ChrisWeigant.com

The House January 6th Select Committee Hearings [Episode 3]

[ Posted Thursday, June 16th, 2022 – 16:09 UTC ]

After a last-minute scheduling change to postpone yesterday's hearing before the House Select Committee on January 6th, today we got what was supposed to be the fourth hearing -- a look into Mike Pence's role in the events, and the pressures that were brought to bear on him by Donald Trump and his henchmen.

The star witness of the day was Judge J. Michael Luttig, who is a well-respected conservative legal voice. Luttig, after all, was the person Mike Pence reached out to for definitive advice on the role of the vice president in presenting and counting the Electoral College votes. Pence, obviously, would never have sought out the advice of some liberal "woke" judge, instead he turned to the weightiest conservative legal mind he could think of: Judge Luttig. It is important to keep that in mind, when hearing what Luttig had to say today.

Luttig speaks very slowly and deliberately, which many lawyers (especially judges) tend to do in order to carefully weigh and consider each word before it is uttered. In Luttig's case, however, it is due to a stutter or stammer and is just the way he copes with the speech impediment. This fact wasn't immediately known when his testimony began, which led to some mean-spirited commentary on social media until the true facts of his condition were known.

Even with this challenge, Luttig absolutely stole the entire show today, with a statement he read at the end. But before we get there, let's run down what the rest of the hearing covered.

 

Public Hearings of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol [Episode 3]

There were only two witnesses for the entire time today, Judge Luttig and Greg Jacob, who was Vice President Mike Pence's chief legal counsel at the time. This position allowed Jacob to either be present for or at the heart of all the discussions being held between the vice president, the president, and all the crackpot lawyers who were attempting to convince Pence to either break or just ignore the Constitution and the relevant law which outlines the process of electing a president (the "Electoral Count Act of 1887").

As with the other hearings, though, there was also plenty of videotaped testimony from various others involved in the whole process, as well as videotape of the events as they happened and appeared in the news media at the time.

In her opening statement, Liz Cheney played a clip of a recent speech Pence gave, to the Federalist Society, where he said: "President Trump is wrong, I had no right to overturn the election." This is also where Pence denounced the idea that one person -- the vice president -- should somehow have the sole power to decide who gets to be president with the phrase: "[there is] no idea [that is] more un-American." Cheney then said that what Trump did was "not just wrong" but "illegal and unconstitutional."

Most of the questioning today was handled by Representative Pete Aguilar, a Democrat from California, aided by a lawyer for the committee, John Wood. This opened with a short video of the insurrectionists on January 6th, screaming profanity and chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" just to remind everyone what the result of all the pressure on Pence ultimately led up to.

In his answers to questioning, Jacob told how he was responsible for outlining what Pence should and could legally do, which made him the focal point for all the lawyers Donald Trump was listening to.

Liz Cheney took over questioning and turned the attention to Luttig. She asked him what would have happened if Pence had done what Trump wanted him to do, to which he replied: "it would have plunged America into what I believe would have been tantamount to a revolution within a constitutional crisis in America which in my view, and I'm only one man, would have been the first constitutional crisis since the founding of the republic." Luttig, quite obviously, is taking all of this very seriously.

This is where John Eastman enters the picture. Eastman was a lawyer who concocted a bizarre and fantastical "interpretation" of the law that somehow gave Mike Pence the power to determine the outcome of the presidential election, no matter what the voters had had to say about it.

Jacob, when asked about Eastman's insane legal reasoning, responded that it was "false, and Dr. Eastman knew it was false. It was a lie." In seven states, fake "electors" had essentially declared that they were the official slate (spoiler alert: they weren't), and all Pence had to do was accept their votes instead of the duly certified slate of electors. Eastman even claimed there was some sort of precedent, to which Jacobs responded: "He was incorrect. There was no historical precedent."

We then got a detailed description of the Constitution, the Twelfth Amendment, and the Electoral College Act of 1887, as well as a little history lesson about the 1876 election, where there were indeed competing slates of electors from multiple states. This is what spurred Congress to attempt to clarify the rules (although it is notable that it took them 11 years to do so).

