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Jan. 6 committee holds third hearing

Ivanka describes 'heated' phone call between Pence and Trump

What we covered here

  • The House committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection held its third public hearing this month, which focused on former President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to stand in the way of the certification of the 2020 election.  
  • Trump was told repeatedly that his plan for Pence to overturn the election on Jan. 6 was illegal, the panel revealed, but he tried to do it anyway. Committee members argued that this shows Trump’s corrupt intentions.
  • The panel heard from two witnesses who advised Pence that he didn’t have the authority to subvert the election. In a video deposition, a former White House counsel said Trump’s lawyer — who helped devise the scheme — was willing to accept violence in order to overturn the election. 
  • While the committee can’t bring legal charges against Trump, its central mission has been to uncover the full scope of Trump’s unprecedented attempt to stop the transfer of power and show how those efforts are connected to the violence at the Capitol.

Our live coverage has ended. Read more about today’s hearing in the posts below.

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Here are key takeaways from day 3 of the Jan. 6 committee hearings 

Greg Jacob, left, and J. Michael Luttig were the two witnesses testifying on Thursday.

The House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection on Thursday detailed how former President Donald Trump tried to pressure his vice president to join in his scheme to overturn the presidential election — and how Pence’s refusal put his life in danger as rioters called for Pence’s hanging on Jan. 6, 2021.

Two witnesses testified during Thursday’s hearing who advised Pence that he did not have the authority to subvert the election: former Pence attorney Greg Jacob and retired Republican judge J. Michael Luttig.

The committee walked through how conservative Trump attorney John Eastman put forward a legal theory that Pence could unilaterally block certification of the election — a theory that was roundly rejected by Trump’s White House attorneys and Pence’s team but nevertheless was embraced by the former President.

The next committee hearing is scheduled for this upcoming Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. The witnesses have not yet been announced.

Here are the key takeaways from the committee’s third hearing this month:

Trump was told that Eastman’s election plan was wrong — but tried it anyway: There were many revelations, but the perhaps most important one: Trump was told repeatedly that his plan for Pence to overturn the election on January 6 was illegal, but he tried to do it anyway.

According to witness testimony, Pence himself and the lawyer who concocted the scheme advised Trump directly that the plan was unconstitutional and violated federal law. Committee members argued that this shows Trump’s corrupt intentions, and could lay the groundwork for a potential indictment.

In a videotaped deposition, which was played Thursday, Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short said Pence advised Trump “many times” that he didn’t have the legal or constitutional authority to overturn the results while presiding over the joint session of Congress on January 6 to count the electoral votes.

Even Eastman, who helped devise the scheme and pitched it to Trump, admitted in front of Trump that the plan would require Pence to violate federal law, according to a clip of a deposition from Jacob, Pence’s senior legal adviser, which was played at Thursday’s hearing.

Legal scholars from across the political spectrum agree that Eastman’s plan was preposterous. Luttig, the former federal judge who advised Pence during the transition, testified at Thursday’s hearing that he “would have laid my body across the road” before letting Pence illegally overturn the election.

The panel tied the Mike Pence pressure campaign to the Jan. 6, 2021, violence: The committee tried to connect Trump’s pressure campaign against Pence to the violence on Jan. 6, 2021, by weaving together testimony from Pence aides, Trump’s public statements and comments from rioters at the Capitol.

Some of the most compelling evidence came from the rioters themselves.

Many of them had listened to Trump’s rallies where he claimed — inaccurately — that the election was rigged against him, and Pence had the power to do something about it while presiding over the Electoral College certification. While the insurrection was underway, they cited Trump’s comments about Pence.

And many of them saw, in real-time, Trump’s tweet criticizing Pence while the Capitol was under attack, where he said Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.”

The point of highlighting this on Thursday was to lay the blame for the violence at Trump’s feet. And right after the attack, many top Republicans agreed with that conclusion. But over the last year and a half, many Republicans have shied away from blaming Trump, and the committee hopes to change that.

Former Trump White House attorney Eric Herschmann told the committee that Eastman told him he was willing to accept violence in order to overturn the 2020 election. The panel played video from Herschmann’s deposition where he described a conversation with Eastman about his claims that the vice president could overturn the election in Congress.

Herschmann warned Eastman that his strategy, if implemented, was “going to cause riots in the streets.”

“And he said words to the effect of, ‘There’s been violence in the history of our country in order to protect the democracy, or to protect the republic,’ ” Herschmann said.

Eastman emailed Giuliani about receiving a presidential pardon after Jan. 6 Eastman emailed Rudy Giuliani a few days after Jan. 6, 2021, and asked to be included on a list of potential recipients of a presidential pardon, the committee revealed during Thursdays hearing. The committee said Eastman made the request to Giuliani, Trump’s former attorney, in an email.

