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Analysis: The 16 most compelling lines from Thursday’s hearing

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Analysis: The 16 most compelling lines from Thursday’s hearing

(CNN)The third public hearing of the January 6 committee this month is in the books. It was heavily focused on the pressure campaign that Donald Trump brought to bear on Mike Pence to overturn the Electoral College results in advance of January 6, 2021.

I watched the whole thing. The lines you need to see are below. (They are organized in rough chronological order.)

1. “He knew it was illegal. He knew it was wrong. We are fortunate for Mr. Pence’s courage on January 6.” — Rep. Bennie Thompson

Thompson, the chairman of the House select committee investigating January 6, is referring to former Vice President Pence here. And, as the hearing made clear, were it not for Pence (and his general counsel Greg Jacob), the country could have descended into a civil war. No exaggeration.

2. “He did his duty. President Trump, unequivocally, did not.” — Rep. Liz Cheney

Cheney, the vice chair of the committee, makes a striking contrast here. What Pence did was uphold his first and most important duty: to follow the Constitution, whether or not that was a good thing for him, politically speaking. (It clearly was not.) Trump, on the other hand, was solely looking for a way to hold on to power, the Constitution (and everything else) be damned.

3. “The vice president’s first instinct when he heard this theory was that there was no way that our framers … would ever have put one person … in a role to have decisive impact on the outcome of the election.” — former Pence counsel Greg Jacob

As Jacob made clear repeatedly during the hearing, Pence was unwavering in his belief that the Constitution simply did not give him the power that Trump (and lawyer John Eastman) insisted that it did. And not just that he didn’t have that power, but also that he shouldn’t. Pence said as much in a speech to the Federalist Society last February: “There is no idea more un-American than the notion that one person can choose the American president.”

4. “Had the Vice President of the United States obeyed the President of the United States, America would immediately have been plunged into what would have been tantamount to a revolution within a paralyzing constitutional crisis.” — retired federal Judge J. Michael Luttig

Consider what Luttig is saying here: that if Pence had not held his ground, the country would have been thrown into utter crisis — and that we could well have been dealing with a revolution. Jacob echoed that sentiment during the hearing. Relaying a conversation he’d had with Eastman just days before the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, Jacob said this: “As I expressed to [Eastman], that issue might well then have to be decided in the streets, because if we can’t work it out politically, we’ve already seen how charged up people are about this election.”

5. “There was no support whatsoever from the Constitution or the laws of the United States for the vice president, frankly ever, to count alternative electoral slates from the states that had not been officially certified.” — J. Michael Luttig

This is about as clear as someone can be about the utter lack of legal or historical backing for what Eastman was proposing: that Pence reject the electors from key states and, in so doing, overturn the election. Also, in case you were wondering, Luttig is a Republican who was appointed to his judgeship by Republican President George H.W. Bush. So, yeah.

6. “I believe that Mark did agree. … I believe that’s what he told me.” — Pence chief of staff Marc Short

The “Mark” referenced here is Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. And what Short said that Meadows agreed on was that the vice president had no authority to overturn the election on January 6. Which, whoa.

7. “Are you out of your effing mind? … You’re completely crazy.” — former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann

This is Herschmann telling Eastman what he thinks of the theory that Pence had the power to overturn the election. Later, in the wake of the riot, Herschmann again talked to Eastman — warning him that he needed to get a good lawyer because he was in a lot of trouble. (Herschmann then hung up on Eastman.)

8. “You would have had an unprecedented constitutional jump ball.” — Greg Jacob

Jacob paints a vivid picture of what would have happened if Pence had followed the guidance of Trump (and Eastman) and thrown out electors on January 6. Jacob notes that had that happened you would have had the President pitted against the vice president with the legal system and state legislatures also in the mix but unable to conclusively decide how this all ended.

9. “Wouldn’t it almost be cool to have that kind of power?” — Donald Trump

That’s the question that Trump asked of Pence in the days leading up to January 6, according the book “Peril” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, which California Rep. Pete Aguilar referenced at Thursday’s hearing. The quote speaks to how Trump viewed the presidency — and his life. The amount of power any one individual should hold is entirely dependent on how much power he (or she) can grab for themselves. There’s no room in that calculation, of course, for any semblance of greater good. Not even close.

10. “We were shocked and disappointed.” — Greg Jacob

This is a reference to a January 5 statement in which Trump insisted Pence was in “total agreement” that he had the power to intervene in the Electoral College vote count. Pence, in a meeting with Trump earlier that day, had made clear he believed the exact opposite, according to Jacob. So Trump simply lied — because that’s what he wanted to believe.

11. “Wimp.” — Donald Trump, according to testimony

Trump called Pence on the morning of January 6. It was, according to Ivanka Trump, who was in the Oval Office, a “pretty heated” conversation. Former White House assistant Nicholas Luna said he heard the President tell Pence that he would be a “wimp” if he didn’t overturn the election results. Julie Radford, an aide to Ivanka Trump, testified to the committee that Donald Trump also had called Pence “the ‘p’ word” on that call.

12. “Make no mistake about the fact that the vice president’s life was in danger.” — Rep. Pete Aguilar

In a stunning bit of re-creation of the scene at the US Capitol and Pence’s movements that day, Aguilar documented how, at one point, Pence was only 40 feet from the rioters, some of whom were chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.” And, not for nothing, a gallows had been constructed by the insurrectionists outside the Capitol.

13. “Frustration.” — Marc Short

Short detailed a conversation he’d had with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the riot. In that call, Short said McCarthy expressed “frustration” that the White House was not doing more to stop what was happening at the Capitol. That recollection is notable because there are two different versions of a separate call McCarthy had with Trump that day. In one, McCarthy engaged in an “expletive-laced” conversation with Trump. In the other, pushed by McCarthy, he was the first person to alert Trump to the riot and the President pledged to put an end to it.

14. “That’s rubber room stuff.” — Mike Pence, according to testimony

In the immediate aftermath of the riot, Eastman reached out to Jacob and again pushed the idea that Pence could call for a 10-day pause on the counting of Electoral College votes and send the issue back to the state legislatures for them to examine the vote counts. Pence was, um, not a fan of that proposal, as Jacob recalled.

15. “Fifth.” — John Eastman

During his testimony — such as it was — before the January 6 committee, Eastman pleaded the Fifth Amendment, which protects an individual from self-incrimination, more than 100 times, according to Aguilar. 100!

16. “I’ve decided I should be on the pardon list if that’s still in the works.” — John Eastman, according to testimony

Days after the riot, Eastman reached out to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani over email to see if he could be considered for a presidential pardon before Trump left office on January 20, according to Aguilar. Which is, um, not the sort of thing a person utterly convinced of his innocence does.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the distance between Pence and rioters. It was 40 feet.

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Analysis: The 16 most compelling lines from Thursday’s hearing

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