US Capitol Jan. 6 panel examines Trump’s pressure on Pence

WASHINGTON, June 16 (Reuters) – The congressional committee investigating last year’s deadly assault on the US Capitol turns its attention on Thursday to then-President Donald Trump’s attempts to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn his 2020 election defeat.

The House of Representatives select committee has scheduled a hearing for 1 pm EDT (1700 GMT), looking at efforts by Trump and some of his associates to convince Pence to prevent formal congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the November 2020 presidential election.

Thousands of Trump supporters – many chanting “Hang Mike Pence” – marched on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as Pence oversaw a session in which lawmakers met for what is normally a routine procedure to certify election results. Some erected a makeshift gallows they said was intended for Pence.

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The certification had become a focus for Trump, who saw it as a last-ditch chance to retain the presidency despite his loss at the polls. His supporters flocked to Washington to rally with Trump, who had made repeated false claims that the election was stolen through widespread voting fraud. They stormed the Capitol, attacked police and sent Pence and lawmakers fleeing for their safety.

Trump’s accountability for the Jan. 6 riot is “incidental to his responsibility and accountability for his attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election from the American people,” retired US Appeals Court Judge J. Michael Luttig will tell the committee, according to written testimony obtained by CNN. read more

“It is breathtaking that these arguments even were conceived, let alone entertained by the president of the United States at that perilous moment in history,” Luttig, who was an informal advisor to Pence, said in his statement.

Had Pence obeyed, according to Luttig’s testimony, the country would have been plunged into a “revolution within a paralyzing constitutional crisis.”

Thursday’s hearing will also feature testimony from Greg Jacob, who served as counsel to Pence. Videotaped testimony of former Pence chief of staff Marc Short is expected to be shown as well.

The hearing is the third of at least six planned public hearings this month at which the nine-member, Democratic-led committee will discuss preliminary results of its nearly yearlong investigation of the events leading up to the Jan. 6 attack.

Committee aides said the hearing will examine the emergence of a plan advocated by Trump associates including attorney John Eastman that Pence could unilaterally reject certified electors from certain states where results had been challenged. Pence refused to accept that theory.

Pence in February of this year said Trump, under whom he served as vice president for four years, was wrong to believe that Pence had the power to reverse the election’s outcome.

“I had no right to overturn the election,” Pence told an audience in Florida.

The hearing will look at the pressure campaign on Pence, driven by Trump, the committee aides said on condition of anonymity. They promised new material documenting those efforts, with testimony from the witnesses in the room as well as taped testimony from some of the more than 1,000 depositions and interviews.

Democrat Jamie Raskin, a committee member, was asked on CNN about a New York Times report that Trump adviser John Eastman claimed to have knowledge of a “heated fight” among Supreme court justices about whether to hear arguments related to Trump’s efforts to overturn the election .

“We want to ferret that out if that’s true,” Raskin said. “To determine whether, you know, the same people who were establishing a back channel to the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the 3 percenters and the domestic violent extremist movement also had a back channel somehow to the Supreme Court of the United States of America.”

The groups Raskin mentioned are far-right organizations.

The committee intends to lay out a timeline of Pence’s day on Jan. 6, which could detail contacts with Trump and Secret Service agents who spirited the vice president to a secure location as the crowd threatened him.

The attack on the Capitol delayed certification of the election for hours, injured more than 140 police officers and led to several deaths. More than 840 people have been arrested and charged so far.

The onslaught marked the only time in US history that power was not passed peacefully from one president to another.

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Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan; editing by Andy Sullivan, Will Dunham and David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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