Their clarification, however, is not exactly crystal-clear. And it was pointed out that in 2000, 2004, and 2016, there were objections during the counting of the Electoral College vote. So the "Electoral College Act is a work in progress" and still needs further clarification today.

Various clips were played at this point showing how multiple Trump advisors (including Jason Miller and Rudy Giuliani) knew that the legal theory Eastman was pushing was just wrong: "They thought [Eastman] was crazy," and: "no validity to it in any way, shape, or form."

In fact, even Eastman himself apparently would admit that his two suggested actions were not legally valid and that indeed if the Supreme Court had to rule on them, he would lose "nine to zero."

The first hour ended with Jacob relating how he pointed out to Eastman the fact that if Eastman were correct, Al Gore could have just rejected Florida's votes and declared himself the winner. And that Kamala Harris would have that power after the 2024 election -- both of which are good points to make to Republicans.

The next segment of the program showed the pressure that was brought to bear on Mike Pence, by Eastman and by Trump himself. Pence had multiple meetings and phone calls with Trump, where Trump tried to just browbeat him into doing what Eastman wanted him to. Obviously, none of these efforts succeeded. One of which ended with Trump saying (as a petulant 6-year-old might): "I don't want to be your friend anymore if you don't do this." Also, fairly childishly, Trump asked Pence: "Wouldn't it be cool if you did have the power to do this?" None of it worked (thankfully), and Pence continued to refuse. According to Jacob, "the vice president never budged... it just made no sense... that one person would have that authority."

Eastman had settled on two possible plans of action for Pence, in the last days before January 6th. The first would be for Pence to just refuse to count anywhere from five to seven states' Electoral College votes. He'd just reject them, and declare Trump the winner of the election. The second was to send the certifications of the Electoral College slates of electors back to the legislatures of those states, and then postpone the joint session of Congress for 10 days to give the states the time they would need to name their own slates of electors, for Trump, even though Trump had clearly lost all these states -- and even though "no state had any legislative house" that was willing to do such a drastic thing.

Eastman apparently flipped back and forth between pushing these two plans, even while admitting that neither one of them had a legal leg to stand on. Eastman, by this point, was convinced that Pence could just unilaterally declare that the Electoral Count Act itself was unconstitutional, which would free him to ignore it or parts of it at will.

The day before January 6th, Trump tried a different tactic, by releasing a statement that said in part: "The Vice President and I are in total agreement that the Vice President has the power to act." Pence and his staff were incensed that Trump would release such a statement (since Pence was in no way "in total agreement"), and pushed back hard, but it made no difference to Trump.

January 5th was also the day that Pence talked to his Secret Service detail, and let them know that Trump could "lash out in some way" the next day. Pence apparently trusted his own detail, but did not trust that Trump wouldn't give his own orders to the Secret Service that Pence could do nothing about.

After a short 10-minute recess, the hearing got underway again, almost two hours from when it began.

The final segment all dealt with January 6th, although several times the questioners did point out that what actually happened inside the White House would be the subject of another hearing, so we mostly heard Pence's end of things today.

Pence and Trump had a phone call early that day, which, according to Ivanka Trump "was pretty heated." Trump reportedly called Pence "a wimp" as well as (according to Ivanka, as reported by one of her staff) "the P-word."

We then saw scenes of Trump ranting about Pence at the January 6th rally, and saw the effect of his words on the rioters themselves. This was around the same time Pence publicly released a letter explaining why he did not have the power Trump and others were saying he did, and that he would perform the purely ceremonial ritual exactly as every other vice president in American history has done. This enraged both Trump and the rioters, and is roughly the point where they started chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" Trump later further egged on the rioters with a tweet at 2:24 P.M.: "Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done."

The Capitol was breached, and Pence was moved first to his office and then down to a secure location, a parking garage somewhere in the bowels of the Capitol complex. This was where Pence absolutely refused to get in a car with a Secret Service driver, because he did not trust them not to whisk him away -- which also would have prevented him from doing his constitutional duty that day.

