Jan. 6 committee holds third hearing

By Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury, Clare Foran, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 1:45 p.m. ET, June 17, 2022
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1:21 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

Trump was told that scheme to have Pence overturn 2020 vote was illegal before Jan. 6, testimony shows

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

Former President Donald Trump was repeatedly told that his plan for Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election on Jan. 6 was illegal, according to testimony revealed Thursday by the Jan. 6 committee.

Despite these warnings from Pence himself and the lawyer who concocted the scheme, Trump publicly and privately pressured Pence to go along with the plan, which committee members say shows Trump’s corrupt intentions. Pence refused to overturn the results. 

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 Jan. 6 to count the electoral votes.  

The vice president has a ceremonial role in those proceedings — and Trump wanted Pence to abuse that position to throw out Joe Biden’s electoral votes from key states, securing a second Trump term. 

Even John Eastman, the right-wing lawyer 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 Pence’s senior legal adviser Greg Jacob, which was played at Thursday’s hearing. 

The law in question is the Electoral Count Act, which was passed in 1887 and spells out the Electoral College process for states, and how Congress should handle disputed slates of presidential electors.

1:15 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

Committee member Rep. Pete Aguilar is presenting findings in the hearing. Here's what to know about him. 

From CNN's Annie Grayer and Ryan Nobles

US Rep. Pete Aguilar attends last week's hearing.
US Rep. Pete Aguilar attends last week's hearing. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Jan. 6 committee member Rep. Pete Aguilar is speaking now in the third hearing of the panel and presenting some of the panel's findings.

CNN had previously reported that much of Thursday's presentation would be led by Aguilar and that the committee will use this hearing to make the case that then-President Donald Trump's pressure campaign on his vice president to overturn the 2020 presidential election "directly contributed" to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

Aguilar is a Democrat from Southern California and before coming to Congress, he served as the mayor of Redlands, California.

Aguilar is considered a rising star in the House Democratic Caucus. As vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus he is the highest-ranking Latino member in congressional leadership.

In addition to his role on the Jan. 6 committee, Aguilar has several high-profile committee assignments. He also a member of the committees on Appropriations and House Administration.

Aguilar believes the committee's most important job is creating a full, comprehensive record of what led to the violence of January 6.

"We are going to give the American public a full accounting of what happened the day of the violent attack on the US Capitol, an attack which sought to overturn the will of the voters and led to the deaths of five police officers," he said. "These hearings will lay out the facts in a way that's informative, accessible and compelling. I hope that this can be a moment for the country to come together and rally around our shared values. Those responsible for the violent attack must be held accountable."

Read about the other committee members here.

1:16 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

Jan. 6 committee chair lauds Pence's "courage" for resisting Trump's demands to overturn election results

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

Vice President Mike Pence returns to the House chamber after the January 6 riot at the Capitol.
Vice President Mike Pence returns to the House chamber after the January 6 riot at the Capitol. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File)

Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the House select committee investigating Jan. 6, opened Thursday's hearing by praising former Vice President Mike Pence for resisting former President Donald Trump’s "pressure campaign."

The committee’s hearing is focused on how Trump and his allies tried to convince Pence that he could unilaterally overturn the election on Jan. 6, 2021.

"Donald Trump wanted Mike Pence to do something no other vice president has ever done. The former president wanted Pence to reject the votes and either declare Trump the winner or send the votes back to the states to be counted again," Thompson said.

"Mike Pence said no. He resisted the pressure. He knew it was illegal. He knew it was wrong. We're fortunate for Mr. Pence's courage on Jan. 6. Our democracy came dangerously close to catastrophe. That courage put him in tremendous danger," Thompson said.

1:06 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

NOW: The Jan. 6 committee's third hearing has started

From CNN’s Zachary Cohen

US Rep. Bennie Thompson, the committee's chairman, kicks off Thursday's hearing.
US Rep. Bennie Thompson, the committee's chairman, kicks off Thursday's hearing.

The House select committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol has begun its third hearing of the month. 

The panel is expected to present findings that show then-President Trump’s efforts to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021. 

Two witnesses will testify:

  • Greg Jacob, who served as counsel to Pence when he was vice president
  • J. Michael Luttig, a retired judge and informal Pence adviser

12:53 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

The hearing is starting soon. Here’s what to expect to hear from the committee.

From CNN's Jeremy Herb, Zachary Cohen, Annie Grayer and Ryan Nobles

The dais is prepared ahead of the start of Thursday's hearing.
The dais is prepared ahead of the start of Thursday's hearing. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Thursday's hearing from the House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection will be all about former Vice President Mike Pence, who was at the center of former President Donald Trump's last-ditch effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election on Jan. 6, 2021.

Committee aides say the hearing will make the case that Trump's pressure campaign against Pence had "directly contributed" to the violence on Jan. 6, which placed Pence's life in danger as rioters chanted, "Hang Mike Pence."

Aides say the hearing will include new materials and documents about Pence's movements on Jan. 6, 2021 and what he was doing when the Senate chamber was forced to evacuate after rioters breached the US Capitol.

