Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., were among the GOP congressmen who sought pardons from the Trump White House in the wake of the events of Jan. 6, according to new evidence from the panel investigating the Capitol insurrection.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who led much of Thursday’s hearing, highlighted a Jan. 11 email Brooks sent a White House staffer in which he recommended pardons for himself, Gaetz and the 147 Republican members of Congress “who voted to reject the electoral college vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania.”
Following the hearing, Brooks shared a copy of his email to Molly Michael, Trump’s executive assistant, with reporters.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former special assistant to Trump, said in pre-recorded testimony that Gaetz and Brooks had advocated for a blanket, preemptive pardon for multiple members and that Gaetz was personally pushing for a pardon for himself. Hutchinson also said that Gaetz had been pushing for a pardon “since early December” but she wasn’t sure why.
Hutchinson also said that Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Scott Perry, R-Pa., all asked for pardons. She said that while Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., had not contacted Hutchinson personally for a pardon, Hutchinson had “heard that [Greene] had asked the White House Counsel’s Office for a pardon from [deputy counsel Pat Philbin].”
Hutchinson added that Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, had asked her whether the White House was going to pardon members of Congress but hadn’t asked her specifically for one for himself.
In pre-recorded video testimony of his own, former White House senior adviser Eric Herschmann said that Gaetz was seeking a particularly broad pardon.
“The general tone was we may get prosecuted because we were defensive of the president’s positions on these things,” Herschmann said of Gaetz. “The pardon that he was discussing, requesting, was as broad as you could describe — from the beginning of time up until today for any and all things.”
Gaetz is currently under investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly paying for sex with a 17-year-old and violating sex trafficking laws by transporting her across state lines. In April 2021, the New York Times reported that in the final weeks of Trump’s tenure, Gaetz had “privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed, according to two people told of the discussions.”
Additionally, former director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office John McEntee said he knew Gaetz had asked for a pardon.
“He told me he had asked [White House chief of staff Mark Meadows] for a pardon,” McEntee said of Gaetz, adding that he had heard a blanket pardon for anyone involved with Jan. 6 “mentioned.”
In a tweet following the hearing, Gaetz did not refer to any specific allegations but called the Jan. 6 committee "unconstitutional."
"The January 6 Committee is an unconstitutional political sideshow. It is rapidly losing the interest of the American people and now resorts to siccing federal law enforcement on political opponents," Gaetz said.
In a statement to Yahoo News, Gohmert denied seeking a pardon for himself, and said he sought pardons for other individuals, specifically "U.S. service members and military contractors who were railroaded by the justice system due to superiors playing politics, as well as a civilian leader."
"These requests were all far prior to, and completely unrelated to January 6," Gohmert said. "I had and have nothing for which to seek a pardon and my requests were for others unassociated with government in Washington, DC. Any assertion to the contrary is unequivocally and maliciously false."
When asked if Trump had considered a pardon for family members, McEntee said that Trump “had hinted at a blanket pardon for the Jan. 6 thing for anybody, but I think he had for all the staff and everyone involved. Not with Jan. 6, but just before he left office, I know he had talked about that.”
“The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you have committed a crime,” Kinzinger said following the video of the testimony.
After losing a Senate primary in Alabama Tuesday night against a Trump-endorsed candidate, Brooks said he was open to testifying in front of the committee. Brooks had exhorted the crowd assembled at the Trump rally on Jan. 6 before attendees marched to the Capitol and rioted.
“Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” Brooks said in his speech.
“Now, our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes and sometimes their lives. ... Are you willing to do the same? My answer is yes. Louder! Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?”