Representatives Mo Brooks, Matt Gaetz, Andy Biggs, Louie Gohmert and Scott Perry were among Republican members of Congress who asked President Donald Trump to insulate them from future prosecutions by granting them presidential pardons in the days immediately following the attack on the US Capitol on January 6 of last year.
Their names were revealed Thursday during the House of Representatives select committee hearing on January 6, which focused on Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department into helps in his efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden.
Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a member of the Republican select committee who led the hearing, suggested that the request for clemency implied that his colleagues would have at least suspected that they might later face lawsuits.
“All I know is if you’re innocent, you’re probably not going to ask for forgiveness,” he said.
The select committee released video clips of depositions by former Trump White House staffers, who described efforts by Republican members to seek clemency after Mr Trump’s scheme led to an attack on the US Capitol by its supporters.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former special assistant to the president, said Mr Gaetz and Mr Brooks had both pleaded for a “blanket pardon” for members involved in a December meeting to plan events on January 6.
“Mr. Gaetz was personally pushing for a pardon and had been doing so since early December,” she said in pre-recorded testimony released by the committee.
Ms Hutchinson also said Congressman Jim Jordan had talked about congressional pardons but had not specifically asked for them. She said of Marjorie Taylor Greene: “I heard she asked the White House attorneys’ office for a pardon.”
Former White House Assistant Counsel Eric Herschmann, who confirmed to the panel that Mr. Gaetz had asked for forgiveness, added: ‘The general tone was, ‘we could be sued because we were defending … the president’s positions on these things. ”
Mr. Brooks, a Republican from Alabama, asked for clemency in a January 11, 2021 email to Mr. Trump’s aide, Molly Michael, which he said was sent on his behalf and on behalf of Mr. Gaetz, a Florida Republican who is reportedly being investigated for sex trafficking. Mr. Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any criminal offence.
“It’s clear that deep-pocketed, vitriolic Democratic Socialists (with perhaps liberal Republican help) will abuse the American justice system by targeting many Republicans with fictitious charges stemming from our recent fight for fair and honest elections. specifics, and related speeches,” Mr. Brooks wrote.
Mr. Brooks added that he recommended that Mr. Trump grant “blanket pardons (for all purposes)” to all GOP members of the House and Senate who voted against certification of the 2020 election, as well as to those who had signed a legal agreement. short urging the Supreme Court to reject the swing state electoral votes won by Mr. Biden.
The committee’s vice chair, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, had previously alleged that others in Mr. Trump’s orbit had asked for forgiveness following the Jan. 6 attack, including “several” members of Congress, during the panel’s first public hearing earlier this month.
While the identities of most GOP members have remained unknown until now, Ms. Cheney previously revealed that pardons had been sought by Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and John Eastman, the former law professor of the ‘Chapman University which pressured Vice President Mike Pence to reject the election. swing state votes won by Mr. Biden during the January 6, 2021 joint session of Congress in which Mr. Biden’s victory was to be certified.
In an email from Mr Eastman to Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, sent just days after the attack, the conservative jurist wrote: ‘I have decided that I should be on the pardon list, if this is still ongoing.”
Nick Akerman, a veteran defense attorney who served as an assistant U.S. attorney in New York and an assistant special prosecutor during Watergate, said The Independent that a request for a pardon is a strong indicator that the person requesting it knows they have broken the law.
“It is clear evidence that someone believes they have committed a crime and fears prosecution – an innocent person does not ask for forgiveness,” he said. “A request for pardon, when there is not even an investigation underway, is overwhelming proof of awareness of guilt.”
Mr Perry, who has denied asking for forgiveness, featured prominently in the panel presentation on Thursday, in which former Trump-era Justice Department officials testified regarding the Pennsylvania Republican’s role in the a proposal presented to Mr. Trump by Jeffrey Clark, an environmental lawyer who was then the head of the department’s civil division.
The Pennsylvania Republican had actually introduced Mr. Trump to Mr. Clark, who encouraged the president to fire then-serving Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and install him at the top of the DOJ so he could lobby state legislatures to overrule election results in their states based on claims. of fraud that the department had already debunked.
After Mr. Clark told Mr. Rosen that he was elevated to Mr. Rosen’s current position, Mr. Rosen and other senior Justice Department officials confronted him and Mr. Trump during of a contentious Oval Office meeting.
One of the former officials who attended the meeting, former acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue, described to the hearing how he and other DOJ leaders told Mr. Trump they would step down if he did. he named Mr. Clark – an expert in environmental law with no experience as a barrister or prosecutor – their boss.
“I said: Mr. President, I would resign immediately. I don’t work a minute for this guy [Mr Clark] whom I have just declared completely incompetent.
He said Mr Trump then turned to Steven Engel, then head of the DOJ’s office of legal counsel, and asked if he too would resign. In response, he said Mr Engel told the President: ‘Absolutely, Mr President, you would leave me no choice.’
Mr Donoghue said he then told the President he would “lose [his] the entire leadership of the department” if he followed Mr. Clark’s plan.
“Every agent will leave you, your entire Department of Justice leadership will leave within hours,” he recalled saying.
The select committee also presented evidence that Mr. Trump’s own White House advisers discovered that Mr. Clark’s proposed actions, including launching investigations into baseless conspiracy theories pushed by Mr. Trump and his allies and sending the letter to the state legislatures urging them to annul the election. , would be illegal.
Mr. Herschmann, the former deputy White House counsel, told select committee investigators that Mr. Clark’s plan was “silly” and said his reaction was to tell the aspiring acting attorney general that could expose him to criminal charges.
“I said…damn hole…congratulations: you just admitted that your first step as Attorney General would be to commit a felony and violate Rule 6-c. You are clearly the right candidate for this job” , he remembers saying.
Mr. Clark, a veteran environmental lawyer who now works for a pro-Trump think tank called the Center for Renewing America, was one of several former Trump administration officials subpoenaed to testify before the select committee. He initially resisted appearing, but when he came forward under threat of a criminal referral for contempt of Congress, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 100 times.
The hearing into his conduct in the days leading up to the Capitol attack comes as the department where he once served as a top official is now investigating him for his role in Mr. Trump’s plot to stay in office. power against the will of the voters.
According to multiple reports, FBI agents raided Mr Clark’s home on Wednesday under a search warrant.