During its third day of hearings, the House January 6 Committee focused on the ways that it claimed President Donald Trump put Vice President Mike Pence’s life “in danger” during the January 6 Capitol breach, particularly emphasizing behind-the-scenes debates about using an ambiguous clause of the 12th amendment to halt certification of electors from contested states.
“We’re going to show that that pressure campaign directly contributed to the attack on the Capitol, and it put the vice president’s life in danger,” a committee aide told reporters during a June 15 conference call in advance of the hearing.
Specifically, the commission presented information gathered from testimony showing what went on behind the scenes in the lead-up to the Capitol breach, making the case that, through his efforts to pressure Pence, Trump had aided in escalating violence at the Capitol and endangering the then-vice president’s life.
Pence, Trump Factions Tussled Over Certification of Electors
The key issue presented during the third day of hearings revolved around the efforts of Trump and some of his allies to have Pence stop the certification of electoral votes until claims of widespread election fraud had been adjudicated.
Under the text of the 12th Amendment, Trump allies argued, Pence was legally granted the power to hold off the certification of electoral votes; others in and around the White House, however, rejected this claim.
In the end, Pence sided with those rejecting Trump’s claim—a decision he explained in a February interview with The Federalist Society.
“I heard this week that President Trump said I had the right to overturn the election. President Trump is wrong,” Pence said in February.
“There are those in our party who believe that as the presiding officer over the joint session of Congress that I possess unilateral authority to reject Electoral College votes.”
“I had no right to change the outcome of our election,” Pence said, rejecting the claim. “Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.”
Trump, for his part, maintained Pence’s right to refuse certification until the end, when Pence ultimately sided against him.
The committee ultimately presented the issue as a legally-unambiguous one, but proponents of the Trump camp have pointed to past elections, including the fraught elections of 1876 and 1960, as bolstering their claim.
At best, the issue remains legally disputed, despite the presentation given by the January 6 panel.
Commission Argues That Pence’s Life Was Endangered By Trump
The January 6 commission argued that Trump’s electoral certification claim was a root cause of the violence on Jan. 6, 2021, and, presenting never-before-seen photos, videos, and testimony, argued that the claim put Pence in greater danger than was previously realized.
The commission cited a Jan. 6, 2021, tweet by Trump as a key impetus for burgeoning violence at the Capitol.
In that tweet, sent after violence had begun to break out, Trump blasted Pence for refusing to reject the certification of electors from battleground states.
Trump wrote: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
This tweet, said Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), provoked an escalation in violence among the crowds.
After the protest escalated, videos and photos from the day show, Secret Service agents became concerned for Pence’s safety, and the vice president and his entourage were escorted from the Senate chamber to a secure location a few floors down.
Trump, Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) argued, “turned the mob” on Pence after his refusal to follow Trump’s request.
Thursday’s hearing, the third such hearing by the January 6 committee, continued its trend of placing the blame for the Capitol breach squarely on the shoulders of Trump, which some have argued has been overly partisan.
For example, many GOP critics of the panel point to repeated refusals by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her staff to bolster the Capitol’s defenses with National Guardsmen, despite a series of requests by Capitol Police leaders.
These refusals, Republicans have said, will form the backbone of GOP investigations into January 6 if they take the House in November.