JThe House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol devoted a crucial part of its third hearing Thursday to demonstrating that former President Donald Trump’s plan to void the 2020 election was not only legally unsound, but that even the lawyer pushing it is the hardest one who knew it. In one of the most explosive findings from the hearings so far, the committee heard testimony that law professor John Eastman told Trump two days before the uprising that his plan to keep the president in power was illegal.
Greg Jacob, the attorney for Vice President Mike Pence, recounted a White House meeting on Thursday, January 4, 2020, in which Eastman told the president that his plan to thwart the Electoral College recount violated the law. .
“I believe he did on the 4th,” Jacob said in response to a question from the panel.
Such an admission was consistent with testimony from other witnesses presented at Thursday’s hearing, the committee’s third this month. Several former White House aides have testified, in person or in recorded depositions, that the plan proposed by Eastman, the chief architect of the effort to block Biden’s election victory, was either illicit or certainly canceled by courts.
In another bombshell from the hearing, the committee showed an email from Eastman in which he apologized to Trump for his role in attempts to thwart the transfer of power to Biden.
“I have decided that I should be on the pardon list, if this is still ongoing,” Eastman wrote to personal attorney and Trump confidant Rudy Guiliani, according to an email obtained by the committee from the 6 January. Rep. Pete Aguilar, a California Democrat who conducted the questioning Thursday, said Eastman didn’t get one. Trump publicly announced 143 pardons on the last night of his presidency. Eastman was not among them.
At the opening hearing last week, the committee said it would uncover Republican members of Congress who asked for forgiveness for their roles on Jan. 6 – a request they say reveals an awareness of guilt. “It tells us that they fear being charged, or more generally, that they have engaged in conduct that is a federal crime,” Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney, told TIME.
Much of Thursday’s hearing focused on White House aides who pushed back against Eastman’s universally debunked theory that the vice president had the constitutional power to reject voter lists at the count. of the electoral college.
Several Pence aides said they never found the argument persuasive. “There is no justifiable basis for concluding that the vice president has that kind of authority,” Jacob told the panel.
In fact, according to the testimony and evidence presented to the committee, not even Eastman subscribed to such a theory. Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming and the panel’s vice chair, said Eastman admitted in a Dec. 19, 2020 email that “fake voters had no legal weight – calling them dead when they arrived. in Congress”.
In other meetings, Eastman, the founding director of a California-based conservative think tank, also admitted that such an argument would have no legal basis, according to Jacob.
A Pence aide recalled a conversation with Eastman in which he acknowledged the decision would not be upheld by the courts, including the Supreme Court.
During Thursday’s hearing, the committee played excerpts from a taped deposition of Eastman in which he repeatedly answered questions from a committee attorney arguing his Fifth Amendment right not to s incriminate. Overall, Aguilar said, Eastman pleaded fifth 100 times.
Elsewhere in the hearing, Jacob shared email correspondence he had with Eastman in the days following the Jan. 6 violence. Pence’s former lawyer said he asked Eastman if he informed Trump that the vice president did not have the authority to overturn the Electoral College vote.
“He was so advised,” Eastman replied. “But you know him. Once he has something in his head, it’s hard to get him to change course.
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