The House select committee investigating the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, held its third hearing to release the finding of its year-long investigation. Thursday's (June 16) hearing focused on the campaign to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence into blocking the certification of the electoral votes during a joint session of Congress.
"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," Committee Chairmen Rep. Bennie Thompson said during his opening statement.
Thompson applauded Pence for refusing the block the certification of the electoral votes.
"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 January 6. Our democracy came dangerously close to catastrophe. That courage put him in tremendous danger," Thompson added.
The committee said that while Trump and his top advisors knew that there was no legal basis for Pence to block the certification of the electoral results, they continued to publically promote the plan.
The committee aired a clip of the deposition of Pence's senior legal adviser Greg Jacob, in which he testified that John Eastman, the lawyer who drafted the plan, admitted in front of Trump that it would require Pence to break federal law.
The committee said that Pence was never on board with the plan and told Trump numerous times that he lacked the power to block the certification of the electoral votes.
"The Vice President's first instinct was that there was no way that any one person, particularly the Vice President who is on the ticket and has a vested outcome in the election, could possibly have the authority to decide it by rejecting electors or to decisively alter the outcome by suspending the joint session for the first time in history in order to try to get a different outcome from state legislatures" Jacob testified.
White House lawyer Eric Herschmann testified that Eastman dismissed concerns that his plan could lead to violence.
"I said, 'You're going to cause riots in the streets,' and he said words to the effect of, there has been violence in the history of our country in order to protect the democracy or to protect the republic," Herschmann said.
The committee showed a clip of Trump calling out Pence during a speech to his supporters at the Ellipse on January 6.
"Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us, and if he doesn't, that will be a, a sad day for our country," Trump told the crowd. "Mike Pence, I hope you're going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country. And if you're not, I'm going to be very disappointed in you," he said. "I hope Mike has the courage to do what he has to do."
The committee noted that after violence broke out at the Capitol, Trump criticized Pence in a tweet.
"At 2:24 p.m. ET, eleven minutes after rioters breached the Capitol building, according to the committee, Trump tweeted that Pence "didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution."
The committee then tied Trump's rhetoric to threats against Pence by airing a video clip showing a rioter blaming Vice President for the violence. One protester speaking to the crowd using a bull horn said: "Mike Pence betrayed the United States of America."
Rep. Pete Aguilar said that Pence's life was in danger as the mob stormed the Capitol Building, noting that they got within 40 feet of the Vice President.
"Make no mistake about the fact that the vice president's life was in danger. Recent court filing by the Department of Justice explains that a confidential informant from the Proud Boys told the FBI the Proud Boys would have killed Mike Pence if given a chance," Aguilar said.