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Eastman ‘never really believed his own theory’ that Pence could decide 2020 election, committee says

Attorney John Eastman gestures as he speaks next to U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, as Trump supporters gather ahead of the president’s speech to contest the certification by the U.S. Congress of the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election on the Ellipse in Washington, U.S, January 6, 2021.

Jim Bourg | Reuters

John Eastman, a lawyer advising former President Donald Trump, “never really believed his own theory” that then-Vice President Mike Pence could unilaterally make a decisive impact on the outcome of the 2020 race, a select committee member said.

Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., displayed a draft letter to Trump dated October 2020, in which a theory was floated that, under the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, the vice president could decide which electoral votes to count.

But that idea was undercut in the same letter by Eastman, who wrote in blue text: “Nowhere does it suggest that the President of the Senate gets to make the determination on his own.”

Aguilar displayed the screenshot of the letter after Greg Jacob, former counsel to Pence, testified to the panel that Eastman admitted one day before the Capitol riot that the theory would be rejected 9-0 if it went before the Supreme Court.

Kevin Breuninger

Trump officials thought theory of Pence deciding the election was ‘nutty’ and ‘crazy,’ ex-Trump spokesman says

Video from an interview with Jason Miller, former President Trump Campaign Senior Advisor, is played during a hearing by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol in the Cannon House Office Building on June 13, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Former Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller said that multiple officials, including former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, had strong doubts about the theory that Pence had the power to decide the election — and said so prior to Jan. 6.

“The way it was communicated to me was that Pat Cipollone thought the idea was nutty and had at one point confronted [Trump lawyer John Eastman] with the same sentiment,” Miller told the committee in an interview clip played during the hearing.

Other officials close to Trump thought Eastman’s theory “was crazy,” Miller said in the taped clip. Two of them said that “there was no validity to it in any way, shape or form” prior to the Capitol riot, and would tell “anyone who would listen,” Miller said.

Kevin Breuninger

Ex-judge and Pence advisor accuses Trump of instigating a ‘war on democracy’

Michael Luttig, advisor to former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and a former U.S. federal judge attends the third of eight planned public hearings of the U.S. House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. June 16, 2022. 

Sarah Silbiger | Reuters

Retired federal Judge J. Michael Luttig, who advised Vice President Mike Pence ahead of the Capitol riot, directly accused former President Donald Trump and his allies of waging a “war on democracy” on Jan. 6, 2021.

“Our democracy today is on a knife’s edge,” Luttig, a former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, said in a blistering witness statement shared with CNBC by the select committee.

Luttig, one of two witnesses to speak during the committee’s third public hearing, excoriated efforts by Trump and other to overturn the 2020 election, saying that “treacherous plan was no less ambitious than to steal America’s democracy.”

Luttig’s sweeping, damning speech slammed Trump for spreading false election-fraud conspiracies to claim he won the election, which he lost “fair and square” to President Joe Biden. And Luttig said it was “breathtaking” that Trump entertained meritless legal theories that were employed to try to reverse his election loss.

The former judge, who was appointed to the U.S. appeals court by Republican former President George H.W. Bush, also took aim at the GOP itself. “The former president’s party cynically and embarrassingly rationalizes January 6 as having been something between hallowed, legitimate public discourse and a visitors tour of the Capitol that got out of hand,” he said. “January 6, of course, was neither, and the former president and his party know that.”

Luttig also defended Pence, who rejected Trump’s demand that he refuse to count electoral votes for Joe Biden. “There were many cowards on the battlefield on January 6. The Vice President was not among them,” Luttig said.

Kevin Breuninger

‘There was no way’ Pence could pick the winner of the election, VP’s ex-counsel says

Former Vice President Mike Pence’s counsel Greg Jacob said “there was no way” that Pence had the legal authority to refuse to count electoral votes and, essentially, select the winner of the presidential election.

Jacob told the committee he first talked to Pence about the legal theory in in the month after the 2020 election, after the then-vice president to Trump started hearing and reading claims that he had a significant role to play on Jan. 6, 2021.

After looking at the relevant provision in the Constitution’s 12th Amendment, as well as the 19th-Century Electoral Count Act, Jacob and others found that the theory held no weight.

