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'Pressure campaign' against VP Mike Pence takes center stage at third Jan. 6 Committee hearing

The January 6th Committee plans to call two witnesses on Thursday to talk about the alleged dual track effort to rope Pence into a scheme to overturn the election.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a swearing-in ceremony in the Vice President's ceremonial office at Eisenhower Executive Office Building March 2, 2017 in Washington, DC.(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — EDITOR'S NOTE — WUSA9 investigative reporter Jordan Fischer will be blogging and live-tweeting from the hearing room during proceedings of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. Follow him on Twitter here. 

The January 6th Committee’s next hearing Thursday afternoon will focus in on the pressure campaign to convince former Vice President Mike Pence to reject electors from six disputed states.

In a briefing Wednesday afternoon, committee aides said Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) will lead the hearing, with Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) continuing to preside. Previous hearings have largely had a single member handling the introduction of witnesses and evidence – Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) during the first hearing and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) during the second..

Much of the day’s evidence and testimony was expected to focus on a dual-track effort to convince Pence, who presided over the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, to reject certified electors from a number of states former President Donald Trump and his allies claimed had been tainted by voter fraud. The committee was expected to show more evidence that the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was a key player in advancing one of those tracks – a scheme to convince multiple states, including Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania, to send slates of “alternate electors.” Last month, a federal grand jury reportedly began issuing subpoenas seeking information about the alternate electors scheme.

Giuliani was a major focus of testimony during Monday’s hearing as well. Multiple Trump Campaign staff members, including campaign manager Bill Stepien and senior adviser Jason Miller, said Giuliani was the person who pushed Trump to declare victory on Election Night – despite numbers showing the election moving in the opposite direction. After the election was declared for President Joe Biden, Giuliani became one of the main proponents of a series of unsubstantiated and ultimately debunked claims about election fraud, including one involving alleged “suitcases of ballots” in Georgia. Giuliani has since had his law license suspended in New York and D.C. over false statements made to the public and the court.

BJay Pak, who was the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia during and after the 2020 election, testified Monday that his office investigated those claims and found them meritless. Pak eventually resigned after learning Trump reportedly planned to fire him as part of an effort to get the Justice Department to do more to actively investigate his claims. A hearing originally scheduled for Wednesday was set to examine Trump’s efforts to “corrupt the Department of Justice,” as Cheney put it, but that was moved to next week.

The committee was also expected Thursday to begin presenting evidence about the second track Trump allies pursued to attempt to sway Pence. That track involved the so-called “Eastman Memo” – a six-point plan developed by attorney John Eastman that would have culminated in Pence unilaterally rejecting votes from multiple states. Though Eastman has not, to date, been charged in connection with Jan. 6, a federal judge has ordered him to turn over a tranche of emails between Trump and his associates. That same judge, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, said in an order in March that the evidence before him convinced him Trump and Eastman had “more likely than not” attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress, calling the memo a “coup in search of a legal theory.”

Video of former White House counsel Eric Herschmann’s deposition was played during Monday’s hearing in which he discussed communications with Eastman leading up to Jan. 6. Herschmann said he thought Eastman’s plan was “nuts” and counseled him against it. On Tuesday, Cheney previewed the upcoming hearing with another clip of Herschmann talking about advice he gave to Eastman the day after the riot.

“Now I’m going to give you the best free legal advice you’re ever getting in your life,” Herschmann said he told Eastman. “Get a great f’ing criminal defense lawyer. You’re going to need it.”

The committee said it planned to call two witnesses Thursday:

  • Greg Jacob, former counsel to Vice President Mike Pence; and
  • Retired Judge J. Michael Luttig, who formerly sat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and who served as an informal adviser to Pence in the lead up to Jan. 6.

The committee also said to expect more from the video deposition of Pence’s former chief of staff Marc Short. Portions of Short’s deposition were shown last week in which he said Pence’s “fidelity to the Constitution” was more important to him on Jan. 6 than loyalty to Trump.

Eastman formerly served as one of Luttig’s law clerks while he was on the bench. In September, Luttig made a public statement on his Twitter account saying he had advised Pence to reject Eastman’s legal theories, which he described as “incorrect at every turn of the analysis.”  

January 6th Committee senior investigative counsel John Wood was expected to lead most of the questioning of the witnesses Thursday. Wood previously served as the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri and authored an anti-corruption treatise in 2014 about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Thursday's hearing was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. EST.

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