Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Live Event/Special
Soon: Third 1/6 Hearing To Focus On Trump's Attempts To Pressure Pence. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired June 16, 2022 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back, we're closing in on another critical hearing in the January 6th investigation. The Select House Committee is preparing to make the case that the Trump pressure campaign on then Vice President Mike Pence directly contributed to the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. We're told there will be new information about Pence's actions that day as his life was being threatened by rioters. Today's hearing seems likely to escalate the already difficult tensions between Trump and Pence. Kaitlan Collins is digging on that issue. Kaitlan, well, what are you hearing about the Trump-Pence relationship?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's still incredibly tense, but also it's almost kind of non-existent, Jake, because we're told that it's been over a year now since Trump and Pence have actually spoken which is quite remarkable for those of us who covered the Trump White House, given how often they were not only together, lunching once a week together, but also speaking very frequently. Obviously, the former president makes a lot of phone calls.
And I'm now told it it's been over a year since Trump and Pence have actually spoken. And it really just shows you how much their relationship was basically permanently frayed on January 6th, and in the weeks leading up to it. And today, you're going to really see a lot of that because it is going to be the full role that Pence played on January 6th, 2021. Obviously not the role that Trump wanted him to play in helping him subvert the election certification process. And I think that will be on display today. You'll also see the roles that these two attorneys were playing in this, one, Greg Jacob, who is of course the top White House lawyer to Pence and was advising him against going forward with this plan that was put forward by John Eastman, this Trump attorney that he was frequently listening to in the last days of his time in office.
And so I'm told that in the months, the 17 months since January 6th has happened, Trump has continued to criticize Pence for not doing what he wanted him to on that day. And Pence himself who is not going to be at this hearing today, he's actually to speech in Ohio. He's tried to kind of delicately navigate this because he's at times challenged the former president, but also he's trying to downplay the rift between the two of them, Jake, because he himself is weighing a 2024 presidential run.
TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.
Joining me now, two veterans of former Vice President Mike Pence's inner circle, Olivia Troye, a former senior adviser to Vice President Pence and Alyssa Farah Griffin, who was Pence's press secretary before becoming the White House Director of Strategic Communications, she's now a CNN political commentator. So Alyssa let me start with you. You know these people personally from your time in the Vice President's Office, Marc Short, the Chief of Staff, Greg Jacob, the head legal counsel. How much credibility do you think they give this hearing and what could they tell us?
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So I think to date, this is going to be the most important hearing. And because this entire, you know, the day around January 6th hinges on the fact that our democracy literally hung on the brink, it hung in the balance. And it was one man who stopped what the former president was trying to do, which was overturn a democratic election.
So these are the close advisors who knew the pressure campaign around Vice President Pence, who gave him the good constitutional sound advice that made him make that the right decision. And one thing I can't emphasize enough is, I would say pretty much any other person in MAGA Trump World in Pence's shoes, probably would not have done the right thing. And because of that, I will always say Mike Pence is a hero who, you know, saved our democracy that day.
TAPPER: Interesting. And Olivia, you still have texts that you say still give you chills from that day, from January 6th. We've learned during this hearing that then President Trump actually suggested that he supported the chance of hanging Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence outside the capitol that day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: You know, former Vice President Pence personally as well, what do you think he's thinking, watching all this testimony about what he went through in the weeks leading up to January 6th? And tell us about those text messages?
OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO VP MIKE PENCE: Yes, look, I think Mike Pence is saying, you know, now the world is learning what everything that my team and I went through and the reality of the situation, what they were up against, and how hard it was to navigate in that space. So, you know, Alyssa and I have both been in the room. We've been with Trump. And we've seen the dynamic there on how these conversations go. And so, look, I get chills right now watching the hearings right now, it's still really, it's very emotional for me still to process ever at all, even though I, you know, I was warning people on the lead up to January 6th on what might happen. And looking back on these texts, I have text -- I texted with Greg Jacob, in the morning of when Pence put out the statement that he was going to do his constitutional duty. And it's still -- it's something that will live with me forever. And Greg's texted me was, yes, you know, God bless America. And I said to him, this will be Pence's legacy. And I'm so grateful that he's doing the right thing.
