WASHINGTON, June 16 (Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump has pressured his Vice President, Mike Pence, to overturn his 2020 election defeat, despite being told repeatedly that Pence had no authority to do so, Pence aides told the congressional committee investigating Jan. 6. , 2021 attack on the United States Capitol on Thursday.
Members of the Democratic-led House Select Committee said Trump was continuing his pressure campaign even though he knew a violent mob of his supporters was threatening the Capitol as Pence and lawmakers gathered to officially certify President Joe Biden’s victory in the November 2020 election.
The nine-member committee used the first three of at least six public hearings scheduled for this month to build a case that Trump’s efforts to reverse his defeat amounted to unlawful conduct, far beyond normal politics.
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“Mike Pence said no. He resisted the pressure. He knew it was illegal. He knew it was wrong,” said Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the committee. “That courage put him in danger.”
Trump has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, while repeating his false accusations that he only lost the election because of widespread fraud that benefited Democrat Biden. He and his supporters — including many Republican members of Congress — dismiss the Jan. 6 panel as a political witch hunt.
Marc Short, who was Pence’s chief of staff, said in videotaped testimony that Pence told Trump “repeatedly” that he had no authority to stop the certification of the vote in Congress. as requested by the Republican President.
Gregory Jacob, Pence’s attorney, said the theory’s main proponent, outside counsel John Eastman, admitted to Trump two days before the attack that his plan to have Pence halt the proceedings would violate the law.
Trump’s responsibility for the Jan. 6 riot is “incidental to his responsibility and liability for his attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election from the American people,” the retired U.S. Court of Justice told the committee. United States Appeal, J. Michael Luttig.
“It’s mind-boggling that these arguments were even crafted, let alone nurtured by the President of the United States at this perilous moment in history,” said Luttig, who was an informal adviser to Pence.
The committee released chilling video showing some of Trump’s supporters in the crowd of thousands who descended on the Capitol demanding that Pence be removed from the building or hanged.
Committee members said Trump’s comments against Pence fueled their anger.
“You’ll also hear that the President knew there was a violent mob on Capitol Hill when he tweeted at 2:24 p.m. that the Vice President didn’t have the quote, ‘the courage’ to do what needed to be done,” said the Democrat. Representative Pete Aguilar, a committee conducting the questioning of witnesses.
The January 6 certification had become a priority for Trump, who saw it as a last chance to retain the presidency despite his defeat at the polls. His supporters flocked to Washington to rally behind the Republican president, who had made repeated false claims that the election was stolen by widespread voter fraud. They stormed the Capitol, attacked police, and sent Pence and lawmakers fleeing for safety.
Pence did not follow Trump’s instructions to remove the
certification of votes.
The hearing also examined the emergence of a plan advocated by Trump associates, including attorney John Eastman, under which Pence could unilaterally reject certified voters from certain states where results had been disputed. Pence refused to accept this theory.
Separately, Rep. Bennie Thompson, Democratic chair of the committee, told reporters Thursday that the committee should ask Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to testify. Read more
Thomas’ involvement in conservative politics and reported ties to people involved in Trump’s challenge to the election results have raised questions about whether her husband should recuse himself from Supreme Court rulings related to those issues.
Pence said in February that Trump, under whom he served as vice president for four years, was wrong to believe Pence had the power to reverse the election result.
“I had no right to void the election,” Pence told an audience in Florida. The committee released a video of him saying so during its first public hearing on Thursday evening.
The attack on the Capitol delayed election certification for hours, injured more than 140 police officers and left several dead. Over 840 people have been arrested and charged to date.
The assault marked the only time in US history that power has not passed peacefully from one president to another.
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Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Alistair Bell
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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