We heard from a Proud Boys confidential informant that they would indeed have "killed Mike Pence" that day if they had had the chance. This seems pretty patently obvious, but it was interesting to hear it from one of the rioting groups that has been charged with sedition. My own guess is that if that mob had actually gotten ahold of Mike Pence, they wouldn't have killed him by hanging him -- because he never would have made it that far. That crowd would have bludgeoned him to death right there inside the Capitol -- they were in no mood to drag him out of the building just for a photo-op death. Perhaps they would have strung his dead body up afterwards, but if Pence had been captured there's just no way he would have made it out of the building alive. That's just my personal opinion, but to me this seems painfully obvious.

At one point, the rioters got "within 40 feet" of Pence, while they were moving him to the secure location, so this was a very near miss.

Donald Trump never called Mike Pence that day, to check on his welfare (or even to see whether he was still alive or not). Because of course he didn't. Jacob was with Pence throughout this ordeal, and at one point he emailed Eastman: "Thanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege." Eastman mailed back: "The siege is because you and your boss did not do what was necessary."

Later, Eastman came up with a new novel interpretation -- the Electoral Count Act had already been violated, because the Senate hearing to the objection raised to certain states "took longer than two hours." This was because, of course, "there was an intervening riot of several hours," but that didn't faze Eastman from proposing that since some of the Electoral Count Act had been violated, why not just go ahead and violate it some more?

The testimony from Jacob was clear, at this point: "That's rubber room stuff... that was certifiably crazy." Pence finally finished the counting and certified that Joe Biden had won the presidency and Kamala Harris had beaten him for the vice-presidency.

Eastman, after the events of January 6th, decided it would be a prudent idea to ask the White House for a pardon from Trump, before he left office. A pardon, of course, would not be necessary unless laws had actually been broken, showing that Eastman knew full well the position he was now in. No pardon was forthcoming, however. We also saw a clip of Eastman testifying before the select committee, if you can call it that, since he "took the Fifth Amendment" over 100 times.

The presentation finished up with the words of the only federal judge to have ruled on Eastman's legal theories, who said in his opinion: "It was a coup in search of a legal theory."

We had a few short closing statements from Aguilar, Cheney, and the committee's chair, Bennie Thompson, but the entire hearing up to this point should really just be seen as prologue for the final statement from Judge Luttig, because it is my guess that this will be the statement long remembered from this hearing.

I am going to close this column with his words, because they were the most powerful warning we have heard yet about the impact this is all having on American democracy. And please remember, once again, this is a conservative judge -- the man Mike Pence went to for legal advice on the vice president's role. This extraordinary warning begins with a sentence that is the constitutional equivalent of a nuclear bomb:

Donald Trump and his allies and his supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy. That's not because of what happened on January sixth, it's because to this very day, the former president and his allies and supporters pledge that in the presidential election of 2024, if the former president or his anointed successor as 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 where 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.... The former president and his allies are executing that blueprint for 2024 in open, plain view of the American public. I repeat: I would never have uttered one single one of those words unless the former president and his allies were candidly and proudly speaking those exact words to America.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

33 Comments on “The House January 6th Select Committee Hearings [Episode 3]”

  1. [1] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Without having read this column I wonder if John McLaughlin would call today Episode 3: The Most Underrated Republican

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    I follow Glenn Kirshner (4:53) and just in light of these first three Hearings I don't see how DOJ can help but induct Trump and company.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    MtnCaddy,

    I don't see how DOJ can help but induct Trump and company.

    But, in the real world, it's really hard to imagine that the DOJ will indict Trump for ... for what? ... conspiracy to subvert a presidential election? ... when they know that such a case will be extremely hard to win and chances are excellent that they will lose.

    What I'm trying to say is that it is my opinion that the DOJ will most assuredly NOT indict Trump.

    The American people will have to take care of Trump and ensure that he never holds public office again - that is the only sentence he will ever serve, assuming he is never elected again. Which I for one would not bet against.

    The only thing these hearings are good for is that they are creating a public record of what happened in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election and its long aftermath for those who missed it while it was all happening right before our eyes. ;)

  4. [4] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Naw, Elizabeth. You are a clueless about "Rule of Law" in America as you are a Putin apologist... badly misinformed.

  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    The J6C has presented more than enough evidence that Trump is indictable of multiple crimes. And don't forget the ten instances of Obstruction of Congress/Justice that Mueller dug up but felt he couldn't prosecute.