Later in that day, I circled back as everything unfolded. And I said, this is exactly what I worried would happen. I am concerned for all of you, I cannot believe that. This is such a dark day for America. And Greg responded and said, I'm keeping you and everyone in my prayers. And I was like, likewise. And, you know, I think you'll hear from Greg today. And I'm really glad that Americans will hear from these voices directly.
When I think about this, and I think about, you know, people are saying that the hearings maybe aren't making a difference, I think they are and I think they will. And, you know, I think leading up to the Watergate situation, Republicans hung in there from the spring of 1973, all the way through the following year, right, July. And then the tide started to turn. And so the hope is, I really hope that as witnesses are there in their words coming forward, that this will really make a difference for our country.
TAPPER: One of the things that's difficult to understand is Pence was under a huge pressure campaign behind the scenes, and they were trying to keep it behind the scenes and then ultimately, January 5th, they decided they could no longer do that. And Marc Short, Pence's chief of staff told the Secret Service that he was worried that Trump was going to publicly make, essentially make pence a target. But two days before January 6th, Pence was in Georgia trying to get people to the polls for those two special elections, the Senate races and he said this, take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We all got our doubts about the last election. And I want to assure you I share the concerns of millions of Americans about voting irregularities. And I promise you come this Wednesday, we'll have our day in Congress. We'll hear the objection. We'll hear the evidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So obviously, on January 6th, he did the right thing. He stood up at great personal and professional risk to himself, at risk of being hanged quite literally. But how do you reconcile that heroic Pence with what we just heard?
GRIFFIN: And I was advising the Georgia Senate races at that time, I should mention. Listen, anytime you try to straddle the line of Trumpism, and the ultra MAGA side of the party with the mainstream constitutional Republican duties that you have, it's going to be hard. This is a challenge that Pence has faced for some time, even as he looks to 2024, which I do think he's considering running, he's going to have to decide. Is he going to dabble into that? Well perhaps there was fraud, perhaps there was, you know, there were irregularities.
Ultimately, he did the right thing. And one thing I want to -- I just want to note, you mentioned the warning that came to Secret Service, from Marc Short, saying, you know, the President might turn against us. There's been a bit of a sort of conspiracy theory out there that the reason Pence didn't get in his Secret Service detail at the Capitol on January 6th, was because he was afraid of what were they may take him or what the President might do.
I want to be abundantly clear, so we just traveled all over the world with Mike Pence, he stayed because he understood the symbolism of standing up for our democracy. He knew he needed to stay and fight and certify the election. And he also was very close with the Secret Service detail. And Tim, the lead of it is somebody we knew personally, and is a great man who is committed to protecting the Vice President. So that's just not true. He knew he needed to stay in the Capitol and do the job.
TAPPER: Are you satisfied that the Committee is making clear to the American people sufficiently that this is not just about 2020, that this is about 2024, and all the people who support these, Trump's election lies, getting in better position, winning, you know, winning primary races to be Secretaries of State and the like?
TROYE: Look, I think they've been very methodical in their approach to it. I think it's very fact based in terms of how they're painting the picture in the full narrative here. And it's multiple layers, right? It's multiple layers of these actors that were involved in this whole coordinated campaign to overturn an election are still out there. And many of them have expanded their reach, right?
We have people running at the state level now, in legislatures, we have people being placed in positions of power like Secretary of State, that will matter for 2024. So this threat is still ongoing and I think that's the important work of the Committee to really continue to drive that message forward on what this means for the future and what looms over us still.
TAPPER: Olivia and Alyssa, thank you so much, really appreciated your time there.
We're going to get a taste of what Vice President Pence's advisers were saying as he was being pressured by his boss to unconstitutionally overturn the election. Stay with us.
