When the House Inquiry Committee meets Thursday on Jan. 6, 2021, the senior member of the House of Representatives serving on the panel will be in an unusual position: praising an opposing party leader.
The hearing will focus on the intense pressure that former President Trump and conservative attorney John Eastman exerted on then-Vice President Mike Pence to either reject the votes of certain states’ electoral colleges or prevent Congress from deciding the results of the presidential election to be confirmed in 2020.
“Mike Pence did his job,” House Democratic Caucus Deputy Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) told The Times. “He did his job the whole time. He did not waver in his reading of the Constitution. Even after all of this, the President of the United States still used every means to berate him, challenge him, and rally a mob to get him.”
With the help of committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and vice chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the four-year-old California congressman will take the lead Thursday and lay out the panel’s case and argue that it would have would have been disastrous for the country if Pence had not adhered to the vice president’s largely ceremonial role in counting the votes and instead embraced Trump’s theory that he could be an arbiter of whether states’ votes are acceptable.
“If the vice president had caved in to the pressure, or if the vice president had said he or she was more loyal to the president than to the Constitution, we would have had a constitutional crisis threatening the Republic,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar said he sees value in someone in a political leadership position arguing.
“As a party member, it’s important to say that the vice president did his job,” he said.
The committee’s mandate from the House of Representatives includes proposals for possible legislation, such as a clearer definition or limitation of the vice president’s role, he said, “but this story is also that some people did the right thing at the moment we needed it.” have done.”
Previously released statements by the committee show that in private meetings of the Oval Office on January 4 and 5 and in a phone call on the morning of January 6, Trump attempted to persuade Pence to intervene in the presidential election. The print campaign continued publicly. with Trump berating Pence in his Jan. 6 speech before the Capitol attack and tweeting to supporters during the riot that Pence “didn’t have the guts to do what should have been done.”
“What the former president – possibly the vice president – was willing to sacrifice to remain in power is quite staggering,” Aguilar said.
He said the committee overlaid the route Pence was evacuated with a to-the-second timeline showing where the rioters were in the building.
“How many steps apart they were is very small,” Aguilar said.
Most upsetting for him, he said, was a clip the panel will show Thursday of a rioter working with the Justice Department.
“We’ll hear from a witness who says so when they find it [Pence]they probably would have killed him,” Aguilar said.
Greg Jacob, who was Pence’s chief counsel when Eastman and Trump urged the vice president to intervene, is among the witnesses scheduled to testify Thursday. Jacob was also at the Capitol with Pence on January 6 and emailed Eastman during the riot about who was responsible for the violence.
“The ‘siege’ stems from YOU and your boss not doing what was necessary for this to be broadcast publicly so that the American people could see for themselves what happened,” Eastman said in an email to Jacob.
After the riots ended, Eastman emailed Jacob again to say the vice president should still send the election back to the states rather than confirming it, based on what he called a “relatively minor violation” of the procedural law designated.
Aguilar said the committee also expects to use clips from testimony by former Pence chief of staff Marc Short, who also attended the Eastman meetings, as well as testimony from people in the White House discussing which members of Congress are involved in Trump’s efforts were .
“You’ll also hear other people who have worked in the White House talk about the development of this conspiracy theory idea that Professor Eastman eventually endorsed,” Aguilar said.
Eastman, a former Chapman University professor, was the architect of the theory that Pence could either reject state electoral college votes on allegations of fraud, an act that would have left the decision on the next president up to state delegations in the House of Representatives, or could send the results back to the states for their legislatures to review the results and decide if they should be changed.
“The important thing to know is that this only became a real strategy after they lost more than 60 lawsuits,” Aguilar said. “This became the last desperate attempt.”
Aguilar said the “politically palatable” plan was to send the results back to the states, but “ultimately they wanted to get the vice president to vote voters outright, thereby depriving the president-elect of the 270 electoral colleges that would be needed.” whereby the states or Congress vote by state.”
The House of Representatives elects the President if no presidential candidate receives the required 270 votes in the Electoral College, with each state receiving a single vote. At the time, Republicans controlled the majority of state delegations, although Democrats controlled the House of Representatives.
“President [Trump] woke up on Jan. 6 feeling like he still had a way to be president by the end of the day and after Jan. 20,” Aguilar said.
The committee has been in a legal battle with Eastman for months over whether his former employer, Chapman University, can turn over the contents of his university email account to the committee. Eastman claimed attorney-client privilege on some of the documents, prompting a judge to review the disputed emails.
In his original order ordering Eastman to turn over emails sent between January 3 and January 7, 2021, Judge David O. Carter found that the emails showed the plan that they tried to get Pence to implement it, which was apparently illegal and that Trump and Eastman were “most likely” conspiring to obstruct Congress on January 6th.
Carter reviewed hundreds of other emails Eastman sent or received in the months leading up to Jan. 6 and recently ordered him to turn over another 159 contested documents by this week, including some from Trump.
Aguilar said in an interview the committee is preparing in case the new spate of emails will be useful for Thursday’s hearing.
“If they are relevant to our hearing, we will include them. We will have time to view, read and analyze them,” he said. “We will adapt.”
The committee also plans to hear personal testimony from Federal Judge J. Michael Luttig, who was appointed by President George HW Bush. Pence drew on Luttig’s stance when he disputed Eastman’s claims about the vice president’s powers when he announced on January 6 that he did not believe he had the power to refuse votes or delay the count. Eastman once worked for Luttig.
Aguilar said Luttig is able to speak about the widely accepted interpretation of the roles of Congress and the Vice President under the Electoral Counts Act of 1877 and the 12th Amendment, as well as the deficiencies in the law that Congress may need to address.
After Thursday’s hearing, the committee is planning just two more, on June 21 and 23, each to be chaired by a different committee member.
Like most committee members, Aguilar was in the house on January 6th. He believes his experience after the 2015 San Bernardino shooting made him willing, and others might not, turn to the investigation of what happened in his county less than a year into his first term.
“I think it kind of prepared me in a way to be able to have those conversations and kind of step up in that moment, try to help and shed some light on something that needs to be discussed,” he said. “These are very different experiences. But January 6 is informed of what my community went through, what I went through with them as their friend and spokesman, with the December 2 shooting in San Bernardino.”
https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-06-15/democrat-pete-aguilar-california-jan-6-hearing-pence-trump-capitol-insurrection Jan. 6 hearing to show Trump’s pressure on Pence, Aguilar says