Day 3 of The House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol kicked off Thursday with testimony focusing on the intense pressure President Trump put on Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election.
Two primary witnesses appeared Thursday: former Pence attorney Greg Jacob and retired Republican Judge J. Michael Luttig, both of whom advised against following Trump’s demands to call the election a fraud.
Pence Never Seriously Considered Carrying Out Trump’s Orders
Both witnesses were adamant that Pence had no legal authority to hold up the election, that they told him as much – and that he was never really inclined to consider it.
On the day of the riot, Luttig sent out a tweet, at the urging of Pence’s team, explaining that the VP did not have the authority to overturn the election. Pence later referred to Luttig’s advice as reasoning why he took none of the action that Trump was urging.
Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said the focus of the hearing would show the “earnest efforts by Mike Pence explaining that he could not illegally refuse to count electoral votes.”
Pence understood, Cheney said, that his oath of office was more important than his duty to President Trump. Jacob then testified that Pence was aware of the calls for him to uphold the certification, and sought the lawyer’s advice.
Jacob said he told Pence that based on a review of “texts, history and common sense … there was no justifiable basis to conclude that the Vice President has that kind of authority,” Jacob said – and Pence agreed.
Luttig testimony strongly disputed the beliefs of former Trump adviser John Eastman, a California attorney who argued that Pence had constitutional power to overturn the election. There is “little substantive constitutional authority, if any at all.”
Luttig testified that “nothing in the Constitution or the laws of the United States,” nor anything in historical precedent, suggested Pence had any such power – and had the outgoing VP tried such a thing, the consequences would have been dire.
“I believe that had Vice President Pence obeyed the orders from his president on Jan. 6, 2021, and declared Donald Trump the next president of the United States, not withstanding that Donald Trump had lost the election … that declaration would have plunged America into what I believe would have been tantamount to a revolution within a constitutional crisis, which in my view would have been the first constitutional crisis since the founding of the Republic,” Luttig said.
Who is This John Eastman We Keep Hearing About?
John Charles Eastman, an attorney and campaign advisor to Donald Trump and his election team, emerged Thursday as a key architect of the plan to pressure Pence into overturning the 2020 election.
Testimony painted Eastman as the driving force behind the “theory” that Pence could hold up the electoral certification, based on what he said was legal and historic precedent. But witnesses said Eastman knew his proposed shenanigans would get trounced in the courts – but he kept flogging it anyway.
So who is this mystery supporting character?
A graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, Eastman clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarance Thomas and for John Michael Luttig, a former Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals. (Luttig, a Republican, testified before the Jan. 6 committee on Thursday that there was no constitutional basis for Eastman’s theory that Pence had the authority to reject electors who weren’t backing Trump.)
Eastman specialized in civil and constitutional litigation at a Nebraska firm, served as Dean of the Chapman University Law School, and went on to become a Trump supporter, penning an op-ed erroneously suggesting that Kamala Harris was not born in the United States and therefore could not serve as Vice President.
He quickly became a member of Trump’s inner circle – with Pence’s attorney Gregory Jacob describing him as a “serpent” in the president’s ear.
John King Says ‘The Big No-No’ on CNN
Either CNN anchor and political analyst John King didn’t get the memo, got caught up in the moment – or he’s not here to cater to the new boss’ “preferences.”
King on Thursday used the term “The Big Lie” during a recess in the committee’s hearings, talking on CNN about how several figures described in testimony were being “caught up in the ‘Big Lie’” being pushed by President Trump.
Earlier this week, new CNN boss Chris Licht said on a conference call with management and producers that he prefers the network – which he wants to make more centrist in a “facts-first” approach – not use the term, which he feels is too close to Democratic Party “branding,” and offering alternatives like “Trump’s election lies.”
Licht called it his “preference,” not a mandate, but staffers – many of whom were displeased, Mediaite said – took it as an edict. Just not John King.
Trump Called Pence a WHAT?!
Donald Trump called Mike Pence “the P-word” and “a wimp” during a phone call in which the President was trying to convince the Vice President to take the unprecedented – and almost certainly illegal – step of singlehandedly refusing to certify the 2020 election, according to testimony Thursday on Capitol Hill.
In a brief clip of video testimony at the Jan. 6 committee hearings, Julie Radford, Ivanka Trump’s Chief of Staff at the White House, said her boss told her “that her dad had just had an upsetting conversation with the VP.”
She was asked by the questioning attorney whether she remembered what name Trump called Pence.
“The P-word,” she said.
Josh Dickey contributed to this report.