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From left, Greg Jacob, former counsel to Vice President Mike Pence, and former federal judge J. Michael Luttig testify during the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol hearing in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, June 16, 2022. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

'Certifiably Crazy': Jan. 6 Panel Highlights How Team Trump Pushed Pence to Overturn Election

Had Pence obeyed Trump, said a retired federal judge, "America would immediately have been plunged into what would have been tantamount to a revolution within a paralyzing constitutional crisis."

Brett Wilkins

Thursday's public hearing of the House January 6 committee focused largely on former President Donald Trump's futile attempt to convince Mike Pence, his vice president, to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

"There was no basis in the Constitution or laws of the United States at all, for the theory espoused by Mr. Eastman."

"In today's hearing, we learned details about how Trump pressured Vice President Mike Pence to engage in a criminal conspiracy to steal the 2020 election," Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen and co-chair of the Not Above the Law, said in a statement. "In firsthand testimony from the former counsel of the vice president, we heard how far Trump and his allies would go to stop the peaceful transfer of power, including by inciting violence."

"We saw how far they'd go to snuff out our vote," Gilbert added, "even with full understanding of the illegal and unconstitutional nature of their scheme."

A memo by right-wing attorney John Eastman—who, according to testimony from Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), sought a preemptive presidential pardon for his actions—featured prominently during the third session of the committee. 

When questioned about Eastman's belief that Pence had the power to reject the vote of state electors, retired federal judge J. Michael Luttig said that "there was no basis in the Constitution or laws of the United States at all, for the theory espoused by Mr. Eastman."

Luttig—who said he "would have laid my body across the road before I would have let the vice president overturn the 2020 election"—condemned Eastman's argument as "constitutional mischief."

Had Pence obeyed Trump, Luttig added, "America would immediately have been plunged into what would have been tantamount to a revolution within a paralyzing constitutional crisis."

Greg Jacobs, Pence's former general counsel, testified that "the vice president's first instinct when he heard this theory was that there was no way that our framers... would ever have put one person... in a role to have decisive impact on the outcome of the election."

When asked how Pence responded to another attempt by Eastman—this one after the deadly January 6 insurrection—to get him to postpone certification of the election, Jacob said the former vice president called the notion "rubber room stuff."

When asked to explain the term, Jacob replied, "certifiably crazy."

Former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann testified that he asked Eastman "are you out of your effin' mind" when he heard his theory, adding that "you're completely crazy."

"Mike Pence said no," committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) noted during the proceedings. "He resisted the pressure. He knew it was illegal. He knew it was wrong. We were fortunate for Mr. Pence's courage. On January 6, our democracy came dangerously close to catastrophe."

"That courage put him in tremendous danger," Thompson continued. "When Mike Pence made it clear that he wouldn't give in to Donald Trump's scheme, Donald Trump turned the mob on him—a mob that was chanting 'hang Mike Pence,' a mob that had built a hangman's gallows just outside the Capitol."

Christina Harvey, executive director of the progressive advocacy group Stand Up America, said that "after today's hearing, it's apparent how close we came to even greater bloodshed and the brink of autocracy."

"For almost three hours, the January 6 committee provided a chilling look at President Trump's criminal campaign to pressure Vice President Pence into overturning the 2020 election," she added. "He pressured, badgered, and ultimately threatened Pence via tweet in a desperate attempt to stop the electoral count and overturn the will of voters."

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