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Trump told repeatedly plan to overturn election was illegal, January 6 committee hears & More Trending News



Donald Trump pushed his vice-president Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election despite having being told repeatedly by him that he believed doing so would be illegal, a Congressional committee has heard.

Members of the bipartisan panel investigating the attack on the US Congress were told on Thursday that many members of Trump’s inner circle disagreed with his controversial theory that Pence had the power to not certify the election results.

Pete Aguilar, a Democratic member of the committee, said: “Despite the fact that the vice-president consistently told the president that he did not have and would not want the power to decide the outcome of the presidential election, Donald Trump continued to pressure the vice-president, both publicly and privately.”

The hearing, which was the third in a series of public sessions, focused entirely on the role of the vice-president before and during the January 6 attack. Members showed evidence that Trump helped fuel the mob that stormed the Capitol by continuing to claim that Pence could overturn the election, despite the belief of many of his advisers that this was impossible.

Eric Herschmann, one of Trump’s lawyers, called the idea, which was promoted by the constitutional scholar John Eastman, “completely crazy”, arguing it would lead to riots on the streets.

Herschmann told the committee he had told Eastman at the time: “You’re going to turn around and tell 78-plus-million people in this country that your theory is this is how you’re going to invalidate their votes because you think election was stolen.”

“‘They’re not going to tolerate that,’ I said. ‘You’re going to cause riots in the streets,’” he added.

Witnesses said that several others in the former president’s legal team agreed, as well as his chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Greg Jacob, one of Pence’s former legal advisers, told the committee that even Eastman conceded in private conversations that the US Supreme Court would vote 9-0 against the theory if it were ever tested in court.

Members also saw evidence which suggested that in a draft letter to Trump written in October 2020, Eastman himself rebutted the theory, arguing: “Nowhere [in the constitution] does it suggest that the president of the Senate [the vice-president], gets to make the determination on his own.”

And they heard that Pence himself decided at an early stage such an attempt would be illegal. Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, said he had made his position clear that “he wouldn’t want that power bestowed upon any one person”.

Nevertheless, Trump continued to insist that Pence could overturn the election, and his frustration with him helped incite the mob which then stormed the Capitol building, members argued.

The committee played video of rioters screaming “Hang Mike Pence” after he announced he would certify the results.

Michael Luttig, a judge who also gave Pence legal advice at the time, argued that had the vice-president caved to Trump’s demands, it would have thrown the country into a constitutional crisis.

“The declaration of Donald Trump as the next president would have plunged America into what I believe would have been tantamount to a revolution within a constitutional crisis in America,” he said.

In a video preview of the hearing, Herschmann recalled telling Eastman the day after January 6: “Get a great effing criminal defence lawyer, you’re going to need it.”

Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chair of the committee, said: “We are fortunate for Mr Pence’s courage. On January 6, our democracy came dangerously close to catastrophe. That courage put [Pence] in tremendous danger.”

Liz Cheney, the Republican vice chair, said: “Vice-president Pence understood that his oath of office was more important than his loyalty to Donald Trump. He did his duty; president Trump unequivocally did not.”

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