“We concluded that what you have is a sentence in the Constitution that is inartfully drafted,” Jacob said. “But the vice president’s first instinct when he heard this theory was that there was no way that our framers, who abhorred concentrated power, who had broken away from the tyranny of George the Third, would ever have put one person — particularly not a person who had a direct interest in the outcome, because they were on the ticket for the election — in a role to have a decisive impact on the outcome of the election.”

“Our review of text, history and, frankly, just common sense, all confirmed the vice president’s first instinct on that point,” Jacob said. “There is no justifiable basis to conclude that the vice president has that kind of authority.”

Kevin Breuninger

Pence’s courage on Jan. 6 ‘put him in tremendous danger,’ Thompson says

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence presides over a joint session of Congress on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Saul Loeb | Getty Images

Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said that the U.S. is “fortunate for Mr. Pence’s courage on January 6,” when the then-vice president refused Trump’s calls for him to reject Electoral College votes.

Trump “wanted Pence to reject the votes and either declare Trump the winner or send the votes back to the states to be counted again,” Thompson said at the start of the hearing. “Mike Pence said no.”

“Our democracy came dangerously close to catastrophe. That courage put [Pence] in tremendous danger” when Trump “turned the mob on him,” Thompson said.

Kevin Breuninger

Pence advisors are scheduled to testify

Former Counsel to Vice President Mike Pence, Greg Jacob (L), and Retired judge and and informal advisor to Vice President Mike Pence, J. Michael Luttig (R), arrive to testify during the third hearing of the US House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the US Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on June 16, 2022.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

The select committee is expected to feature a mix of live witnesses and pre-taped interviews like the first two hearings, with two of Pence’s former advisors scheduled to testify in person.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and its vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., are also expected to speak. Cheney suggested last week that the actions of attorney John Eastman, who was advising Trump on the election, will play a prominent role in the hearing.

Two associates of Pence are slated to testify in person on Thursday. The first is Greg Jacob, former counsel to the vice president, who in an email on the day of the riot told Eastman, “Thanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege.”

The other witness is J. Michael Luttig, a retired judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit who had been an informal advisor to Pence in the lead-up to Jan. 6.

Committee member Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., is expected to take a lead in Thursday’s hearing.

Kevin Breuninger

Jan. 6 probe will ask Supreme Court justice’s wife Ginni Thomas to testify ‘at some point,’ chairman says

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 21: (L-R) Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sits with his wife and conservative activist Virginia Thomas while he waits to speak at the Heritage Foundation on October 21, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Select committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., revealed that the panel will ask Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to speak with congressional investigators.

Ginni Thomas has come under intense scrutiny in recent months following reporting on her efforts to challenge the 2020 election results — including by sending a series of frantic texts to then-President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows.

“We think it’s time that we would, at some point, invite her to come talk to the committee,” Thompson told a group of journalists Thursday morning, NBC News and other outlets reported.

Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., agrees that the committee should talk to Ginni Thomas, a Cheney aide told CNBC.

The forthcoming invitation is based on “information we have come upon” about the conservative justice’s spouse, Thompson reportedly said. He did not specify when the committee planned to send its invitation.

A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Kevin Breuninger

Pence’s reaction takes center stage at third hearing

In this image from video, Vice President Mike Pence speaks as the Senate reconvenes after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

Senate Television via AP

Select committee aides told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that the latest hearing will delve into one of Trump’s theories — rejected by most top legal minds and ultimately by Pence himself — that the vice president could unilaterally refuse to count Electoral College votes from disputed states.

Pence on Jan. 6, 2021, was tasked with presiding over a joint session of Congress to confirm the Electoral College results. He stoked Trump’s fury when he said in a letter just before the proceedings that he cannot claim “unilateral authority” to throw out electoral votes.

The nine-member committee will plans to show how Trump heaped pressure on Pence to follow this theory, and how that helped stoke the Capitol riot and “put Pence’s life in danger,” an aide said. The panel is also expected to unveil new material documenting Pence’s moves at the Capitol as the insurrection was unfolding.

Kevin Breuninger


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