went for it regardless. Witness testimony stated that Pence and Eastman advised Trump that the idea was unconstitutional and violated federal law. In a video testimony, Mark Short, former Chief of Staff to Mike Pence, agreed that Pence advised Trump directly “many times” about the illegality of the idea and has been “very consistent” with his position regarding overturning the election.
Eastman, who concocted the idea also advised Trump that Pence had to violate federal law in order to do so, according to a video clip from Jacob, Pence’s senior legal adviser. Eastman never gave up the idea, with Jacob calling it as “certifiably crazy”. Jacob described the meetings he had with Pence on January 4th and 5th, saying, “I concluded by saying, ‘John, in light of everything that we’ve discussed, can’t we just both agree that this is a terrible idea? And he couldn’t quite bring himself to say yes to that. But he very clearly said, ‘Well, yeah, I see we’re not going to be able to persuade you to do this.’ And that was how the meeting concluded.” Even after the riot was over, Eastman pleaded to Jacob in an email that night, to suspend the election certification. Eastman stressed on minor violations of the Electoral Count Act and as a result Pence should delay the certification for 10 days. On Jan 7th Eastman was on a phone call with Herschmann and was still suggesting legal options to appeal the electoral results in Georgia. To that Herschmann said in a deposition, “I said to him, ‘Are you out of your effing mind? Because I only want to hear two words coming out of your mouth from now on: orderly transition.’”
The panel linked Pence’s refusal to subvert the election to the Capitol riot through testimonies from Pence’s allies, Trump’s public statements and statements from the rioters themselves. Some of the evidence showed that the rioters religiously believed in Trump’s false electoral claims and that elections were rigged against and Pence had the power to alter the electoral decision. It was shown that in real-time, many of the rioters were aggressively criticizing Pence saying that he “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.” and “If Pence cave, then we gonna drag mother***** through the streets.”
Eastman also sent an email to Rudy Giuliani a few days after the riot and asked to be included in a list of presidential pardons. In the email, Eastman said, “I’ve decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works.” He eventually did not receive a pardon and was repeatedly pleading the Fifth when he was asked questions about his role to subvert the elections. This led to the House panel to believe that Eastman knew that his actions were unlawful and violated the law.
In the second half of the hearing, the focus was on more evidence, including a phone call from Trump to Pence. Trump had several of his family members in the Oval Office, including his daughter, Ivanka Trump, who described the conversation as “heated”. A former special assistant to Trump, Nicholas Luna, said that he was dropping off a note and recalled Trump calling Pence a “wimp”.
Pence’s life was actually in danger on the day of the riot, according to Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar. After Trump attacked and blamed Pence on Twitter, further inciting the rioters, there was at one point only “40 feet between the vice president and the mob.” According to Aguilar, “Vice President Pence was a focus of the violent attack.” With Pence’s refusal, Trump publicly started attacking Pence, further infuriating his supporters.
Surprisingly though, Pence was absent during the hearing, whereas he was the main focus in the court. The House Panel seemed to make Pence look like the hero, without whom American democracy would have collapsed if Pence agreed to Trump’s demands. No matter how much the panel complimented on his bravery, it was difficult to not wonder why Pence was not present in that very room. It’s a long shot for Pence to appear before the public in such a court hearing and when asked if the panel wanted to hear further from Pence, they didn’t provide any specifics.