    Bottom line, DOJ cannot help but to indict the bastard. Otherwise, why would it become public knowledge that DOJ has requested all the J6C testimony transcripts? Otherwise, why would subsequent DOJ inaction NOT invite such further misbehavior?

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Keep dreaming, Caddy ...

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Is Ukraine winning the war, yet?

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    What will be left of Ukraine when Zelensky finally sues for peace?

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    By the way, nothing I have written in these months since the war in Ukraine began makes me an apologist for Putin.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, furthermore, avoiding this war by dropping Ukraine's wish to be a member of NATO is not appeasement. Not even close.

  11. [11] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    The US and all doesn't depend on the prosecution of the Loser of the Last Presidential Election (LOLPE).

    If the majority of his enablers: Cabinet Secretaries, Lawyers, Advisors, Senators, Reps, Family Members, Financial Backers. etc, were prosecuted, that would be enough.

    Unfortunately, we're more likely to see the LOLPE prosecuted than that, leaving the rest of them to take another shot.

  12. [12] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Since Donald was already impeached and acquitted for both, wouldn't a DOJ indictment constitute double jeopardy?

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Heh.

  14. [14] 
    Kick wrote:

    A DOJ indictment absolutely would not constitute double jeopardy. As written in the Constitution, the Senate's remedy in a trial for impeachment is limited to the decision whether or not the impeached will be removed from office and disqualified from holding office in the United States in the future. The Senate doesn't decide guilt or innocence regarding statutory violation(s); the Constitution states unequivocally that the law does.

    The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

    Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

    ~ United States Constitution, Article I, Section 3

  15. [15] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    so that's what that passage means. well alright then. still, based on the evidence i've seen, i agree with speak2 that it'd be more helpful to indict and prosecute all the lower hanging fruit, john eastman first and foremost.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Kick,

    Get real, girl!

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Joshua,

    Do Eastman and Giuliani still have their law licenses?

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Kick,

    A DOJ indictment in this case would constitute a fool's errand.

  19. [19] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    a quick google search says that california started an ethics investigation into eastman, but beyond that i have no idea.

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I rest my case.

  21. [21] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller
    16

    Get real, girl!

    I answered the question about double jeopardy. Did you perchance read more into it than that?

  22. [22] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller
    18

    A DOJ indictment in this case would constitute a fool's errand.

    The DOJ has already made a plethora of indictments on multiple counts in this case of premeditated conspiracy, and you can bet your brass there'll be many more.

    As for a criminal indictment of the twice impeached former president, I simply answered the question regarding whether or not it would constitute double jeopardy. The Constitution makes it clear that it would not.

    As for the concerns that the committee's focus is a waste of time that could be better used on white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, keep in mind that this case is most definitely knee-deep in premeditated conspiracy committed by those specific domestic terrorists.

    https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.dcd.229063/gov.uscourts.dcd.229063.401.1.pdf

  23. [23] 
    Kick wrote:

    Giuliani was suspended from practicing law by the D.C. Court of Appeals in July 2021 and by the State of New York in June 2021. He also faces disciplinary action of the District of Columbia bar for his repeated lies about election fraud.

    https://int.nyt.com/data/documenttools/giuliani-law-license-suspension/1ae5ad6007c0ebfa/full.pdf

  24. [24] 
    Kick wrote:

    nypoet22
    15

    so that's what that passage means. well alright then. still, based on the evidence i've seen, i agree with speak2 that it'd be more helpful to indict and prosecute all the lower hanging fruit, john eastman first and foremost.

    First and foremost on my list are the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and those connected to the former President that are obviously connected to the aforementioned extremists... the ones who premeditated the violence that caused the needless deaths and injuries to hundreds of police officers and also the deaths and injuries to Americans who were duped by the con artist:

    Donald Trump: A guy who believes that accumulation of wealth is the true sign of a man's worth, who easily takes both sides of any issue for political expediency while his true loyalty lies with himself, a confident con no matter which side he's taking, and the biggest threat to our country coming not from without, but from within, a guy who fancies himself a true patriot but who'd turn coat on America and her people in order to satisfy his insatiable greed and lust for power and title... a modern-day Benedict Arnold.

    Benedict Donald.

