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Jan. 6 hearing examined lawyer who pushed plan for Pence to overturn election results

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The threat to democracy that was present on January 6 isn't over. That was the message from a former federal judge, Michael Luttig, at the end of today's hearing by the House January 6 committee.

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MICHAEL LUTTIG: Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.

SHAPIRO: Among today's revelations, a lawyer who pushed a plan for former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results of the 2020 election admitted it wouldn't stand up in court, was warned it could cause violence. And he pressed on anyway. NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh has been following the hearings and is here in the studio now. Hi, Deirdre.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: That lawyer I mentioned was John Eastman, who was pushing a memo with a plan for Pence to overturn the election results. What did we learn about him today?

WALSH: Well, today's hearing featured testimony from Greg Jacobs. He was Pence's White House attorney, and he spent a lot of time talking to Eastman about this theory that he was pushing. Jacob was clear, after doing a lot of research, that the Constitution would not allow in any way for Pence to overturn the results. He had repeated meetings with Eastman, and he pushed back. He recalled telling Eastman in one meeting the day before the January 6 attack that his plan would lose nine to nothing in the Supreme Court and said Eastman basically admitted that he was right, that Jacob was right. Eastman was shown today that he just wouldn't back down even after he heard a conversation with another White House lawyer, Eric Herschmann. Let's listen to Herschmann now.

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ERIC HERSCHMANN: I said, you're going to cause riots in the streets. And he said words to the effect of, there has been violence in the history of our country, Eric, to protect the democracy or protect the republic.

WALSH: The committee also revealed today that there was an email where - to Rudy Giuliani where Eastman said he wanted to get a presidential pardon after January 6. He did not get one.

SHAPIRO: I think one scene from January 6 that everybody will remember is rioters chanting, hang Mike Pence. What did we learn today about what was happening behind the scenes in that moment?

WALSH: We got a lot of detailed information about what was going on at the White House. There were staffers in the White House press office, staffers in the chief of staff Mark Meadows' office who were worried about the escalating violence. Some of them worked as staffers on the Hill and knew how bad it was getting. When they gathered together to say that it was time for the president to send a tweet directing the protesters to stand down, they looked at their phones, and they saw a notification that he actually had sent a tweet. But instead he called out Mike Pence for not being loyal to him. And here's what White House press aide Sarah Matthews said about that.

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SARAH MATTHEWS: The situation was already bad, and so it felt like he was pouring gasoline on the fire by tweeting that.

SHAPIRO: Now, you mentioned that there was talk of the Supreme Court, and it sounds like the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas might speak to the committee soon. What can you tell us about that?

WALSH: Well, last night The Washington Post reported that the committee has evidence that Ginni Thomas was in touch with John Eastman, that there was correspondence between the two of them. We already knew that Thomas had text - been texting Mark Meadows. The committee has text messages from them.

SHAPIRO: Chief of staff to the president.

WALSH: Correct. Today the chairman of the committee, Bennie Thompson, said he wants the committee to talk to Ginni Thomas. And I talked to an aide to the vice chair, Liz Cheney, who also agrees. We know that Thomas has now said that she's open. She told The Daily Caller that she's open to coming in and maybe clearing up some of these misconceptions. But, you know, there's going to be a lot of interest in that deposition.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. What would that increased scrutiny on her mean for her husband, Clarence Thomas?

WALSH: You know, there's no evidence directly linking Ginni Thomas' activities to her husband, the Supreme Court justice. But it raises so many questions about ethics at the Supreme Court. They don't really - they have very, you know, loose rules about when they recuse themselves from cases. Justice Thomas did not recuse himself from matters related to January 6. And we know that he talks about his wife, Ginni Thomas, as, quote, his best friend. It's worth noting that Justice Thomas dissented in key cases after the election when the court ruled against the former president.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Thank you for your reporting.

WALSH: Thanks, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
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