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The panel provides new evidence that GOP members of Congress sought pardon

Written by Javed Iqbal

At least half a dozen Republican members of Congress sought preventive pardon from President Donald J. Trump as he fought to remain in office after his defeat in the 2020 election, witnesses told the House of Representatives committee on Jan. 6, the panel revealed Thursday. .

Mr. Trump “had hinted at a general pardon for the Jan. 6 thing for anyone,” testified Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff for the president, Johnny McEntee.

Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, appeared to be asking for a broad pardon, not limited to his role in Mr. Trump’s efforts to reverse the election outcome. Mr. Gaetz even relied on the pardoned former president Richard M. Nixon when he did, testified Eric Herschmann, a White House lawyer for Mr. Trump.

“He mentioned Nixon, and I said, ‘Nixon’s pardon was never nearly as broad,'” Mr Herschmann said.

Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama sent an email seeking a preventative pardon to all 147 members of Congress who objected to the certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Electoral College victory.

A former adviser to Mark Meadows, Cassidy Hutchinson, testified that Mr. Gaetz, Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas, Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, and Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona all expressed interest in the pardon.

She also testified that Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio “talked about” pardons but did not directly ask for one, and that she heard about the newly elected Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who also expressed interest in the White House law firm.

Together, the former White House aides portrayed members of Congress concerned about potential exposure to prosecution in the wake of their support for Mr. Trump’s attempt to stay in power. And the accounts provided an extraordinary portrait under penalty-of-intent of efforts to use a president’s broad powers of grace for naked political purposes.

In a statement, Mr. Perry to seek pardon. “I stand by my statement that I have never sought a presidential pardon for myself or other members of Congress,” he said. “At no time did I speak to Miss Hutchinson, a White House planner, or any White House staffer about a pardon to myself or any other member of Congress – this never happened.”

Ms. Greene posted a clip of Ms. Hutchinson on Twitter, adding: “Saying ‘I’ve heard’ means you do not know. Spreading gossip and lies is exactly what the Witch Hunt Committee on January 6 is all about.” Mr. Gohmert also declined to make such a request and condemned the committee for how it has set itself up. Mr. Biggs similarly said that Ms Hutchinson was “mistaken” and that her testimony was edited “fraudulently.”

Mr. Gaetz did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Brooks confirmed that he was seeking a pardon, but said it was because he believed the Justice Department would be “abused” by the Biden administration. He published the letter he sent to the White House, in which he said he wrote the request in writing following instructions from Mr. Trump.

The fact that it had evidence that pardons were under discussion was advanced by the committee at a previous hearing. And the panel has previously revealed that a key figure in Mr. Trump’s efforts to undermine the election results, Conservative lawyer John Eastman, had sent an email to another Trump lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, after the Capitol riot, asking to be “on the pardon list if it is still under occupation.”

Mr. Eastman appeared before the committee and repeatedly invoked his fifth amendment against self-incrimination.

It is unclear whether Mr Gaetz’s reported request for a general pardon was driven by concerns about his attempt to overturn the election or other potential crime. At the time Mr Gaetz made the request, he had just been investigated by the Ministry of Justice for sex smuggling of a minor. He has not been charged.

The question of who received pardons, and for what, was a source of enormous consternation in the last days of Trump’s White House. The House’s select committee uses the information about the pardons to describe a broader effort to protect people who performed Mr. Trump’s wishes.

In his final weeks, Mr. Trump randomly pardons former aides who were shocked because they were not sure what he thought they had done that was criminal, two former officials have said.

Among the concerns cited by Mr Brooks was that he and other Republicans would be hit by a future Justice Department when he asked for pardon for opponents of the certification, as well as supporters of a lawsuit that Mr. Gohmert brought to press Vice President Mike Pence will reject Mr Biden’s victory on January 6.

The White House law firm and Mr. Herschmann argued vehemently against the pardons to members of Congress, and Mr. Trump did not grant them.

With only hours left in office, Mr. Trump a pardon to Stephen K. Bannon, his former White House counselwipe out federal charges that accused Mr. Bannon of deceiving political donors who supported the construction of a border wall, which Mr. Trump had pushed for.

In the weeks leading up to the pardon, Mr Bannon had taken an active role in trying to keep Mr Trump in office by promoting his allegations of fraud. He also helped devise a plan – later known as the Green Bay Sweep – to persuade members of Congress to block the normal counting of Electoral College votes by repeatedly challenging the results in various swing states.

Mr. Trump also gave pardons to his allies, who were targets for investigating whether his campaign conspired with Russian officials in 2016. Some of them were supporters who also supported and intensified his efforts to stay in power.

One was Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his dealings with a Russian diplomat. The case was later dropped due to concerns about procedural issues.

During the weeks following his pardon around Thanksgiving in 2020, Mr. Flynn at so-called Stop the Steal meetings and spoke in support of Mr. Trump’s unfounded allegations that the election had been stolen. In collaboration with others like business manager Patrick Byrne and pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, Mr. Flynn also made an effort to persuade Mr. Trump to use his national security apparatus to seize voting machines across the country in an attempt to eventually re-run parts. of the election.

At the end of December 2020, Mr. Trump granted a pardon to Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime ally and informal adviser who had been investigated in connection with the Russia investigation and maintained his innocence. That move came five months after Mr. Trump transformed Mr. Stones 40-month jail term derived from his conviction on charges of obstructing a congressional inquiry into Mr. Trump’s campaign in 2016 and possible ties to Russia.

Like Mr. Flynn used Mr. Stone’s social media and speech engagements at the Stop the Steal meetings to reinforce and strengthen Mr. Trump’s false claims about the election. Mr. Stone has denied that he had any personal role in inciting the violence that day.

Luke Broadwater contributed with reporting.

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Javed Iqbal

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