Call Pence or Trump? It’s time for the panel to make a decision on January 6th

WASHINGTON (AP) – The House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot has questioned nearly 1,000 people. But the panel of nine has yet to speak to the two most prominent players in that day’s events – former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence.

As the investigation wraps up and the panel plans a series of hearings in June, members of the committee are debating whether to call the two men whose conflict over whether to confirm President Joe Biden’s election victory was at the heart of the attack. Trump pressured Pence for days, if not weeks, to use his ceremonial role as chair of the Jan. 6 census to try to block or delay Biden’s certification. Pence refused, and rioters who broke into the building that day demanded his hanging.

There are reasons to call one or both. The committee wants to be as thorough as possible, and critics will surely pounce if they don’t even try. However, some lawmakers on the panel have argued they got all the information they need without Trump and Pence.

Nearly a year after its wide-ranging investigation into the worst attack on the Capitol in more than two centuries, the House Committee has interviewed hundreds of witnesses and obtained more than 100,000 pages of documents. Interviews were conducted behind closed doors in obscure federal office buildings and private zoom sessions.

Democratic leader Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson said in early April that the committee was able to confirm many of the statements attributed to Trump and Pence without their testimony. He said there was “no effort on the part of the committee” to call Pence at the time, although there have since been discussions about possibly doing so.

Speaking about Pence, Thompson said the panel “initially thought it was important” to call him, but “there’s a lot of things about that day that we know — we know the people who tried to get him to do it.” bring, change his mind, count and all that, so what do we need?”

Many of the people they interview, Thompson added, “are people that we didn’t have on the original list.”

The panel, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, said the evidence it compiled is sufficient to connect Trump to a federal crime.

Much of the evidence the committee has released so far has come from White House aides and staff — including little-known witnesses like Cassidy Hutchinson, a former special assistant to Trump in the White House, and Greg Jacob, who served as Pence’s chief counsel at the White House the office of the Vice President. The panel also has thousands of texts from Trump’s last chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and has spoken to two of the former president’s children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., who were with their father on the day of the attack.

Among hundreds of others, the committee also interviewed former White House aide Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s husband, former communications director Alyssa Farah and several Pence associates including his chief of staff Marc Short and national security adviser Keith Kellogg. Former White House press secretaries Kayleigh McEnany and Stephanie Grisham have also appeared, as has former senior policy adviser Stephen Miller.

There are still questions Trump and Pence could answer, including what they talked about on the morning of Jan. 6 when Trump made his final plea for Pence to overturn the election as he presided over the electoral college count in Congress. Lawmakers were able to document most of Trump’s end of the call, but not what Pence said in response.

In the hours after Trump and Pence spoke, the vice president issued a statement saying he had no authority to object to the counting of electoral votes. But the president didn’t back down and continued to publicly pressure Pence at his massive rally outside the White House and then on Twitter, even after his supporters broke into the Capitol.

Still, it’s unlikely the two former leaders would discuss talking to the committee – and it’s unclear if they would even cooperate.

While Pence has yet to comment on the committee’s work, Trump would certainly be a hostile witness. He has fought the investigation in court, demonized the committee on TV and tried to assert executive privilege over White House papers and all the conversations he had with his aides – claims that certainly made his morning call with Pence would apply.

Additionally, calling a former president or vice president to testify in a congressional investigation is a rare, if not unprecedented, move that could face major legal hurdles and politically backfire.

The Jan. 6 committee has provided only a glimpse of what it found, mostly in court records using excerpts from transcripts.

A recent filing by the committee revealed portions of interviews with Hutchinson that took place in February and March this year. That statement provided new evidence of GOP lawmakers’ involvement in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, including a meeting at the White House where attorneys for the president suggested that drawing up an alternate list of voters would see Trump as the winner declared that sound was not “legal.”

Another court document revealed testimonies from Jacob, who served as Pence’s chief counsel. In a series of emails, Jacob repeatedly told attorney John Eastman, who worked with Trump, that Pence could not intervene in his ceremonial role and stop electoral vote certification. Jacob told Eastman the legal framework he proposed for doing just that was “essentially entirely made up.”

Meadows’ lyrics were also revealing, detailing how people in Trump’s orbit asked him to strongly condemn the attack on the Capitol as it unfolded. The requests came from Trump’s children, members of Congress and even Fox News anchors.

“He has to lead now. It’s gone too far and gotten out of hand,” Donald Trump Jr. texted Meadows as protesters broke through the security perimeter of the Capitol.

https://fox5sandiego.com/news/politics/call-pence-or-trump-its-time-for-the-jan-6-panel-to-make-a-decision/ Call Pence or Trump? It’s time for the panel to make a decision on January 6th

Sarah Y. Kim

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