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Third January 6 Hearing Focuses on Trump's Attempts to Pressure Pence. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired June 16, 2022 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): Page 40 of the ruling says, "Based on the evidence, the Court finds that it is more likely than not that President Trump and Dr. Eastman dishonestly conspired to obstruct the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021."
And page 44, "Dr. Eastman and President Trump launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history. Their campaign was not confined to the ivory tower -- it was a coup in search of a legal theory."
Mr. Jacob, what would have happened to our democracy if Vice President Pence had gone along with this plan and certified Donald Trump as the winner of the 2020 election?
JACOB: So there would have been short-term and long-term effects. The short-term I previously described, a constitutional jump ball situation, political chaos in Washington, lawsuits, and who knows what happening in the streets. And you would have had the vice president of the United States having declared that the outcomes of these state elections were incorrect. So for all of those reasons, there would have been significant short-term consequences.
But in the long-term we would have established a situation where a Vice President would have asserted that one person could have the authority to determine the outcome of an election which is antithetical to everything in our democracy, it's antithetical to the rule of law.
And so it would have been significant impacts both in the short and long term.
AGUILAR: Judge Luttig, in the statement you released earlier today you wrote that the efforts by President Trump to overturn the 2020 election were quote, "The most reckless, insidious and calamitous failures in both legal and political judgment in American history."
What did you mean by that?
LUTTIG: Exactly what I said, Congressman.
AGUILAR: Thank you, Judge. Thank you, Mr. Jacob. Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
AGUILAR: I'm sorry, Mr. Chairman, I want that back. Mr. Chairman, this was an informative hearing, a powerful hearing. I'm grateful for your leadership and the leadership of the distinguished Vice Chair. Donald Trump knew he lost the 2020 Election but he could not bring himself to participate in the peaceful transfer of power. So he latched on to a scheme that once again he knew was illegal.
And when the Vice President refused to go along with it he unleashed a violent mob against him. When we began I asked how we got to this place? I think the answer to that question starts with the fact that people in positions of power put their political party before their country. It cannot be allowed to continue.
I'll yield back now, Mr. Chairman.
THOMPSON: Thank you very much. Without objection the Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Wyoming, Ms. Cheney, for a closing statement.
CHENEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank you to my colleague, Representative Aguilar, and thank you very much to our witnesses today, Mr. Jacob and Judge Luttig, thank you for being here with us.
We have seen so far in our hearings that President Trump knew that his claims of a stolen election was false. You have seen that they knew that Mike Pence could not legally refuse to count electoral votes and you have seen what President Trump did to pressure Mike Pence into taking illegal action.
Over the course of our next hearings you will see information about President Trump's efforts, John Eastman efforts, the Trump legal team's efforts to apply pressure to Republican state legislatures, state officials and others.
Judge Carter has recently written quote, "Dr. Eastman's actions in these few weeks indicate that his and President Trump's pressure campaign to stop the electoral count did not end with Vice President Pence. It targeted every tier of federal and state elected officials. We will examine all of those threats and we will examine the Trump team's determination to transmit materially false electoral slates from multiple states to officials of the executive and legislative branched of our government.
We will examine the pressures put on state legislatures to convene, to reverse lawful election results.
An honorable man receiving the information and advice that Mr. Trump received from his campaign experts and his staff, a man who loved his country more than himself would have conceded this election.
Indeed we know that a number of President Trump's closest aides urged him to do so. This committee will address all of these issues in greater detail in the coming weeks. Mr. Chairman, I yield back. THOMPSON: The gentlelady yields back. Judge Luttig and Mr. Jacob, our nation owes you a great debt for your knowledge, integrity, and your loyalty to our constitution. You and Vice President Pence are exactly the people our nation needed at a critical time.
You had the courage to do what was right. In the weeks leading up to January 6th, many people failed this test when they had to choose between their oath to the country or the demands of Donald Trump. But there were others who like you stood tall in the face or intimidation and put our democracy first. They include the judges who rejected the bogus claims of election fraud.
The senior Justice Department officials who stood up to Donald Trump and the state officials who we will hear from at our next hearing. We're deeply grateful to your courage and devotion to our country.
There are some who think the danger has passed. That even though there were violence and a corrupt attempt to overturn the presidential election the system worked. I look at it another way. Our system nearly failed and our Democratic foundation destroyed but for people like you.
