A retired federal judge said Thursday that Donald Trump’s demand that Mike Pence reject the 2020 US election results would have sparked a “revolution” if the vice president had obeyed.
J Michael Luttig had told Mr Pence that his role in overseeing Congress’s ratification of the 2020 election on January 6 last year was purely ceremonial – dismissing a theory by Mr Trump’s lawyer John Eastman , that Mr. Pence had the power to unilaterally undo Joe Biden’s victory.
Former Vice President Mike Pence is shown on a screen during a hearing to investigate the January 6 attack on the US Capitol in Washington, DC on June 16, 2022. Source: AAP / APE
Mr. Luttig, a renowned conservative jurist, told a hearing of the Congressional committee investigating the 2021 US Capitol storming that, had Mr. Pence accepted the plot, it would have triggered “what , in my view, would amount to a revolution within a crippling constitutional crisis in America.”
The legal scholar explained how he believed democracy was on the brink of collapse during his appearance at the committee’s third hearing in June, which focused on Mr Trump’s pressure campaign against Mr Pence to help the defeated Republican leader cling to power.
“There was no basis in the constitution or the laws of the United States for the theory Mr. Eastman espoused. At all. None,” Mr. Luttig said.
Liz Cheney, the committee’s deputy chair, described Mr Eastman as the architect of an “absurd theory” he knew was based on false claims.
“In several of the scenarios, the vice president could ultimately simply declare Donald Trump the winner, regardless of the vote totals that had already been certified by the states,” Ms. Cheney said, outlining Mr. Eastman’s plan.
“However, it was wrong and Dr. Eastman knew it was wrong. In other words, it was a lie.”
The committee is in the midst of a series of televised insurgency hearings organized by a pro-Trump mob to prevent the peaceful transfer of power and overturn the results of the 2020 election.
He has already revealed testimony from many of Mr Trump’s closest allies who said he was repeatedly told he had lost a fair fight to Mr Biden, but declared victory and went on anyway. pushed his narrative of voter fraud.
Mr. Eastman’s theory was essentially that Mr. Pence had the power to overrule states’ results due to allegations of fraud.
That could have handed the presidency to Mr. Trump, according to Mr. Eastman’s plan, because deciding the outcome would then have fallen through a mysterious procedure in the House of Representatives.
House Republicans, who had a majority of state delegations even though they did not control the chamber, would have chosen the next president.
The committee showed testimony from Mr. Pence’s general counsel, Greg Jacob, saying he believed Eastman admitted to Mr. Trump on Jan. 4 that his plan would violate federal law.
The uprising took place two days later, delaying Congress from certifying the election results for several hours.
The committee also aired testimony from Trump’s White House attorney Eric Herschmann, who told Mr. Eastman the day after the insurgency: “Get a great criminal defense attorney. You’re going to need one. ”
As dozens of legal challenges dismissed as inane and ethically suspect have failed in courts across the country, a desperate Mr. Trump has turned to Mr. Pence for illegal help, the committee heard.
Mr. Trump tried to persuade Mr. Pence to intervene in the presidential election during meetings at the White House on January 4 and 5 and during a call on the morning of January 6.
He used rally speeches and Twitter to exert intense pressure on Mr Pence to abuse his position as Senate Speaker to reject election results while they were being ratified.
During his “Stop the Steal” rally before the joint session of the House and Senate to ratify the election, Mr. Trump mentioned Mr. Pence several times as he told his supporters to march on the Capitol and to “fight like hell”.
But Mr Pence wrote to Congress that the founding fathers never intended the vice president to have “unilateral authority” to undo the election count, adding that “no vice president in American history has never asserted such authority”.
The mob whipped up by Mr Trump threatened to hang Mr Pence for not cooperating as they stormed the Capitol and even erected a gallows in front of the building.
Ms Cheney said last week that when the topic of ‘hang on Mike Pence’ chants came up at the White House, Mr Trump replied: ‘Maybe our supporters have the right idea’ and Mr Pence’ Deserves that”.
“What the former president was willing to sacrifice — potentially the vice president — to stay in power is quite shocking,” said Democratic panelist Pete Aguilar.
The panel tried to draw a line between Mr Trump’s pressure on Mr Pence and violence with a video clip of a rioter saying he would ‘drag people into the streets’ if Mr Pence ‘gave in’ to the pressure not to cancel the election.