    *
    As for that guy -- since "We the People" of the United States of America don't generally prosecute former presidents -- I suspect he'll be handled via some such instrument as follows or some similar legislation:

    United States Constitution

    Amendment XIV

    Section 3

    No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

    *
    Regardless what happens to Trump for criminal wrongdoing, I assure you he'll spend the majority of the remainder of his life buried in litigation seeking monetary restitution for the damages he's caused to multiple Americans... and that's not nothing. :)

  25. [25] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @kick,

    Of course, most important is putting away the terrorists. You're right, that's more important than any crackpot legal theorist. I guess i was thinking more narrowly within the group of people who most directly enabled Donald's fantasies that his election loss could be overturned by sowing chaos in the transition process.

  26. [26] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Kick,

    Regardless what happens to Trump for criminal wrongdoing, I assure you he'll spend the majority of the remainder of his life buried in litigation seeking monetary restitution for the damages he's caused to multiple Americans... and that's not nothing. :)

    Just like the life he's already lived, eh? Heh.

  27. [27] 
    Kick wrote:

    nypoet22
    25

    As clarification, Eastman is also at the top of my (long) list. What I was trying to say there is that I agree with you and Elizabeth that these white supremacist extremist groups should get just as much focus as Trump and company:

    As much attention as Donald gets for his part in allowing this to happen, it's very unfortunate if that's the only take away. In my opinion a much bigger issue is our government's failure to take domestic terrorists seriously. Proud boys, oath keepers and other "American" terrorist groups need to get just as much attention as Al Qaeda or ISIS.

    ~ JL

    *
    In the limited time they have to present their "case" to the public, I'm hoping to see the committee find/make time to connect the dots from those extremist groups to those criminals in the Trump orbit connected to the premeditated violence they planned... the usual suspects:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/interactive/2022/roger-stone-documentary-capitol-riot-trump-election/

    Stone, like Eastman, decided he "should be on the pardon list" and was seeking (another) presidential pardon from Trump. Being that a pardon carries an imputation of guilt, if Stone believes he needs a pardon, who are we to question him?

    Just today, Trump is out in public stating that if he becomes president again, he'll consider pardons for these white extremist criminals, i.e., obstruction of justice in attempt to buy silence. If Trump feels he needs to publicly attempt to elicit the silence of witnesses, who are we to question him?

  28. [28] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller
    26

    Just like the life he's already lived, eh? Heh.

    Exponentially so. It's one thing to defraud a company or a group of "students" like, for example, the now defunct illegal Trump University but quite another to commit conspiracy to defraud the citizens of the United States of America.

    The committee is supplying a ton of evidence for those police officers and Americans already suing his treasonous ass. He wouldn't be the first traitor to America that died penniless. :)

  29. [29] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Hey Liz,

    Do you think that the presentation of the J6C doesn't put an enormous amount of polotical pressure on DOJ to indict Trump?

    Do you really think Trump will escape accountability for his very public (and whatever additional private) crimes against America?

    DO you really think that Merrick Garland is going to cut Trump/The Repugs any slack?

    Okay...

  30. [30] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Just like your comments regarding Biden and Ukraine, which is winning, hello?

    Whaddup with turning on your Homie Joe Biden? He had NOTHING to do with Putin's Folly!

  31. [31] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Really. What bad advice did Joe/NATO give Ukraine? No such thing turned up in my research, give or take Fox News

  32. [32] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    ...which one can set their watches to...to always be against Democrats and ANYTHING they do.

  33. [33] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    In re Ukraine, it's like How once said,

    This is a big fucking deal, but this salty characterization applies to Putin's Folly as well.

    Think of it, all you "better to fight then over THERE than over HERE" types:

    ISIS and al-Queda never was an existential threat to America. Russia with its nukes has been so for seventy years.

    The Ukrainians will not stop fighting until Russia is gone from pre-2014 Ukraine. With our without the West. With or without Zelensky, even. Why would they quit especially because the West is rightfully delighted to provide all the weaponry that the (before too long million man) Ukrainian military needs?

    Kills Putin (still my prediction) and grinds the Rooskie economy to irrelevance and hastens our transition to Green Energy... what's not to like?

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