Aides said the hearing will include new material and documents about Pence’s movements on January 6 and what he was doing when the Senate chamber was forced to evacuate after rioters entered the US Capitol.
Pence will be the focus, but not there
One person who will be conspicuously absent on Thursday is the former vice president himself.
Earlier this year, the chairman of the committee, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, suggested the committee would seek testimony from Pence. Still, the prospect of Pence appearing before the committee, especially in public, has always been seen as a long shot — to say the least.
But as the committee argues that Trump was pushing his vice president to unilaterally cancel the Jan. 6 election, Pence’s absence will no doubt be felt.
When asked Wednesday if the committee was still interested in hearing from Pence himself, committee aides demurred, telling reporters the investigation was ongoing and so they could not provide details on any engagement with a particular witness.
“Nothing new to share on this other than we continue to research facts and if there is more to share we will share in the future,” said one of the aides.
Pence is scheduled to travel to Ohio on Thursday for an energy roundtable.
A judge and a lawyer
The two witnesses appearing Thursday, Jacob and Luttig, each played a key role in helping Pence resist Trump’s pressure campaign. And both can explain how Trump and his allies were warned that his plan for Pence to cancel electoral votes on Jan. 6 was illegal.
Pence cited Luttig’s statement in the letter released Jan. 6 explaining why he would not stop certifying the election.
Jacob also played a behind-the-scenes role on Jan. 6 as he was evacuated from the Senate with Pence, exchanging heated emails about what was happening, which was revealed in court documents.
Eastman replied, “The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss failed to do what was necessary to allow this to be released publicly so the American people could see for themselves what happened. past.”
Short, Pence’s former top aide, addressed the committee by deposition, and committee aides said they expected to use portions of his interview in Thursday’s hearing. But there is no indication that the committee will summon him to testify at the public hearings.
It’s not unlike how the committee presented former Attorney General William Barr’s deposition during Monday’s hearing, but did not call him for public testimony.
“An excellent criminal defense lawyer”
The committee previewed its Thursday hearing by playing a video clip of Herschmann’s deposition.
In the clip, Herschmann explains how he warned Eastman to drop plans to file appeals in Georgia based on election results after the events of January 6, 2021.
“He started asking me about something about Georgia and saving something, potentially, for appeal,” Herschmann said in the video. “And I said to him, ‘Are you crazy? Because I only want to hear two words out of your mouth from now on: orderly transition.’ I said, ‘I don’t want to hear any other scary words coming out of your mouth no matter what, other than ‘orderly transition’. Repeat those words to me.”
He then proceeds to warn Eastman that his actions could potentially be against the law.
“Finally he said, ‘Orderly transition’. I said, ‘Fine, John. Now I’m going to give you the best free legal advice you’ve ever had in your life: find a great criminal defense attorney. You’ll need it.” And I hung up on him.”
The video likely foreshadows what will be an underlying theme of Thursday’s hearing as the committee plans to highlight how Trump has continued to embrace Eastman’s plan to void the election despite his top lawyers’ insistence on the fact that it was not sound legal advice.
The staff lawyer will ask questions on Thursday
Thursday’s hearing format will have a new wrinkle, according to committee aides: Committee counsel John Wood will do some of the questioning of witnesses.
The inclusion of a staff attorney recalls impeachment hearings for House Democrats in 2019, when staff attorneys conducted lengthy witness interrogations before the more traditional five-minute rounds were used for lawmakers to bedroom.
So far, the select committee has limited the number of people who speak at hearings, with one member focusing on leading each session. On Thursday, Democratic Representative Pete Aguilar in California will have this task.
The committee postponed its hearing scheduled for Wednesday, which was to focus on the Justice Department. Now it will hold two hearings next week, with more scheduled for the following week, although the committee has yet to announce specific times or topics for those.
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