Representatives Mo Brooks, Matt Gaetz, Andy Biggs, Louie Gohmert and Scott Perry were among the Republican members of Congress who asked President Donald Trump to protect them from future prosecutions by granting them presidential pardons in the days immediately following the attack on the US Capitol. January 6 last year.
Their names were revealed Thursday by the House select committee hearing on January 6, which focused on Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to help him in his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss. against Joe Biden.
Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the Republican select committee member who led the hearing, suggested seeking pardons meant his colleagues at least suspected they might face prosecution later.
“All I know is that if you’re innocent, you’re probably not going to go out and seek forgiveness,” he said.
The select committee played videotaped excerpts from statements by former Trump White House staffers, who described efforts by Republican members to win clemency after Trump’s plan led to an attack on the US Capitol. by his supporters.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former special assistant to the president, said both Gaetz and Brooks had advocated a “blanket pardon” for members involved in a December meeting to plan for Jan. 6 events.
“Mr. Gaetz was personally pushing for a pardon and had been doing so since early December,” he said in prerecorded testimony played by the committee.
Ms. Hutchinson also said that Congressman Jim Jordan spoke about pardons from Congress, but did not specifically ask for one. She said of Marjorie Taylor Greene: “I heard that he had asked the White House Counsel’s Office for a pardon.”
Former White House deputy counsel Eric Herschmann, who confirmed to the panel that Mr. Gaetz asked for a pardon, added: “The general tone was, ‘we could be prosecuted because we were defensive of … the positions of the president. about these things’. ”
Brooks, a Republican from Alabama, requested clemency in a Jan. 11, 2021, email to Trump aide Molly Michael, writing that it was sent on behalf of him and Gaetz, a Florida Republican who, according to He is reportedly under investigation for sex trafficking. Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any criminal offense.
“It is clear that wealthy and vitriolic Social Democrats (perhaps with some help from liberal Republicans) are going to abuse America’s judicial system by charging scores of Republicans with trumped up charges stemming from our recent fight for honest and accurate elections and speeches. related. Brooks wrote.
Brooks added that he was recommending to Trump that he issue “blanket pardons (for all purposes)” to all Republican members of the House and Senate who voted against certifying the 2020 election, as well as those who signed a legal agreement. . he briefly urged the Supreme Court to throw out electoral votes from swing states won by Biden.
The committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, had previously alleged that others in Trump’s orbit had sought pardons after the Jan. 6 attack, including “multiple” members of Congress, during the panel’s first public hearing on Thursday. early this month.
While the identities of most GOP members were previously unknown, Ms. Cheney had previously revealed that Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and John Eastman, the former Chapman University law professor who lobbied Vice President Mike Pence to rule out the election, they requested pardons. votes of the swing states won by Biden in the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021 in which Biden’s victory would be certified.
In an email from Eastman to Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, sent just days after the attack, the conservative legal scholar wrote: “I have decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works.”
Nick Akerman, a veteran defense attorney who served as an assistant federal prosecutor in New York and as an assistant special prosecutor during Watergate, said the independent that an application for a pardon is a strong indicator that the person requesting it knows that they have broken the law.
“This is obvious evidence from someone who believes they have committed a crime and is worried about being prosecuted: an innocent person does not ask for forgiveness,” he said. “A request for pardon, when there is not even an ongoing investigation, is overwhelming evidence of conscience.”
Perry, who has denied seeking clemency, featured prominently in the panel’s Thursday presentation, during which former Trump-era Justice Department officials gave evidence about the Pennsylvania Republican’s role in a proposal put to Trump by Jeffrey Clark, an environmental attorney who was then the chief of the department’s civil division.
The Pennsylvania Republican had actually introduced Trump to Clark, who encouraged the president to fire then-acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen and install him atop the Justice Department so he could pressure state legislatures to overturn the election results in their states based on claims. of fraud that the department had already debunked.
After Clark told Rosen that he would be promoted to Rosen’s current job, Rosen and other top Justice Department leaders confronted him and Trump in a contentious Oval Office meeting.
One of the former officials who participated in the meeting, former acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue, described at the hearing how he and other Justice Department leaders told Trump they would resign if he appointed Clark, an inexperienced environmental law specialist. like a trial attorney or prosecutor – your boss.
“I said: Mr. President, I would resign immediately. I’m not working a minute for this guy [Mr Clark] whom I just declared was completely incompetent.”
He said Trump then turned to Steven Engel, then head of the Justice Department’s legal counsel office, and asked if he, too, would resign. In response, he said Engel told the president: “I would absolutely do it, Mr. President, I would not be left with a choice.”
Donoghue said he later told the president “I would lose [his] the entire leadership of the department” if he went ahead with Mr. Clark’s plan.
“Every agent will leave you, the entire leadership of your justice department will be gone in a matter of hours,” he recalled saying.
The select committee also presented evidence that Trump’s own White House advisers had found that Clark’s proposed actions, including launching investigations into unsubstantiated conspiracy theories advanced by Trump and his allies and sending the letter to state legislatures urging them to nullify the election. would be illegal.
Herschmann, a former White House deputy counsel, told select committee investigators that Clark’s plan was “foolish” and said his reaction was to tell the would-be acting attorney general that it could expose him to criminal charges.
“I said… fucking shit… congratulations: you just admitted that the first step you would take as attorney general would be to commit a felony and violate Rule 6-c. You are clearly the right candidate for this job,” he recalled saying. .
Clark, a veteran environmental lawyer who now works for a pro-Trump think tank called the Center for Renewing America, was one of numerous former Trump administration officials summoned to testify before the select committee. He had initially resisted appearing, but when he appeared 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 that focuses on his conduct in the days leading up to the attack on Capitol Hill comes as the department where he once served as a top official is now investigating him for his role in Trump’s plot to stay in power against of the wishes of the voters.
According to multiple reports, FBI agents raided Mr. Clark’s home on Wednesday in compliance with a search warrant.