Judge Luttig, I want to give you an opportunity to share your thoughts on the ongoing threat. You've written the clear and present danger to our democracy. Now as the former President Donald Trump and other political allies appear prepared to seize the presidency in 2024 if Mr. Trump or one of his anointed candidates is not elected by the American people. What do you mean by this?
LUTTIG: Mr. Chairman, I'm honored beyond words by your words. I was honored on January 6, 2021. Then also honored beyond words to have been able to come to the aid of Vice President Mike Pence. I prayed that day just like the vice president prayed that day.
I believe we may have prayed the same prayer to the same god. And I prayed that same prayer with my wife this morning before I came into these hearings. I have written, as you've said, Chairman Thompson, that today almost two years after that fateful day in January 2021 that still Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.
That's not because of what happened on January 6th. It's because to this very day the former president, his allies, and supporters pledge that in the presidential election of 2024 if the former president or his anointed successor of the Republican Party presidential candidate were to lose that election that they would attempt to overturn that 2024 election in the same way that they attempted to overturn the 2020 election but succeed in 2024 were they failed in 2020.
I don't speak those words lightly. I would have never spoken those words ever in my life except that that's what the former president and his allies are telling us. As I said in that New York Times op-ed wherein I was speaking of the Electoral Count Act of 1887, the former president and his allies are executing that blueprint for 2024 in open and plain view of the American public.
I repeat, I would have never uttered one single one of those words unless the former president and his allies were candidly and proudly speaking those exact words to America.
Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear here today for these proceedings.
THOMPSON: Thank you again, Judge Luttig. As a part of the Select Committee's charge to make recommendations that are informed by other investigative findings, we will be reviewing the views shared by Judge Luttig and other experts on potential improvements to Electoral Count Act, among a range of other initiatives.
I know the information we've presented over the last week is shocking. The idea that a president of the United States would orchestrate a scheme to stay in power after the people have voted him out of office. We're able to present this information because so many witnesses have cooperated with our probe.
But the fact is, there are more people with direct knowledge, with evidence (inaudible) to our investigation. I ask those who might be on the fence about cooperating to reach out to us, the Committee's website address is being displayed behind me, january6.house.gov.
There you can view the evidence we've presented in our hearings and find a tip line to submit any information you might think would be helpful for our investigation.
And despite how you might not think it's important, send us what you think. And I thank those who sent us evidence, for their bravery and patriotism.
Without objections, members will be permitted 10 business days to submit statements for the record, including opening remarks and additional questions for the witnesses.
The Chair requests those in the hearing room remain seated until the Capitol Police have escorted members from the room.
Without objection, the Committee stand adjourned.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And the third preparation of evidence by the January 6th House Committee has gaveled to a close today, Thursday. And what a hearing it was in which members of the vice president's own team, Mike Pence's own team detailed just how much they disagreed with what Donald Trump was trying to pressure Mike Pence to do in terms of overturning the election. And members of the committee made it very clear just how close they feel American democracy came to being completely obliterated a year-and-a-half ago and how close it remains in terms of the peril of a free and fair election.
Jamie Gangel, a lot of news made during this hearing and we really had a clear villain not only in the presentation of what Donald Trump was telling Mike Pence to do, which was unconstitutional and illegal, but also what attorney John Eastman was advising Trump to do and Pence to do up to the point in which he was asked for a presidential pardon because of what, the role he had played.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Then we saw him. We know actually that he took the fifth more than 100 times, but we saw for the first time video of his deposition where he took the fifth over and over again.
The other thing that I was -- I found fascinating was we've known there was a phone call between Donald Trump and then Vice President Pence, the morning of January 6th. It's the last ditch effort where Trump is trying to pressure Pence to help him overturn the election. If I thought it was extraordinary because we see recordings. These are all Trump insiders. These are young aides and staffers, Nick Luna, the body man, Sara Mathews who I believe worked in the press office, describe it. What it was like. Nick Luna, I remember hearing the word wimp. Keith Kellogg, who was a Trump loyalist saying it was a different tone. Ivanka tells her chief of staff, Julie Radford, that her dad just had an upsetting conversation as president.
TAPPER: Why don't we run that video? Because do have that excerpt of them talking about specifically the phone call between Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the morning of January 6th after Pence has made it clear, he is not going to bend to Trump's pressure campaign to try to overrule and undermine an American election. Let's roll the tape.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you recall being in the oval office.
ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE ATTORNEY: Don, Jr., Eric, Laura, Kimberly. Wait, Meadows was there. At some point Ivanka came in. Lawyer remarks Kimberly.