The hearing will focus on Trump attorney John Eastman's theory that Pence had the authority to overturn the election results when Congress certified Joe Biden's victory

Here's what else to know:

  • The witnesses: The committee announced that two former advisers to Pence will appear at the hearing. Greg Jacob, who served as counsel to Pence when he was vice president, and J. Michael Luttig, a retired judge and informal Pence adviser, will appear, the panel said Wednesday. Each played a key role in helping Pence stand up to Trump's pressure campaign — and both can speak to how Trump and his allies were warned that his plan for Pence to throw out electoral votes on January 6 was illegal.
  • Pence will not be there: 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.
  • Preview of a deposition: The committee teased testimony on Tuesday, with a clip showing Trump White House attorney Eric Herschmann's angry reaction to Eastman continuing to push the case the day after Jan. 6, 2021. In the clip, Hershmann warns Eastman his actions could potentially be against the law, saying, "Now I'm gonna give you the best free legal advice you're ever getting in your life: Get a great effing criminal defense lawyer. You're gonna need it.' And I hung up on him."
  • Another thing to note: Committee counsel John Wood will do some of the questioning of witnesses, according to committee aides. The select committee has limited who has spoken at the hearings so far, with one member focused on leading each session. On Thursday, Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar in California will have that task.

Read more about what to expect and what to watch for here.

12:50 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

Jan. 6 committee to show Trump knew legal challenges were without merit but he pushed anyway

From CNN's Ryan Nobles

Then-President Donald Trump walks to the Oval Office in December 2020.
Then-President Donald Trump walks to the Oval Office in December 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

In today’s hearing focused on the effort by former President Donald Trump to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to stand in the way of the certification of the 2020 election, the committee will detail numerous examples of Trump being informed by attorneys he trusted and or appointed that the legal challenges were without merit.  

Despite that advice, Trump ignored those voices and went in search of lawyers that would essentially tell him what he wanted to hear.  

House select committee sources say the committee will detail in specificity through evidence and witness testimony, how attorney after attorney warned Trump that the plan to use Pence as a way to deny the certification was on shaky legal ground and could lead to major problems including standing in the way of the peaceful transfer of power.  

One source described Trump’s effort as have door after door closed in his face, but instead of backing down he kept looking for new doors to open until he found an attorney who would open the door to making the legal challenge he wanted: John Eastman. 

Some context: In an email exchange between Eastman and Pence lawyer Greg Jacob, which came out in a court proceeding earlier this year, Eastman acknowledged there was no legal merit to Trump's demands.

During the afternoon of Jan. 6, 2021, Jacob wrote: "Did you advise that President that in your professional judgment the Vice President DOES NOT have the power to decide things unilaterally?" to which Eastman responded, "He's been so advised, as you know because you were on the phone when I did it. I should not discuss other convos ... BUt you know him — once he get something in his head it it hard to get him to change course".

12:45 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

Today's hearing is expected to highlight Trump attorney John Eastman's legal exposure

From CNN's Evan Perez

John Eastman testifies on Capitol Hill in 2017.
John Eastman testifies on Capitol Hill in 2017. (Susan Walsh/AP/File)

Today’s hearing is expected to highlight the legal exposure that Trump attorney John Eastman faces because of his role trying to advance last-minute bogus theories to claim that then Vice President Mike Pence could unilaterally throw out some of the election results to keep Donald Trump in power. 

One reason the committee has some of Eastman’s emails that normally would be shielded by attorney client privilege is a ruling in March by a respected federal judge who declared that they were likely evidence of a crime, trying to impede Congress from certifying the election.

That ruling raised the stakes for Eastman and others, including the former president, and could be a preview of a decision the Justice Department will have to make about pursuing this as a possible crime.

Federal Judge David O Carter wrote that Eastman’s emails showed that the campaign to pressure Pence was “a coup in search of a legal theory.”

12:24 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

Committee has video testimony of rioters saying they were acting at Trump's direction while targeting Pence 

From CNN's Manu Raju

The House select committee has video testimony of rioters who went inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 and who directed their anger at Pence — and believed they were acting at Donald Trump's direction, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The goal is to tie Trump's pressure campaign on Pence directly to the violence on Jan. 6 — and show how Trump incited the mob's anger towards the vice president. The source added that while former Pence chief Marc Short will not be a live witness, his video testimony will feature prominently.

More context: These rioters — who said they believed they were following Trump's orders — have been seen in court cases since Jan. 6th, 2021. This is perhaps the most notable example.

12:27 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

Jan. 6 committee chair says "it's time" to talk to wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

From CNN's Melanie Zanona, Annie Grayer and Ryan Nobles 

Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, moderates a panel discussion in Maryland in 2017.
Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, moderates a panel discussion in Maryland in 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/File)

Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, who chairs the Jan. 6 committee, told reporters the committee will be inviting the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Ginni Thomas, to come talk to the committee "soon" in light of new emails that show she was communicating with conservative lawyer John Eastman.

"It's time for us to invite her to come talk," Thompson said of Thomas.

When asked when, Thompson said "soon."

"We think it's time that we would, at some point, invite her to come talk to the committee," Thompson added.

Asked if Thomas will come up in the committee's hearing, Thompson said, "at some point, but we're still in the discovery phase."

CNN has reached out to the committee.