Mary Claire Jalonik and FARNUSH AMIRA
WASHINGTON (AP) – A House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6 uprising polled nearly 1,000 people. But the nine-member commission has not yet spoken to two of the most prominent players in the day’s events – former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence.
When the investigation is completed and the panel plans to hold a series of hearings in June, committee members discuss whether to summon two men whose conflict over whether to witness Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election has been at the center of the attack. For days, if not weeks, Trump pressured Pence to use his ceremonial presiding role in the January 6 vote count to try to block or delay Biden’s certification. Pence refused to do so, and rioters who broke into the building that day called for him to be hanged.
There are reasons to call both of them. The committee wants to be as thorough as possible, and critics are sure to pounce if they don’t even try. But some lawmakers on the commission say they got all the information they needed without Trump and Pence.
Nearly a year after an extensive investigation into the worst attack on the Capitol in more than two centuries, a House committee has interviewed hundreds of witnesses and obtained more than 100,000 pages of documents. Interviews were conducted out of the public eye at unknown federal office buildings and private Zoom sessions.
The chairman of the Democratic Party, Mississippi MP Benny Thompson, said in early April that the committee was able to confirm many statements attributed to Trump and Pence without their testimony. He said there was “no effort” on the part of the committee at the time to call Pence, although there have been discussions since then that it is possible.
Speaking of Pence, Thompson said the board “initially thought it would be important” to call him, but “we know a lot of things that day – we know people who tried to get him to change his mind about counting and all that, so what do we need? »
Many of the people they interview, Thompson added, “are people we didn’t have on the original list.”
The group, which consists of seven Democrats and two Republicans, said the evidence it gathered was enough to link Trump to a federal crime.
Much of the evidence the committee has released so far has come from White House aides and staffers, including little-known witnesses such as Cassidy Hutchinson, a former special aide to Trump’s White House, and Greg Jacob, who served as Pence’s chief attorney. . The panel also features thousands of texts from Trump’s last chief of staff Mark Meadows and talks to the former president’s two 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 Alice Farah and several Pence aides, including his chief of staff Mark Short and national security adviser Keith Kellogg. Also present were former White House spokesmen Kaylee McEnnany and Stephanie Grisham, as well as former senior political adviser Stephen Miller.
There are other questions that Trump and Pence could answer, including what they talked about on the morning of Jan. 6, when Trump made his last request to Pence to cancel the election when he chaired a vote count in Congress. Lawmakers were able to document much of Trump’s conversation, but not what Pence said in response.
Hours after Trump and Pence spoke, the vice president issued a statement saying he had no right to object to the vote count. But the president did not relent and continued to publicly pressure Pence at his mass rally in front of the White House and then on Twitter even after his supporters stormed the Capitol.
However, it is unlikely that the two former leaders will talk about the conversation in committee – and it is unclear whether they will cooperate at all.
While Pence has yet to comment on the committee’s work, Trump would certainly be a hostile witness. He fought the investigation in court, demonized the television committee and tried to secure executive privileges on White House documents and any conversations he had with his aides – demands that certainly applied to his morning conversation with Pence.
In addition, summoning a former president or vice president to testify in a Congressional investigation is a rare, if not unprecedented, step that could face serious legal hurdles and backfire politically.
The committee on January 6 gave only an idea of what it found, mostly in court materials where transcripts were used.
Recent committee documentation revealed parts of interviews with Hutchinson that took place in February and March this year. These testimonies provided new evidence of Republican lawmakers’ involvement in Trump’s attempts to cancel the 2020 election, including a meeting at the White House where the president’s lawyers advised that posting an alternative voter list declaring Trump the winner was not “legal.” sound ».
Another court document showed the testimony of Jacob, who served as Pence’s attorney general. In a series of emails, Jacob repeatedly told attorney John Eastman, who worked with Trump, that Pence could not interfere in his ceremonial role and stop voter certification. Jacob told Eastman that the legal framework he proposed to do was “essentially completely fictional.”
Meadows’ texts were also revealing, detailing how people in Trump’s orbit asked him to strongly condemn the attack on the Capitol as it unfolded. Trump’s children, members of Congress and even Fox News presenters were asked to do so.
“Now he has to lead. It has gone too far and got out of control, ”Donald Trump Jr. wrote to Meadows as protesters broke through the security perimeter of the Capitol.
AP Congress correspondent Lisa Mascara contributed to this report.