Jan. 6 committee holds third hearing

By Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury, Clare Foran, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 1:45 p.m. ET, June 17, 2022
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8:59 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

Here are key takeaways from day 3 of the Jan. 6 committee hearings 

From CNN's Jeremy Herb, Marshall Cohen and Zachary Cohen

Greg Jacob, left, and J. Michael Luttig were the two witnesses testifying on Thursday.
Greg Jacob, left, and J. Michael Luttig were the two witnesses testifying on Thursday. (Susan Walsh/AP)

The House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection on Thursday detailed how former President Donald Trump tried to pressure his vice president to join in his scheme to overturn the presidential election — and how Pence's refusal put his life in danger as rioters called for Pence's hanging on Jan. 6, 2021.

Two witnesses testified during Thursday's hearing who advised Pence that he did not have the authority to subvert the election: former Pence attorney Greg Jacob and retired Republican judge J. Michael Luttig.

The committee walked through how conservative Trump attorney John Eastman put forward a legal theory that Pence could unilaterally block certification of the election — a theory that was roundly rejected by Trump's White House attorneys and Pence's team but nevertheless was embraced by the former President.

The next committee hearing is scheduled for this upcoming Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. The witnesses have not yet been announced.

Here are the key takeaways from the committee's third hearing this month:

Trump was told that Eastman's election plan was wrong — but tried it anyway: There were many revelations, but the perhaps most important one: Trump was told repeatedly that his plan for Pence to overturn the election on January 6 was illegal, but he tried to do it anyway.

According to witness testimony, Pence himself and the lawyer who concocted the scheme advised Trump directly that the plan was unconstitutional and violated federal law. Committee members argued that this shows Trump's corrupt intentions, and could lay the groundwork for a potential indictment.

In a videotaped deposition, which was played Thursday, Pence's chief of staff Marc Short said Pence advised Trump "many times" that he didn't have the legal or constitutional authority to overturn the results while presiding over the joint session of Congress on January 6 to count the electoral votes.

Even Eastman, who helped devise the scheme and pitched it to Trump, admitted in front of Trump that the plan would require Pence to violate federal law, according to a clip of a deposition from Jacob, Pence's senior legal adviser, which was played at Thursday's hearing.

Legal scholars from across the political spectrum agree that Eastman's plan was preposterous. Luttig, the former federal judge who advised Pence during the transition, testified at Thursday's hearing that he "would have laid my body across the road" before letting Pence illegally overturn the election.

The panel tied the Mike Pence pressure campaign to the Jan. 6, 2021, violence: The committee tried to connect Trump's pressure campaign against Pence to the violence on Jan. 6, 2021, by weaving together testimony from Pence aides, Trump's public statements and comments from rioters at the Capitol.

Some of the most compelling evidence came from the rioters themselves.

Many of them had listened to Trump's rallies where he claimed — inaccurately — that the election was rigged against him, and Pence had the power to do something about it while presiding over the Electoral College certification. While the insurrection was underway, they cited Trump's comments about Pence.

And many of them saw, in real-time, Trump's tweet criticizing Pence while the Capitol was under attack, where he said Pence "didn't have the courage to do what should have been done."

The point of highlighting this on Thursday was to lay the blame for the violence at Trump's feet. And right after the attack, many top Republicans agreed with that conclusion. But over the last year and a half, many Republicans have shied away from blaming Trump, and the committee hopes to change that.

Former Trump White House attorney Eric Herschmann told the committee that Eastman told him he was willing to accept violence in order to overturn the 2020 election. The panel played video from Herschmann's deposition where he described a conversation with Eastman about his claims that the vice president could overturn the election in Congress.

Herschmann warned Eastman that his strategy, if implemented, was "going to cause riots in the streets."

"And he said words to the effect of, 'There's been violence in the history of our country in order to protect the democracy, or to protect the republic,' " Herschmann said.

Eastman emailed Giuliani about receiving a presidential pardon after Jan. 6 Eastman emailed Rudy Giuliani a few days after Jan. 6, 2021, and asked to be included on a list of potential recipients of a presidential pardon, the committee revealed during Thursdays hearing. The committee said Eastman made the request to Giuliani, Trump's former attorney, in an email.

"I've decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works," the email from Eastman to Giuliani read.

Eastman did not ultimately receive a pardon and refused to answer the committee's questions about his role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election, repeatedly pleading the Fifth during his deposition.

The committee argued during Thursday's hearing that Eastman's request for a pardon, and his decision to repeatedly plead the Fifth when questioned previously by the panel, indicates Eastman knew his actions were potentially criminal.

