Trump was told Pence couldn’t undo the election, but pressured him anyway, panel hears

WASHINGTON, June 16 (Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump pressured his Vice President, Mike Pence, to undo his 2020 election defeat, despite repeatedly being told Pence was not authorized to do so, aides from the United States said. Pence to the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6. , 2021 attack on the US Capitol on Thursday.

Members of the Democrat-led House of Representatives selection committee said Trump continued his pressure campaign even though he knew a violent mob of his supporters threatened the Capitol as Pence and lawmakers gathered to celebrate President Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election. November 2020 to be formally confirmed.

The nine-member committee has used the first three of at least six public hearings expected this month to build a case that Trump’s attempts to undo his defeat amounted to illegal behavior well outside normal politics.

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“Mike Pence said no. He withstood the pressure. He knew it was illegal. He knew it was wrong,” Democratic Party committee chair Bennie Thompson said. “That courage put him in enormous danger.”

Trump has repeatedly denied the wrongdoing, while reiterating his false accusations that he lost the election solely because of widespread fraud that took advantage of Democrat Biden. He and his supporters — including many Republican congressmen — dismissed the Jan. 6 panel as a political witch hunt.

Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, said in video testimony that Pence had told Trump “many times” that he did not have the authority to stop voting certification in Congress as the Republican president wanted.

Gregory Jacob, Pence’s counsel, said the main proponent of that theory, outside of attorney John Eastman, admitted in front of Trump two days before the attack that his plan to have Pence halt the proceedings would be illegal. .

Trump’s responsibility for the Jan. 6 riots is “in addition to his responsibility and accountability for his attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election from the American people,” retired U.S. Court of Appeals Judge J. Michael Luttig told the United States Court of Appeals. Commission.

“It’s breathtaking that these arguments were even conceived, let alone entertained, by the President of the United States at that perilous moment in history,” said Luttig, who was an informal adviser to Pence.

The committee played a chilling video showing some of the Trump supporters in the crowd of thousands of people descending on the Capitol to pull or hang Pence from the building.

‘COURAGE’

Commissioners said Trump’s comments to Pence fueled their anger.

“You will also hear that the president knew there was a violent mob in the Capitol when he tweeted at 2:24 p.m. that the vice president did not have the quote ‘courage’ to do what needed to be done,” the Democratic Party said. Democrats. Representative Pete Aguilar, a committee that leads the questioning of the witnesses.

The January 6 certification had become a focus for Trump, who saw it as a last chance to retain the presidency, despite his loss in the polls. His supporters flocked to Washington to ally with the Republican president, who had repeatedly made false claims that the election had been stolen through widespread vote fraud. They stormed the Capitol, attacked the police, and sent Pence and lawmakers on the run for their safety.

Pence did not follow Trump’s instructions to…

certification of votes.

The hearing also examined the emergence of a plan advocated by Trump associates, including attorney John Eastman, that Pence could unilaterally reject certified voters from certain states where the results had been challenged. Pence refused to accept that theory.

Separately, Representative Bennie Thompson, the committee’s Democratic chair, told reporters on Thursday that the committee should ask Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas, to testify. read more

Thomas’s involvement in conservative politics and reported ties to people involved in Trump’s contesting the election results have raised questions about whether her husband should withdraw from Supreme Court decisions related to such cases.

Pence said in February that Trump, under whom he served as vice president for four years, was wrong in believing that Pence had the power to undo the election results.

“I had no right to undo the election,” Pence told a Florida audience. The commission showed a video in which he said so during the first public hearing on Thursday evening.

The attack on the Capitol delayed the certification of the election for hours, injured more than 140 police officers and resulted in several deaths. More than 840 people have been arrested and charged so far.

The attack marked the only time in US history that power was not peacefully transferred from one president to another.

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Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Alistair Bell

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.