Donald Trump and Mike Pence could be called to testify before the panel investigating the Capitol assault

Donald Trump (REUTERS/Hannah Beier) (HANNAH BEIER/)

The House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection has interviewed nearly 1,000 people. But the nine-member panel has yet to speak to the top two players from that day’s events: former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence.

As the investigation wraps up and the panel plans a series of hearings in June, committee members debate whether to summon the two men, whose conflict over whether to certify Joe Biden‘s victory in the 2020 presidential election was at the heart of the stroke. Trump pressed Pence for weeks to use his ceremonial role presiding over the Jan. 6 count to try to block or delay Biden’s certification. Pence refused to do so, and the rioters who stormed the building that day called for him to be hanged.

There are reasons to call one or both. 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 panel have argued that they have gotten all the information they need without Trump and Pence.

Nearly a year into its sweeping investigation into the worst attack on Capitol Hill in more than two centuries, the House committee interviewed hundreds of witnesses and received more than 100,000 pages of documents.. The interviews were conducted out of the public eye in federal office buildings and in private Zoom sessions.

Democratic chairman Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson said in early April that the committee has been able to validate many of the statements attributed to Trump and Pence without his testimony. He said at the time “there was no effort on the part of the committee” to call Pence, though there have been discussions since about the possibility of doing so.

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of then-outgoing US President Donald Trump react to tear gas during a clash with police officers outside the US Capitol building in <a class=Washington, United States, January 6, 2021. (REUTERS /Leah Millis)” height=”3290″ src=”” width=”5259″ />
FILE PHOTO: Supporters of then-outgoing US President Donald Trump react to tear gas during a clash with police officers outside the US Capitol building in Washington, United States, January 6, 2021. (REUTERS /Leah Millis) (Leah Millis/)

Speaking about Pence, Thompson said the panel “initially thought it would be important” to call him, but “There’s a lot of things that day that we know: we know the people who tried to change my mind about counting and all that, so what do we need?”

A lot of the people they’re interviewing, Thompson added, “are people we didn’t have on the original list.”

The panel, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, has said the evidence it has collected is sufficient to link Trump to a federal crime.

Much of the evidence the committee has released so far comes from White House aides and staff, including little-known witnesses like Cassidy Hutchinson, a former special assistant in the Trump White House, and Greg Jacob, who served as Pence’s lead attorney in the vice president’s office. The panel also has thousands of text messages from Trump’s last chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and has spoken with two of the former president’s children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., who were with their father on the day of the attack.

Among hundreds of people, the committee also interviewed former White House adviser Jared Kushner (Ivanka’s husband), former communications director Alyssa Farah, and several Pence advisers, including his chief of staff, Marc Short, and his adviser Homeland Security Keith Kellogg. Former White House press secretaries Kayleigh McEnany and Stephanie Grisham have also appeared, as has former senior policy adviser Stephen Miller.

There are still questions that Trump and Pence could answer, including what they discussed on the morning of January 6, when Trump made his last request for Pence to nullify the election as he presided over the Electoral College count in Congress. Lawmakers have been able to document most of the end of Trump’s call, but not what Pence said in response.

FILE PHOTO: A crowd of supporters of then President Donald Trump climbs through a window they smashed while storming the Capitol building (REUTERS/Leah Millis)
FILE PHOTO: A crowd of supporters of then President Donald Trump climbs through a window they smashed while storming the Capitol building (REUTERS/Leah Millis) (Leah Millis/)

In the hours after the Trump-Pence conversation, the vice president issued a statement saying he did not have the power to object to the electoral vote count. But the president did not relent, publicly pressuring Pence at his mass rally outside the White House and later on Twitter, even after his supporters stormed the Capitol.

Still, it’s unlikely the two former leaders would discuss the conversation with the committee, and it’s unclear whether they would 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 committee on television and tried to assert executive privilege over White House documents and any conversations he had with his aides — demands that would certainly apply to his morning call with Pence.

Besidescalling a former president or vice president to testify in a congressional investigation is a rare move, if not unprecedented, it could face significant legal hurdles and backfire politically.

The January 6 committee has only given a glimpse of what it has found, mostly in court documents where excerpts from transcripts have been used.

Mike Pence (Saul Loeb/REUTERS)
Mike Pence (Saul Loeb/REUTERS) (POOL New/)

A recent committee filing revealed portions of interviews with Hutchinson that took place in February and March of this year. That testimony provided new evidence about the involvement of Republican lawmakers in Trump’s effort to nullify the 2020 election, including a White House meeting in which the president’s lawyers warned that presenting an alternative list of electors declaring Trump winner was not “legally sound.”

Another court document revealed the testimony of Jacob, who served as Pence’s lead attorney. In a series of emails, Jacob repeatedly told attorney John Eastman, who was working with Trump, that Pence could not intervene in his ceremonial function and stop the certification of electoral votes. Jacob told Eastman that the legal framework he was proposing to do just that was “essentially completely made up.”

Meadows’ texts have also been revealing, detailing how people inside Trump’s orbit pleaded with him to strongly condemn the attack on Capitol Hill as it unfolded. The pleas came from Trump’s children, members of Congress and even Fox News anchors.

“He has to lead now. He has gone too far and gotten out of control.”texted Meadows Donald Trump Jr. as protesters breached the security perimeter at the Capitol.

(With information from AP)


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