The star of Thursday's hearing was not in the room: One person noticeably absent on Thursday was the star of the hearing himself: the former vice president.

The committee cast Pence as the hero — making the case that American democracy would have slipped into a state of chaos had he succumbed to Trump's pressure campaign.

But as the committee touted Pence's commitment to the Constitution and bravery on Jan. 6, 2021, it was impossible to ignore the fact that the former vice president was not in the room.

Instead, the committee relied on live witness testimony from two former Pence advisers who appeared to speak on his behalf.

Earlier this year, the committee's chairman, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, had suggested the committee would seek testimony from Pence. Still, the prospect of Pence appearing before the committee, particularly in public, has always been viewed as a long shot — to say the least.

Read more more takeaways from today's hearing here.

10:52 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

Meadows' aides played a big role in today's hearing — and there's a bigger role to come 

From CNN's Ryan Nobles

A recorded video testimony of Ben Williamson, right, was shown during the House select committee’s hearing on Thursday. 
A recorded video testimony of Ben Williamson, right, was shown during the House select committee’s hearing on Thursday.  (House Select Committee/AP)

Video testimony from two aides of former President Donald Trump's White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows — Ben Williamson and Sarah Matthews — was shown during Thursday's Jan. 6 select committee hearing.

The committee has spoken to a number of people in Meadows’ orbit as a way to get around the fact that Meadows himself refused to comply with their subpoena.

Today's hearing offered up a hint of the insight that these aides had, many of them were in and around the oval office and West Wing on Jan. 6, 2021. The committee is still expected to feature them even more prominently in the hearings still to come.  

Several of these witnesses have come back for additional interviews with the committee in the weeks leading up to the hearings.

Previous testimony given to the committee by former White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews was also shown on Thursday.
Previous testimony given to the committee by former White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews was also shown on Thursday. (House Select Committee/AP)

While, the committee shared testimony today from Williamson and Matthews, the one Meadows aide expected to reveal even more information is Cassidy Hutchinson who has sat for several closed-door interviews with the committee and is believed to have insider information about Meadows and his conduct leading up to and on Jan. 6, 2021. 

6:45 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

Aguilar: Committee focused on making sure next hearings help convey "just how fragile our democracy is" 


Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar, a member of the Jan. 6 select committee, told CNN's Jake Tapper that while the committee is open to hearing from more witnesses, their current focus is on the scheduled hearings. The committee's next two hearings are scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.

Asked if the committee would like to hear from additional people, like Ginni Thomas — a conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — Aguilar said he would not get into specifics regarding potential witnesses, but that the panel is honing in on the current witness testimony and is "not going to close the door" to anyone.

Following Thursday's hearing, committee chair Bennie Thompson said the panel had sent a letter to Ginni Thomas asking her to speak with them about her role in the effort to overturn the 2020 electoral results.

"Our threshold test has and will always be whether someone can provide information that is relevant to the Jan. 6 committee. We're talking about protecting democracy and the threat we faced leading up to Jan 6. And it wasn't just about one day, it was about this concerted effort that we have continued to talk about building up to Jan. 6. So individuals who have knowledge should come forward. Whether that's Kevin McCarthy or Barry Loudermilk, or Ginni Thomas," Aguilar said.

The Jan. 6 committee is in possession of email correspondence between conservative attorney John Eastman and Ginni Thomas, a source familiar with the committee's investigation told CNN. The source who spoke with CNN would not provide details on the emails' contents or say if they were direct messages between the two or part of a larger group correspondence. The Washington Post first reported on the emails.

Asked if the committee is open to the notion of hearing from former Vice President Mike Pence, Aguilar said he felt the committee made "a clear and compelling" case Thursday that Pence was in danger on Jan. 6, 2021. Aguilar reiterated that the committee is focused on the upcoming hearings.

"We feel we heard from his chief counsel, who had those experiences. We're not gonna close the door to hearing from anyone. But what I can tell you, is that we are gonna have a specific set of hearings in the next few weeks, our focus is on making sure that those hearings help convey just how fragile our democracy is and how close we came to democracy having serious, serious concerns that day," Aguilar said.

"So, we are going to help tell that story and we are going to do it in a truthful and honest way," he added. "But If there is still room to have conversations with anybody after that, we are not going to shy away from it, our work will continue."

CNN's Ryan Nobles, Zachary Cohen, Annie Grayer, Katelyn Polantz and Chandelis Duster, contributed to this report.

4:35 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

Catch up: Here are the top headlines from the second half of the hearing

From CNN staff

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol wrapped up its third hearing of the month. The panel presented evidence that outlined former President Donald Trump's role in pressuring former Vice President Mike Pence into blocking the 2020 election results.

