Two weeks ago, when the Jan. 6 committee kicked off a series of hearings with a prime-time presentation, Rep. Liz Cheney raised a highly provocative claim: Multiple House Republicans sought presidential pardons “for their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.”
The vice chair of the bipartisan panel didn’t go into detail, though she specifically said Rep. Scott Perry was one of the members who wanted a pardon from Donald Trump — an assertion the far-right Pennsylvanian’s office described as “a ludicrous and soulless lie.”
There’s now reason to believe otherwise. NBC News reported:
At its first public hearing, the Jan. 6 committee teased that multiple Republican lawmakers had asked then-President Donald Trump for pardons for their roles in the effort to overturn the 2020 election. On Thursday, the panel named names and offered specific details about how those requests were made.
The list includes some high profile far-right Republicans who made no effort to hide their close allegiance to Team Trump:
- Andy Biggs of Arizona
- Mo Brooks of Alabama
- Matt Gaetz of Florida
- Louie Gohmert of Texas
- Scott Perry of Pennsylvania
- Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia
The evidence presented during yesterday’s hearing was compelling, in large part because it came from sworn testimony delivered by White House insiders, none of whom had any obvious incentive to lie.
Eric Herschmann, a prominent attorney in the Trump White House, for example, said he specifically remembered Gaetz seeking an expansive pardon, which would cover conduct “from the beginning of time up until today, for any and all things.” (The Florida Republican is currently facing a criminal investigation for alleged misdeeds that have nothing to do with Jan. 6.)
John McEntee, who was the personnel director in the Trump White House, added that he knows Gaetz sought a pardon “because he told me.”
Another Trump White House official, Cassidy Hutchinson, testified that several of the GOP lawmakers who sought pardons participated in a Dec. 21, 2020, strategy discussion about how to overturn the election. “Mr. Gaetz was personally pushing for a pardon, and he was doing so since early December,” she told investigators.
Hutchinson proceeded to reference a series of other House Republicans by name, including Brooks, Biggs, and Gohmert. She further testified that Perry spoke with her directly about a possible pardon.
As for Greene, who wasn’t sworn in as a member of Congress until Jan. 3, 2021, Hutchinson said it was her understanding that the Georgian had "asked the White House counsel’s office for a pardon."
To be sure, it matters that there was no follow-through and Trump, who had no qualms about abusing his pardon powers, did not give any of these members preemptive get-out-of-jail free cards. But it also matters that they appeared to be so concerned about their criminal exposure and possible prosecution that they sought presidential pardons after participating in a plot against our democracy.
As Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who helped take the lead in yesterday’s hearing, summarized, “The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you’ve committed a crime.”
And what, pray tell, did these members have to say in the wake of these developments? As it turns out, they weren’t all on the same page.
Brooks, for example, publicly admitted that he did seek a pardon — he even released a copy of the email he sent on Jan. 11, 2021, with the word “pardon” in subject line — and recommended “all purpose” pardons for every Republican who rejected the election results.
Biggs, meanwhile, said Hutchinson’s version of events was not true. Perry again denied ever seeking a pardon, as did Gohmert. Greene dismissed the allegations as “gossip.”
For his part, Gaetz said the committee is “unconstitutional,” which isn’t true, and which didn’t address the underlying controversy.
It’s worth emphasizing that none of these House Republicans have been willing to do what their accusers did: testify under oath. [Update: Brooks signaled yesterday a willingness to testify, but only if his demands are met.]
Each of these members are seeking re-election in the fall. They’re favored to win, despite their efforts to undermine our democracy.