TAPPER: The cannon caucus room at the House of Representatives is filling up as we close in on a third presentation of evidence uncovered by the January 6th Select House Committee. The hearing we're told will include live and recorded testimony by former aides and advisers to then Vice President Mike Pence, including witnesses to then President Trump's relentless pressure on Pence to invalidate lawful legal electoral votes, even though Pence had no authority to do so, pressure that came directly from Donald Trump, the top, the boss, the President of the United States.
Let's go to John King now at the magic wall. And John, give us a sense of all the pressure Mike Pence was under and what he was hearing from his top aides.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: So central to the hearing today will be Mike Pence, who was Donald Trump's last desperate act, if you will. Trump had failed in the courts. He had failed to pressure state governments and the governors and the Secretary of State's. And so here was January 6th fast approaching. President kept telling his Vice President you can do this. You have the authority.
When they call up the electoral votes, you can say I won't accept Georgia, I won't accept Pennsylvania, I won't accept Arizona. And Mike Pence kept saying do I have that authority? Do I exercise? So one of the people he reached out to was his counsel, Greg Jacob, who we will hear from today, the former chief counsel to the Vice President, a member of the White House counsel team, but obviously the chief counsel to the Vice. He starts doing the research and he's coming up with no, no, you do not have this power, Mr. Vice President. But the President keeps pressuring.
So they reach out to this esteemed conservative legal voice, the former federal judge on the shortlist for George W. Bush as a potential Supreme Court pick, very well respected in Republican, conservative legal. And Judge Luttig also looks at this and says no, no, there is no there, there. And what he will say today is quite significant, not only was this illegal, he will say that Donald Trump was a threat to the American experiment today by what he was pushing there.
Key to all this too is these are the two legal minds. So this Marc Short more of a political guy not saying that critically, that's his job. He's the chief of staff to the Vice President. But remember, Jake, he was also legislative director in the Trump White House, very well wired in the Trump West Wing. So he's talking to the people around the President saying, where's this coming from? Where's this coming from? All the lawyers say the Vice President does not have this power, but acutely aware of the pressure.
TAPPER: And we should note, we're going to hear live from Greg Jacob, we're probably going to hear from Marc Short in recorded, previously recorded testimony.
KING: Right. And, again, we've had the reporting. He thought the Vice President's life was at risk. He thought there was a threat of violence at the end because as we got closer to that day, we know, they don't knew, I should put in the record, this was their nemesis, John Eastman was telling the Vice President, telling the lawyers but more importantly telling the President, telling Donald Trump, yes, he can do this. The Vice President can essentially take the process off the rails and say I won't accept Pennsylvania, I won't accept.
TAPPER: And John Eastman should we not, who spoke at the rally that day, January 6th. John Eastman we should note was a former clerk of Michael Luttig in this small world of conservative scholar -- legal scholars.
KING: Right. And one of the reasons Judge Luttig started to get quite animated about this, but this is Greg Jacob to the Vice President. He's his counsel the day before. He understands the pressure he's under. And he essentially says to the Vice President's, you know, President Eastman -- Professor Eastman acknowledges that his proposal violates several provisions of statutory law. That's a polite loyally way of saying it's illegal. It's illegal. You cannot do this.
If the Vice President implemented Professor Eastman's proposal, he would likely lose in court. This was the memo, the Vice President used to settle on, telling Mr. President, I can't do this. There's no legal right for me to do this.
TAPPER: And one other thing, we should note, the way that legal memos are written, are generally very understated as you know. This is saying it's against the law. If you do this, you're going to lose and be embarrassed.
TAPPER: That's what it saying.
KING: Exactly is what it's saying. And it's also a younger lawyer trying to be respectful of Eastman who is his elder, if you will, even though if you read the entire memo, he thinks this is just a cockamamie groundless legal strategy. And that this is interesting because, you know, Judge Luttig, not exactly a big Twitter guy.
TAPPER: Not a big social media guy in general.
