A member of the House panel investigating the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol on Wednesday accused former President Donald Trump of tampering with witnesses by vowing to pardon those involved in the riots if reelected in 2024.
Trump’s comments over the weekend added fresh urgency to the committee’s work as the prospect of Republican control of Congress in 2023 and a potential reelection bid by Trump threaten to derail the investigation into the riot.
“Absolutely,” Rep. Pete Aguilar of California told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on “New Day” when asked if Trump was tampering with witnesses by dangling pardons in front of January 6 defendants. “And I think the question is more from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, you know where – where are they? Do they support this? When is enough enough?”
The comments from Aguilar, a Democrat, come as the House panel continues to hone it’s investigation as it speaks with former members of the Trump administration and obtain documents related to the riots.
During a rally on Saturday, Trump complained that those charged in connection with the January 6 attack at the US Capitol are being treated unfairly and said: “If I run and if I win, we will treat those people from January 6 fairly.”
“And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons. Because they are being treated so unfairly,” the former President said.
Trump also reiterated his vow to pardon the rioters on Tuesday night, saying in an interview that aired on Newsmax: “I would absolutely give them a pardon if things don’t work out fairly.”
The comments from the former President have garnered criticism among Republicans, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, while some Trump allies have lamented that the rioters should be pardoned. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, also disagreed with the former President’s sentiments.
Robert Jenkins, who is an attorney for several January 6 riot defendants, including Anthony Antonio, said Wednesday his clients are aware of Trump’s offers for potential pardons and that the former President’s offers could impact the defendants’ cooperation. Jenkins also said he is not sure Trump’s comments rise to the level of witness tampering but said the former President is putting his “fingers on the scales.”
“This is not a situation where I think he’s offering something of value to someone who is necessarily a witness but a potential defendant or an actual defendant,” Jenkins told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.” “So, I don’t think this would qualify as witness tampering. But he is certainly putting his fingers on the scales. I’ll say that.”
Aguilar also told Keilar the committee is “trying to be deliberate and thoughtful” in asking former Vice President Mike Pence to testify when asked about seeking his testimony.
“We’re still taking witness testimony … but we are making significant progress with or without that testimony,” he said. “We’re not rushing to any, any decisions here. We are being respectful of the office. We’re trying to get testimony from individuals who were around the former vice president.”
He continued, “And we are still processing a lot of documents that the archives has sent. And obviously, in any interview we want to do, we want to be prepared. And that means we have to process the documents and get prepared for that – for that witness.”
Among the dozens of subpoenas for individuals and organizations the House select committee investigating the January 6 riot has issued, it has also spoken with members of Pence’s office. On Tuesday, CNN spotted Greg Jacobs, a top aide to Pence, leaving a meeting room on Capitol Hill used by the committee to conduct witness interviews. A source familiar with the matter later confirmed Jacobs was scheduled to appear before the panel on Tuesday. Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, sat for an interview with the committee last week.
The Justice Department has charged more than 700 people in connection with the attack on the Capitol.
This story has been updated with additional reaction and background information.