Through live testimony from former Pence attorney Greg Jacob and retired judge J. Michael Luttig, recorded depositions and excerpts from emails and memos, the committee showed that Trump was told the plan to reverse the results of the election was not legal but he tried it anyway.

The investigation also walked through former Trump lawyer John Eastman's theory that Pence had the authority to overturn the election — a theory he later admitted would fail at the Supreme Court 9-0.

Here are other top headlines from the second half of Thursday's hearing:

  • Jan. 6, 2021 phone call: On the morning of the insurrection, Jacob said he was at the vice president's residence when Pence got a call from former President Donald Trump. The committee said Trump had several family members with him in the Oval Office when he made that call. In a recorded deposition, Ivanka Trump described the conversation as "heated." Nicholas Luna, a former special assistant to Trump, said he was dropping off a note and remembered Trump calling Pence a “wimp.” 
  • Trump on Twitter: The former president sent a tweet attacking Pence on Jan. 6, 2021, after he was told by his then-chief of staff Mark Meadows there was violence breaking out at the Capitol, the committee said.
  • Proximity to the mob: The committee laid out a timeline detailing the effort going on during the insurrection to protect Pence. The panel said the vice president was very close to the rioters, at one point there was only "40 feet between the vice president and the mob." "Make no mistake about the fact that the vice president's life was in danger," Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar said.
  • Pressure even after the insurrection: Even after the Capitol riot was over, the committee said Eastman wrote an email that night imploring Jacob, former Vice President Pence's counsel, to suspend the session to certify the election. Jacob said he did not show Pence the email right away, but shared it a "day or two later." Eastman argued a technical violation of the Electoral Count Act, the law that governed the Jan. 6 congressional certification of the electors. A few days after the insurrection, Eastman emailed Rudy Giuliani asking to be included on a list of potential recipients of a presidential pardon, the committee said.
  • The DOJ investigation: The Justice Department pressed the committee to turn over transcripts of witness interviews, noting that refusing to turn over the documents is leading to delays in the department’s efforts to investigate and prosecute criminal suspects involved in the attack on the Capitol. It is not within the committee's power to indict anyone, even if they believe a crime was committed. They can, however, make a criminal referral to the DOJ.
6:55 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

Jan. 6 committee has sent letter to SCOTUS justice's wife for interview, chairman says

From CNN's Manu Raju, Lauren Koenig, Morgan Rimmer and Annie Grayer

Ginni Thomas, center, sits with her husband Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, left, while he waits to speak at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, in 2021.
Ginni Thomas, center, sits with her husband Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, left, while he waits to speak at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, in 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

After Thursday's public hearing, House select committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson told CNN and other reporters that they have sent a letter to Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, asking her to talk to the panel in light of new emails that show she was communicating with conservative lawyer John Eastman.

“We have sent Ms. Thomas a letter asking her to come and talk to the committee,” he said when asked by CNN about Thomas. 

He also dismissed the Department of Justice pressing that the committee release all witness interview transcripts to help with its investigation.

“We are not going to stop what we are doing to share the information that we’ve gotten so far with the Department of Justice. We have to do our work,” he said.  

Asked if the committee could release transcripts by the end of the week, he responded “no,” but added “that does not mean that we are not going to cooperate.”

Asked whether his view against referring former President Donald Trump to the Justice Department for prosecution has changed, he told CNN, “Our committee is working. We’re working as hard as we can to get to the facts and circumstances around what happened. Now, as to when we complete our work, then we’ll discuss at that point what we’ll do.”

Read more here.

4:20 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

Eastman denies discussing Supreme Court matters with Supreme Court Justice Thomas or his wife

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

Former Trump attorney John Eastman “categorically” denied that he had discussions with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni Thomas about “any matters pending or likely to come before the Court.”

“We have never engaged in such discussions, would not engage in such discussions, and did not do so in December 2020 or anytime else,” Eastman wrote in a post on his Substack.

He suggested that a recently reported email he sent in December 2020, in which he stated that he understood there to be “a heated fight underway” at the Supreme Court, prompted a report by an outlet called Vision Times.

In the Thursday post to his Substack, Eastman also responded to reports that the House Jan. 6 committee had obtain an email exchange between him and Ginni Thomas.

He published a Dec. 4, 2020, email from Thomas and said she had “invited me to give an update about election litigation to a group she met with periodically.”

In the email — which Thomas sent to Eastman and to others copied whose identities have been redacted — Ginni asked the recipients if they could “present a status update to a group of grassroots state leaders on Tuesday, Dec 8th at 3:00 ET at a gathering called Frontliners that [redacted] helps me with."