IVANKA TRUMP, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: When I entered the office the second time, he was on the telephone with who I later found out to be was the vice president.
HERSCHMANN: It started it off as a calmer tone and everything became heated.
IVANKA TRUMP: The conversation was pretty heated.
NICHOLAS LUNA, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I remember hearing the word wimp. Either he called him a wimp. I remember what he said, you are a wimp, you will be a wimp. Wimp is the word I remember.
IVANKA TRUMP: It was a different tone than I heard him take with the vice president before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you remember what she said her father called him?
SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The "P" word. (END VIDEOTAPE)
TAPPER: So that, in fact, the word was not wimp. It was pussy that Donald Trump was calling Vice President Pence.
GANGEL: Right, Sarah Matthews then goes on to describe that the riot is going on and that the phones, their phones go off and they realize that Trump has tweeted and it turns out what he's tweeted is, he is going after Mike Pence again and Sarah Matthews said, she thought he was pouring gasoline on the fire.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Which he was. He was pouring gasoline on the fire.
That's something we learned today is how little concern -- not that we are surprised by it, honestly -- but how little concern the president had for the welfare of his vice president during all of this.
TAPPER: Or the vice president's family.
BORGER: And the vice president's family. We've learned that they never got a phone call, which we knew. But Greg Jacobs said, when asked, how did the vice president's family feel about it? The answer, which I'm sure is understated, was frustrated.
BORGER: And then you also saw -- and this is what the committee is trying to do -- is to draw a direct line between Trump's unwillingness to sort of go to the rioters and say, stop what you're doing, draw a direct line to that, from the way he behaved to Mike Pence, and they did that. I think they really -- I think they really did that to him.
TAPPER: And in fact, Abby Phillip, let's roll that tape. Because they really tried to draw a direct line between the negative things that Donald Trump is saying about Mike Pence, and how the crowd is receiving that information, that direction in realtime. Let's roll that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a traitor and he deserves to burn with the rest of them. Pence voted against Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, and that's when all this started.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yup, that's when we marched on the Capitol.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just heard that Mike Pence is not going to reject any forged electoral votes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Pence is not going to reject any fraudulent elector votes. Mike Pence has betrayed this president, and he has betrayed the people of the United States, and we will never, ever forget!
TAPPER: The point being made, obviously, that this was -- this was not just inspired, this was directed.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was directed. And everybody knew it. I mean, Trump knew his social media feed was a direct conduit to his supporters. That's how they interpreted it. So, they were watching their phones carefully to see what Trump was saying at the time. And we saw in the previous hearings, when they were reading the tweets to the crowd, and you heard Congressman Aguilar saying today, as that 2:24 p.m. tweet was being read, the crowd inside the Capitol and outside the Capitol surged. Surged forward, overwhelming Capitol Police officers and others, who were there defending it. Meanwhile, the vice president was being escorted out, and we learned today came within 40 feet of rioters inside the Capitol. It was a near, near miss.
TAPPER: And let's put up the photos, if we can, these are new photos we got, John King, today from the committee, which is the vice president, I believe he is underground, underneath the U.S. Capitol in what looks like something of a loading dock, and he is tending to the business of the governance that the president of the United States was not doing. Checking to make sure that members of Congress were OK, that leaders of Congress were OK, checking in with acting Secretary of Defense. Really stark when you think how comfortable and safe and secure Donald Trump was. Interest, the rioters never targeted the White House.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, the rioters were targeting the vice president, and the Speaker of the House and every other person in that building, including the staff and the law enforcement and the janitors, the clerks, who were there trying to do their job. Which on that day, it was supposed for a celebration. It was supposed to be a ceremonial -- important ceremony in our democracy. Sort of a routine event to celebrate democracy. That's what that event has always been. You count the electoral votes and you just have a ritual in American life, the strength of democracy.
And what did Donald Trump do? On the 5th, he was told again, the vice president is not going to do this. He calls his family -- while his family is in the oval office, he calls the vice president and uses the disparaging language, trying again. And then he gives the speech. Remember, then after being told again by Mike Pence, I'm not going to do it, he gives the speech in which he calls out Mike Pence in front of the crowd that he then tells to go to the Capitol.
And then the most striking part to me, after the insurrection, Mike Pence refuses to leave the Capitol, because he thinks what symbol, what signal would that send to the country, to see the vice president fleeing these proceedings? They come back in to finish the business, and John Eastman asks him again, even after the violence, John Eastman emails saying, hey, how about one more shot at this? As the midnight hour approaches in the trying to do it. Just the fact that they despite the law, despite the politics, and then despite an attack on the country. They kept pushing, they kept pushing to cheat, to steal, to break the law.