“I’ve decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works,” the email from Eastman to Giuliani read.

Eastman did not ultimately receive a pardon and refused to answer the committee’s questions about his role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election, repeatedly pleading the Fifth during his deposition.

The committee argued during Thursday’s hearing that Eastman’s request for a pardon, and his decision to repeatedly plead the Fifth when questioned previously by the panel, indicates Eastman knew his actions were potentially criminal.

The star of Thursday’s hearing was not in the room: One person noticeably absent on Thursday was the star of the hearing himself: the former vice president.

The committee cast Pence as the hero — making the case that American democracy would have slipped into a state of chaos had he succumbed to Trump’s pressure campaign.

But as the committee touted Pence’s commitment to the Constitution and bravery on Jan. 6, 2021, it was impossible to ignore the fact that the former vice president was not in the room.

Instead, the committee relied on live witness testimony from two former Pence advisers who appeared to speak on his behalf.

Earlier this year, the committee’s chairman, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, had suggested the committee would seek testimony from Pence. Still, the prospect of Pence appearing before the committee, particularly in public, has always been viewed as a long shot — to say the least.

Read more more takeaways from today’s hearing here.

Meadows' aides played a big role in today's hearing — and there's a bigger role to come 

A recorded video testimony of Ben Williamson, right, was shown during the House select committee’s hearing on Thursday. 

Video testimony from two aides of former President Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows — Ben Williamson and Sarah Matthews — was shown during Thursday’s Jan. 6 select committee hearing.

The committee has spoken to a number of people in Meadows’ orbit as a way to get around the fact that Meadows himself refused to comply with their subpoena.

Today’s hearing offered up a hint of the insight that these aides had, many of them were in and around the oval office and West Wing on Jan. 6, 2021. The committee is still expected to feature them even more prominently in the hearings still to come.  

Several of these witnesses have come back for additional interviews with the committee in the weeks leading up to the hearings.

Previous testimony given to the committee by former White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews was also shown on Thursday.

While, the committee shared testimony today from Williamson and Matthews, the one Meadows aide expected to reveal even more information is Cassidy Hutchinson who has sat for several closed-door interviews with the committee and is believed to have insider information about Meadows and his conduct leading up to and on Jan. 6, 2021. 

Aguilar: Committee focused on making sure next hearings help convey "just how fragile our democracy is" 

Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar, a member of the Jan. 6 select committee, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that while the committee is open to hearing from more witnesses, their current focus is on the scheduled hearings. The committee’s next two hearings are scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.

Asked if the committee would like to hear from additional people, like Ginni Thomas — a conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — Aguilar said he would not get into specifics regarding potential witnesses, but that the panel is honing in on the current witness testimony and is “not going to close the door” to anyone.

Following Thursday’s hearing, committee chair Bennie Thompson said the panel had sent a letter to Ginni Thomas asking her to speak with them about her role in the effort to overturn the 2020 electoral results.

“Our threshold test has and will always be whether someone can provide information that is relevant to the Jan. 6 committee. We’re talking about protecting democracy and the threat we faced leading up to Jan 6. And it wasn’t just about one day, it was about this concerted effort that we have continued to talk about building up to Jan. 6. So individuals who have knowledge should come forward. Whether that’s Kevin McCarthy or Barry Loudermilk, or Ginni Thomas,” Aguilar said.

The Jan. 6 committee is in possession of email correspondence between conservative attorney John Eastman and Ginni Thomas, a source familiar with the committee’s investigation told CNN. The source who spoke with CNN would not provide details on the emails’ contents or say if they were direct messages between the two or part of a larger group correspondence. The Washington Post first reported on the emails.

Asked if the committee is open to the notion of hearing from former Vice President Mike Pence, Aguilar said he felt the committee made “a clear and compelling” case Thursday that Pence was in danger on Jan. 6, 2021. Aguilar reiterated that the committee is focused on the upcoming hearings.

“We feel we heard from his chief counsel, who had those experiences. We’re not gonna close the door to hearing from anyone. But what I can tell you, is that we are gonna have a specific set of hearings in the next few weeks, our focus is on making sure that those hearings help convey just how fragile our democracy is and how close we came to democracy having serious, serious concerns that day,” Aguilar said.

“So, we are going to help tell that story and we are going to do it in a truthful and honest way,” he added. “But If there is still room to have conversations with anybody after that, we are not going to shy away from it, our work will continue.”

CNN’s Ryan Nobles, Zachary Cohen, Annie Grayer, Katelyn Polantz and Chandelis Duster, contributed to this report.