KING: Like Donald Trump was. So why on January 5th, that judge Luttig decide to go public with a tweet. He knows who his audience is. He knows who his followers are. He knows this will get retweeted by people in conservative legal schools, some of them who are thinking how can we keep Donald Trump in power, the only responsibility and power of the vice president under the Constitution is to faithfully count the Electoral College votes as they have been cast, essentially saying, no, Mike Pence cannot say, send Pennsylvania back, send Georgia back, send Arizona back, send Wisconsin back, send Michigan back because I don't like it. And they're going to send, you know, new electors force. The Vice President does not have that power. So this is just critical. He's going public with this because he knows the pressure. The Vice President is done privately.
TAPPER: Right. And when we note again, it's on January 5th, that Marc Short, the Chief of Staff for Pence tells the Secret Service this is all about to spill into public view, I think the Vice President's life is going to be in danger. That's the significance. January 5th, the day before everyone in the inner circle for Pence is terrified about what Trump is doing is going to spill over. And --
KING: And this part of the effort to essentially try to find a safety valve, get them to back off, please back off, this theory is, A, it's illegal. And B, it's dangerous. And we know there are people coming to Washington. We know the President summon them to Washington. You can't do this by law, and it's risky and threatening. And then you see this from Greg Jacob. And this e-mail is worth reading in its entirety. This is on January 6th, where he, again, it's polite, but read through it.
The Vice President is at the Capitol. They're chanting hang Mike Pence. The Secret Service has to rush him off. Respectfully, it was gravely, gravely irresponsible for you to entice the President. This is again, Donald Trump was -- lost recounts, lost in court, he could not believe the governor of Georgia, the Secretary State of Georgia, the Michigan Legislature, he had lost it every step. And what did he do? He kept looking for someone else to tell him a way to do it.
Eastman comes up and says the Vice President can do this. Get Mike Pence to do it. An academic theory that had no legal liability, will know we would lose before any judge essentially, this is Greg Jacob telling John Eastman on that day, this is your fault.
KING: This is your fault. You entice the President instead of telling the President done, stop, stand down.
TAPPER: Yes. And we should also note that I think it was that same day, or at least around there that the Trump White House Counsel told John Eastman, I'm going to give you the best. I'm paraphrasing, but I'm going to give you the best advice -- legal advice of your life. Get an effing good criminal defense attorney because you're going to need it and then he hung up on him. We've heard that --
KING: Right. And Greg Jacob was in touch with the group and the bigger, the President's Counsel's Office. So he's a member of it. He's just assigned to the Vice President. And he knew, he knew that they had his back.
TAPPER: Yes. We are just minutes away from the start of today's hearing, including live and recorded testimony by pence aides, Pence advisors our cover -- our coverage of the January 6th hearings continues in just a moment. Stay with us.
TAPPER: And we're back with our live coverage of the January 6th congressional hearings. Today's presentation gets underway just minutes from now we're told, the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection will initially focus on the days leading up to January 6th, and the Trump ribbon pressure campaign against his Vice President Mike Pence to do something illegal and unconstitutional.
We will soon see and hear testimony from key Pence advisors who urged the Vice President to reject Trump's demands to overturn the 2020 election results warning the Vice President had no authority to do that. Now before the gavel comes down. Let's check in with Ryan Nobles who's on Capitol Hill for us. Ryan, we expect the Committee to bear in on what Trump knew about the legality of what he was pushing Pence to do.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake. Much like the Committee has already made the case that the former President was told time and time again, that he did not win the election but kept pursuing down that avenue. They're going to today establish that he knew the same thing about these legal challenges as they related to the former Vice President Mike Pence.
In fact, I'm told that the layout a case that he was told time and time again by attorneys that he trusted, attorneys that he had appointed to very important positions, that this legal challenge had no merit. But Trump continued to pursue this plan and this avenue of legal theory.
And in addition to that, I'm told that the Committee will describe it as Trump knocking on door after door after door and have. And having those doors slammed in the face when it came to the idea that Mike Pence could stand in the way of the certification of the election results and he kept opening those doors until he found an attorney who would do his bidding. And that attorney turned out to be John Eastman. So that'll be part of what the Committee shows here as this hearing kicks off. Jake?