BORGER: And on the Mike Pence point, we learned today that early drafts of the president's speech didn't have any mention of the vice president. And then the president revised it, and then he further adlibbed, taking on Mike Pence, knowing what that would mean.
TAPPER: It's the direct quotes, Jamie, so after the attack, Eastman emails Pence attorney Greg Jacob who provided this email to the committee. To quote, consider one more relatively minor violation of the Electoral Count Act, to once again push him to undermine the election. He reads that email to Pence.
Pence's response, according to Greg Jacob, that's rubber room stuff, meaning that is -- Greg Jacobs interpretation -- that's certifiably crazy.
GANGEL: Not so crazy that Eastman didn't understand he was doing something wrong and said I should be on the pardon list.
BORGER: He knew that.
GANGEL: So, he did have some sense. I just want to talk to the point about connecting that Mike Pence was really in danger. Congressman Aguilar quoted from some court documents in the cases against the Proud Boys. This is a witness who is not identified by name the, I'm paraphrasing here.
But basically, he said: The proud boys would have killed the vice president if given the chance. Anyone they would have gotten their hands on, they would have killed, including Nancy Pelosi. This was a dangerous situation.
TAPPER: And Abby, that's one of the things that is so galling, when people in the conservative media or Republicans in Congress who were, by photographic evidence, terrified that day, when they belittle the impact of this. This was an attack on democracy, without question. An attempt to undermine an election. And also, people died, and it could have been by intent, so much worse.
PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, I think a lot of the conservatives really focus on the fact that a lot of Trump supporters died. But that is actually also proof that this whole scheme was a deadly scheme. People were lured to Washington based on a lie that everyone knew was a lie, including Trump. Let's not forget that today we learned that Trump was in a meeting with John Eastman and with Pence's aides in which he was told, and Eastman acknowledged, that all of this was illegal. And yet two case later, he stood in the Ellipse and he pointed his supporters towards his own vice president. I mean, they knew what they were doing was a lie and people died because of it. Not only, you know, Capitol police officers who died in the aftermath of the riot. But Trump's own supporters lost their lives. And there is absolutely no remorse for any of that in the conservative corner.
GANGEL: They keep doing it.
TAPPER: They want it to happen more. Just one other note when it comes to John Eastman pleading the fifth in his deposition with the January 6th Committee, which he did more than 100 times.
I'm just going to read Donald Trump, who once said: You see the mob takes the fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment? Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Very important day indeed. More than 2 1/2 hours of this hearing, the third hearing. There's more to come. We learned a lot today. And George Conway, let me get your reaction to one of the most newsy developments that we got, that John Eastman, this attorney that was advising the then president of the United States. He obviously was beginning to believe that maybe he did commit some sort of illegal act and he wanted his name on that pardon list. He never received a pardon, but he did when he was testifying before the committee, more than 100 times say this, plead the fifth. Watch this.
We're going to get that clip ready and once it's ready and once it's ready -- we heard it before.
GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: Yes, we heard it before.
BLITZER: What was your reaction?
CONWAY: My reaction is, it goes to show that he knew what he was advocating was illegal. Just admitted it in front of all the people who were meeting with the president. And what strikes me as it's not just his criminal intent that was established here, it was Donald Trump's criminal intent that's being established this week.
On Monday, it was about the facts. It was about how Barr testified that Trump didn't care about what the facts were. He had no interest in what the actual facts were. Donahue testified that no matter what theory he threw up, no matter what he throws out there is no factual resistance by Trump. He just moves on to the next theory.
And today it was about the legal theory. About Trump's refusal to believe what people were telling him what the law was and that this was illegal. And I think Judge Luttig in his written statement -- and we didn't get to talk about this -- he talks about Trump's accountability for his attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election. And he makes the point in his written statement that -- he used the word or talk about criminal. But he says willful ignorance of the law is neither an excuse or defense. And while willful ignorance is neither political or legal excuse for defense available to the former president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Surprise he went to the statement.
CONWAY: He's saying there -- it was striking.
At the end of the hearing, he's saying that Trump is a clear and present danger, and he has written a statement by talking about willful ignorance, and you combine it by what we saw on Monday and Wednesday, he's talking about the criminality of Donald Trump.