She also asked for a mailing address for Christmas cards, according to the email published by Eastman.

The email matches a description of a document referenced in the litigation over the Eastman emails the committee has sought. 

The judge presiding over the case, Judge David O. Carter of the Central District of California, described in a June 6 order requiring the disclosure of certain Eastman materials to the committee four documents pertaining “to a meeting on December 8, 2020.”

Carter said that “two emails are the group’s high-profile leader inviting Dr. Eastman to speak at the meeting, and two contain the meeting’s agenda.”

“Based on the agenda, Dr. Eastman discussed ‘State legislative actions that can reverse the media-called election for Joe Biden,’” Carter said. “Another speaker gave an ‘update on [state] legislature actions regarding electoral votes.’”

4:14 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

Jan. 6 committee chair urges people with potential evidence to submit to tip line

US Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the January 6 committee, speaks on Thursday.
US Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the January 6 committee, speaks on Thursday. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the Jan. 6 select committee, urged people who might want to cooperate with the panel or have additional evidence pertaining to their investigation to submit to a tip line the committee has set up.

"I know the information we presented over the last week is shocking. The idea that a President of the United States would orchestrate a scheme to stay in power after the people had voted him out of office," Thompson said during his closing remarks. "We're able to present this information because so many witnesses have cooperated with our probe. But the fact is, there are more people with direct knowledge —with evidence —germane to our investigation. I ask those who might be on the fence about cooperating to reach out to us."

Thompson referenced the committee's website — january6th.house.gov — as the place where individuals can view the evidence that has been presented by the committee and find a tip line on the website where they can "submit any information that you might think would be helpful for our investigation."

More than 1,000 people have testified already before the committee behind closed doors, from Cabinet secretaries to low-level White House aides. 

"And despite how you may not think it's important, send us what you think," Thompson added. The chair also thanked those who have already cooperated for their "bravery and patriotism."

CNN's David Shortell contributed reporting to this post.

3:48 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

The hearing has ended 

The House Jan. 6 select committee's third hearing this month just wrapped up. 

The panel detailed how former President Donald Trump tried to pressure his vice president to join in his scheme to overturn the presidential election — and how Mike Pence's refusal put his life in danger as rioters called for Pence's hanging on Jan. 6, 2021.

The committee's next hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

3:57 p.m. ET, June 16, 2022

Pence did not want to be seen as fleeing the US Capitol on Jan. 6, former adviser testifies

From CNN's Zachary Cohen and Jeremy Herb

Then-Vice President Mike Pence is seen on his phone at a secure location during the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
Then-Vice President Mike Pence is seen on his phone at a secure location during the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. (January 6 Committee)

Former Vice President Mike Pence did not want to be seen as fleeing the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, according to testimony provided to the House Select Committee by advisers and aides who were working for him at the time.

Pence’s whereabouts on Jan. 6 as pro-Trump rioters began to breach the Capitol has been a topic of intrigue since security footage emerged showing the former vice president being evacuated from the building by his Secret Service detail.

The committee showed on Thursday images of Pence on his phone in a secure location after being evacuated and witnesses provided new details about how he resisted Secret Service orders to get into a car.

“When we got down to the secure location, secret service directed us to get into the cars, which I did, and then I noticed that the vice president had not,” Greg Jacob, former chief counsel to Pence, testified during the hearing. “So I got out of the car that I had gotten into, and I understood the vice president had refused to get into the car.”

“The head of his Secret Service detail, Tim said, ‘I assure you we’re not going to drive out of the building with your permission.’ And the vice president had said something to the effect of, ‘Tim, I know you, I trust you, but you’re not the one behind the wheel,” Jacob said.

“And the vice president did not want to take any chance that the world would see the vice president of the United States fleeing the United States Capitol. He was determined that we would complete the work that we had set out to do that day,” he added.

Jacob also said Pence and his wife Karen reacted "with frustration" that Trump never called to check on them as a mob overran the Capitol building with Pence in their sights

Pence and Trump's relationship soured deeply in the lead-up to the Jan. 6, 2021 congressional session, as Pence made clear that he would not comply with the scheme to overturn the election results that Trump was pushing. 

Trump, in turn, began to turn on his vice president in his public remarks, stirring up his supporters' anger. 

For his part, as he worked from a secure location in the Capitol, Pence reached out to congressional leaders, the acting defense secretary, and others "to check on their safety and to address the growing crisis," Aguilar said Thursday. 

CNN's David Shortell contributed reporting to this post.