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Panel provides new evidence GOP members of Congress asked for forgiveness


At least half a dozen Republican members of Congress have sought a precautionary pardon from President Donald J. Trump as he struggles to stay in office following his 2020 election loss, witnesses told the House committee on May 6 January, the panel revealed Thursday. .

Mr. Trump “had hinted at a blanket pardon for the Jan. 6 matter for anyone,” said Mr. Trump’s former presidential staff chief, Johnny McEntee.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, appeared to ask for a broad pardon, not limited to his role in Mr. Trump’s efforts to reverse the election result. Mr. Gaetz even invoked pardoned former President Richard M. Nixon as he did, testified Eric Herschmann, a White House lawyer for Mr. Trump.

“He mentioned Nixon, and I said, ‘Nixon’s forgiveness has never been wider,'” Mr. Herschmann recounted.

Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama sent an email seeking a preemptive pardon for the 147 members of Congress who opposed certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Electoral College victory.

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

She also testified that Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio “spoke” about pardons but did not directly ask for them, and that she heard of newly elected Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia also expressing interest in the office of the White House legal counsel.

Taken together, the former White House aides portrayed members of Congress concerned about potential exposure to lawsuits following their support for Mr Trump’s attempts to stay in power. And the accounts have provided an extraordinary portrait, under penalty of perjury, of efforts to use a president’s broad clemency powers for purely political purposes.

In a statement, Mr Perry denied asking for a 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 staff member about a pardon for myself or any other member of Congress – it does not is ever produced.”

Ms Greene posted a clip of Ms Hutchinson on Twitter and added: ‘Saying ‘I heard’ means you don’t know. Spreading gossip and lies is exactly the goal of the January 6 Witch Hunt Committee. And Mr Brooks confirmed he asked for a pardon, but said it was because he believed the Justice Department would be “abused” by the Biden administration.

The fact that he had evidence that pardons were being discussed was anticipated by the committee at an earlier hearing. And the panel previously revealed that a key figure in Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results, conservative lawyer John Eastman, emailed fellow Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani , after the Capitol Riot, asking to be “on the pardon list, if that’s still ongoing.

Mr. Eastman appeared before the committee and repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

It is unclear whether Mr Gaetz’s request for a blanket pardon was prompted by concerns about his attempts to nullify the election or other potential wrongdoing. At the time Mr. Gaetz made the request, he had just been investigated by the Justice Department for sex trafficking a minor. He has not been charged.

The question of who was getting pardons, and for what, was a source of enormous consternation in the final days of the Trump White House. The House Select Committee is using the pardon information to outline a broader effort to protect people who carried out Mr. Trump’s wishes.

In his final weeks, Mr. Trump randomly offered pardons to former aides who were shocked because they weren’t sure what he thought was criminal, two former officials said. .

Among the concerns Mr Brooks cited was that he and other Republicans would be targeted by a new Justice Department, as he apologized to opponents of certification, as well as supporters of a lawsuit Mr. Gohmert filed to pressure the vice president. Mike Pence will reject Mr. Biden’s victory on January 6.

The White House legal counsel’s office and Mr. Herschmann have vigorously opposed the pardons granted to members of Congress, and Mr. Trump has not granted them.

With just hours left in office, Mr. Trump pardoned Stephen K. Bannon, his former White House adviser, quashing federal charges that accused Mr. Bannon of defrauding political donors who supported the construction of a border wall that 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 power by promoting his fraud allegations. He also helped devise a plan—later known as the Green Bay Sweep—to persuade members of Congress to block the normal Electoral College vote count by repeatedly challenging results in various swing states.

Mr. Trump also pardoned his allies who were the target of the probe into whether his campaign conspired with Russian officials in 2016. Some of them were supporters who also backed and amplified his efforts to stay at home. power.

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

In the weeks since his pardon around Thanksgiving in 2020, Mr Flynn appeared at so-called Stop the Steal rallies, speaking out in support of Mr Trump’s baseless claims that the election had been stolen. Working with others like business executive Patrick Byrne and pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, Mr. Flynn has also promoted an effort to persuade Mr. Trump to use his national security apparatus to seize voting machines. across the country with the goal of eventually re-running parts of the election.

In late December 2020, Mr. Trump pardoned Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime ally and informal adviser, who had been investigated as part of the Russia probe and maintained his innocence. . The move came five months after Mr. Trump commuted Mr. Stone’s 40-month sentence stemming from his conviction for obstructing a congressional investigation into Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and possible ties to Russia.

Like Mr. Flynn, Mr. Stone has used social media and speaking engagements at Stop the Steal rallies to amplify and reinforce Mr. Trump’s false claims about the election. Mr. Stone categorically denied playing any personal role in fomenting the violence that day.

Luke Broadwater contributed report.

nytimes

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