4 takeaways from the third hearing on January 6: NPR

A committee exhibit shows former Vice President Mike Pence speaking on the phone from his secure location during the riot, as the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol holds a hearing Thursday.

Susan Walsh/AP

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Susan Walsh/AP

4 takeaways from the third hearing on January 6: NPR

A committee exhibit shows former Vice President Mike Pence speaking on the phone from his secure location during the riot, as the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol holds a hearing Thursday.

Susan Walsh/AP

The moment was dramatic.

Rioters had overtaken law enforcement in the United States Capitol. Just 40 feet from the Vice President of the United States and his team – and hearing the din of rioters – the Secret Service rushed to evacuate the group, into a car and out of there.

But Vice President Mike Pence refused.

He was determined to finish government business, count the votes that would confirm the results of the presidential victory of Joe Biden as president and Kamala Harris as vice president, the very people Pence ran against. .

And he did it while facing unprecedented pressure from President Trump. Even as insurgents had breached the Capitol, Trump sent a tweet tightening the pressure on Pence.

“Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done,” Trump tweeted, aware that the rioters had breached the Capitol.

It was a tweet that a White House aide described, in recorded testimony, as “pouring gasoline on the fire.” Aides advised him to do the opposite, to send something to quell the violence. Instead, Trump stepped up.

It wasn’t a scene from a Hollywood movie, the Jan. 6 panel revealed in detail during its third hearing on Thursday.

Here are four key takeaways from what we learned during the hearing:

1. If Pence hadn’t pushed back the pressure, the country would have been thrown into chaos.

Pence faced enormous pressure to do something he had no constitutional authority to do — reject voter votes for president or return them to the states.

The 12th Amendment and the Voter Count Act give the vice president a ceremonial role to preside over this process, not one that gives him the power to essentially overturn the results of an election.

Had Pence bowed to pressure, witnesses said Thursday, American democracy would have been significantly weakened.

Greg Jacob, a lawyer for Pence, said there would have been both short and long term consequences – political chaos with lawsuits and unrest in the streets and would have set a precedent setting a situation where one person had the power to determine the outcome of an election.

Pence was determined to avoid this – despite the very real threats he faced.

Retired Judge J. Michael Luttig, who advised Pence on the role of vice president on Jan. 6, told the panel that due to continued rhetoric from Trump, his allies and supporters, they continue to represent “a clear and present danger to democracy.”

Still, it was a bit odd that the story was told without two of the main characters – Trump and Penny.

“He obviously did the right thing on January 6,” Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general for the Obama administration, told MSNBC after the hearing. “Great. But the idea that he could sit on the sidelines during this hearing and not tell the American people…not tell the Justice Department what really happened in his words, to me, I find it unforgivable. So it’s great to praise him for what he did last year, but I want to know, and I want to hear from him what really happened in his own words. .”

2. The pressure came from above.

Trump lobbied Pence publicly and privately. In addition to that 2:24 p.m. tweet on Jan. 6, Trump referenced Pence 11 times during his Jan. 6 speech before the uprising.

Trump tweeted several times in the days leading up to Jan. 6 targeting Pence, lied in a statement that Pence agreed with him on the power of the vice president, and several witnesses, including Trump’s daughter Ivanka, testified of a “heated” Jan. 6 phone call between Trump and Pence.

Trump was trying to bully Pence into going along with what he wanted. Witnesses described Trump as using the word “wimp”, saying that Pence lacked the “courage” to annul the election and that Trump used the “p-word”.

The committee did a great job relaying how Trump’s words resonated with his crowd of supporters who stormed the Capitol.

“If Pence gave in, we’re gonna drag m************ through the streets,” one rioter said on video. “You politicians are going to be dragged through the streets.”

The committee also revealed a chilling quote, noting that a Proud Boys informant told the FBI that the Proud Boys “would have killed Mike Pence if they had the chance.”

3. The pressure on Pence continued even after the riot.

Not only did Trump send that tweet, but Pence’s lawyer, Jacob, testified that lawyer John Eastman, who concocted this plan and convinced Trump of it, urged Jacob to ask Pence to delay certification and return it to the States.

“It’s rubber room stuff,” Pence replied when Jacob showed him the email.

Earlier, Jacob told Eastman ‘because of your b*******, we’re in this situation’, referring to the crowd storming the Capitol

Eastman responded by accusing Pence of not doing what he and Trump asked.

4. The committee began exposing the potential criminal liability of Eastman – and possibly Trump.

There was plenty of evidence that Eastman believed Pence lacked the power to do exactly what he was asking him to do.

Jacob testified that Eastman admitted on Jan. 5 that he wouldn’t want a Democratic vice president to do the same — and didn’t believe they, or Pence, legally could.

Trump’s White House attorney Eric Herschmann testified that when he told Eastmann there would be riots if his memo was signed into law, Eastman replied, “There was violence. in the history of our country to protect our republic”.

After the riot, Eastman emailed Rudy Giuliani, asking to be put on the pardon list. He was not. When brought before the January 6 committee, Eastman pleaded the Fifth at least 100 times.

Eastman indicated to Jacob that he understood that he and Trump were asking Pence to do something that he really had no authority to do, according to Jacob. Jacob asked if Eastman told Trump that, and Eastman replied that yes, he did, but “once he [Trump] gets something in his head, it’s hard to get it out.”

A federal judge earlier this year, in a nonbinding opinion, said it was “more likely than not” that Trump and Eastman conspired and “corruptly attempted to obstruct” Congress, given their actions before and on January 6.

Dozens have already been convicted of obstructing Congress and obstructing official process. The question now, however, is what happens next, and how real is it that Justice Department prosecutors are actually going after Trump.

But, so far, there has been a lack of cooperation between the committee and the Ministry of Justice. The department complained in a letter to the committee that it had not provided the necessary transcripts. This, he said, “complicates the Department’s ability to investigate and prosecute those who engaged in criminal acts in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.”


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