Takeaways from third day of Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot hearings

·3 min read
U.S. House holds public hearing on Jan. 6, 2021, assault on Capitol

By Richard Cowan and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The third day of the hearings in the U.S. Congress on the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by former President Donald Trump's supporters featured more testimony, often intense, by close allies of the former president.

Here are three takeaways from the third day of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Jan. 6's hearings:

EASTMAN SOUGHT PARDON

Thursday's testimony focused on Trump attorney John Eastman's role as an architect of the scheme to interrupt Congress' Jan. 6 certification of Democrat Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election and install Trump into a second term.

Multiple witnesses said Eastman and other Trump associates had been told that such a plan was illegal.

"Thanks to your bullshit we are now under siege," Greg Jacob, an attorney for Vice President Mike Pence, told Eastman on Jan. 6. Eastman replied that the Capitol attack was the result of Pence refusing to ignore the election results and take steps to make Trump president for a second term.

After the riot, Eastman argued in writing that the Electoral Count Act that governs the certification of presidential elections was "not quite so sacrosanct." As a result, Eastman pushed for "one more minor violation" by having Pence adjourn Congress' certification to allow several state legislatures to argue their case for a Trump victory to the American people.

Eastman ended up seeking a presidential pardon from Trump for his activities, which he did not receive.

DISMANTLING CHARGES OF PARTISANSHIP?

Since the creation of the select committee, after congressional Republicans last year blocked the formation of an independent, outside commission, Trump and his backers have portrayed the House panel's work as being nothing more than a partisan endeavor by Democrats.

But in the first three days of hearings, the testimony has been from Republican witnesses ranging from Trump's daughter, Ivanka, and former Trump attorney general William Barr to Trump legal and campaign aides. They have painted a picture of what they called an "unhinged" president ignoring repeated advice that the November 2020 election was legally won by Biden.

Trump instead has kept up his false claims that his defeat was the result of fraud, a claim that multiple former members of Trump's administration told the committee that they knew was false.

J. Michael Luttig, a retired judge and informal adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence, and Greg Jacob, a Pence lawyer, testified on Thursday. John Wood, an investigator for the panel and served in the administration of former Republican President George W. Bush, did much of the questioning.

"If it seems partisan, that's only because all of the witnesses so far against Donald Trump have been Republican," Democratic committee member Jamie Raskin quipped to reporters on Tuesday.

THE LAW AND THE CONSTITUTION

Throughout Thursday's hearing, witnesses emphasized that they could find no basis for concluding that Pence on Jan. 6 could have on his own decided Trump won in 2020, despite Biden winning both the popular vote and the Electoral College vote by significant margins and with no evidence of fraudulent voting.

"There was no basis in the Constitution or laws of the United States at all for the theory espoused by Mr. Eastman at all. None," Luttig testified.

Committee members and witnesses noted that if the vice president had such power, then-Vice President Al Gore in 2000 could have declared himself the winner of that year's contested election with George W. Bush.

Pence chief of staff Marc Short testified that Trump "many times" and "directly" pressured Pence to overturn the 2020 result.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)

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