Analysis: January 6 Committee uses Team Pence to try to break into Trump’s West Wing

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CNN exclusively reported on Monday that ex-Vice President Mike Pence’s former chief of staff, Marc Short, testified at length under subpoena last week. His appearance before the committee was the latest sign the panel has opened a window through Pence’s staff to events at the West Wing on January 6, 2021 and before, which Trump aides have tried to hide.

CNN also reported new details on Monday about the depth of the plot to steal President Joe Biden’s election victory. Multiple sources said Trump aides drafted two versions of an executive order to seize voting machines destined for the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. Although the orders were never issued, they flesh out the depravity of Trump’s White House dying conspiracy that had more in common with a developing world tyrant’s desperate attempt to cling to power than conduct expected of an American president.
Meanwhile, there are growing signs that he is preparing to remain a major player in the political arena and likely launch another White House bid, with his political organization announcing on Monday that it has amassed $122 million in cash reserves – an unprecedented sum for a former President.

The news of Short’s testimony, first reported by CNN’s Jamie Gangel and Gloria Borger, represents one of the most significant signs of momentum for the committee so far. This inexorably leads Pence and congressional investigators into a fateful dilemma — whether the former vice president who blocked Trump’s coup as a last resort in Congress will testify about his experience.

Short is the latest key figure in Pence’s orbit to speak in a channel that has produced first-hand access behind the scenes in the Oval Office before and during the Trump-instigated mob attack on the Capitol. Short is perhaps the most significant witness to date who is publicly known to have spoken to the committee. And by submitting to a subpoena, he deepened the schism between Pence’s team and several Trump cronies who defied the panel at risk of criminal prosecution. This split could finally shatter the inner story of January 6th.

The testimony of an ultra-loyal Pence aide will inevitably fuel further speculation about whether the former vice president will be called to testify. Even for a panel investigating one of the most notorious days in American history, such a step would be a significant escalation. Pence is potentially the most eye-catching witness possible other than Trump himself. His testimony would carry more weight with the public than that of lower-ranking officials. But it would also likely destroy the political balance he’s trying to strike between explaining his actions on January 6, 2021 and preserving his own political future with a Trump-loving base.

An essential witness

Recent committee progress, including testimony from key players and a Supreme Court victory over Trump that unlocked a stash of White House documents, has raised the likelihood of a full report on Jan. 6 that could shock the public and potentially damage the ex-President’s return hopes.

Short has been considered a potentially vital witness since he was with his boss at the Capitol on Jan. 6 when the crowd chanted “Hang Mike Pence.” He was also on the side of the then vice president during a Jan. 4 meeting between Trump and conservative lawyer John Eastman, who tried to convince Pence he had the power to overturn the election results. in Congress. Pence concluded after consulting with advisers and outsiders — including former GOP Vice Chairman Dan Quayle — that he had no such authority to act on Trump’s lies about voter fraud.

Alyssa Farah Griffin, Trump’s former White House communications director, said Short could provide key evidence to the investigation.

“What he’s going to be able to shed light on is what happened that day, the imminent danger that Vice President Pence was in,” said Farah Griffin, who is now a political commentator on CNN, in “The Lead with Jake Tapper”.

“He’s also going to be able to talk about the previous pressure campaign by President Trump and some advisers around him to try to get the vice president to take on this extra-constitutional role and kick out voters,” he said. she declared.

Short is known to be deeply loyal to Pence. For some Trump supporters, the fact that he spoke to the committee is likely to be seen as a betrayal by the ex-vice president himself.

But CNN legal analyst Elie Honig said Short could be the “perfect witness.”

“(He) has a rare combination of two attributes,” Honig said. “First, it had to be someone powerful enough, connected enough to be in the room when the conversations were happening. And second, it had to be someone who had access and power, but wasn’t blindly loyal to Trump.”

Further proof of Trump’s temper

There have been enough accounts of Trump’s tantrums in the Oval Office to dampen surprise at the revelations that he tore up crucial documents. But the former president’s contempt for history and accountability further underscores the lawlessness of his administration.

The Archives, in response to questions from CNN, said “some of Trump’s presidential records received by the National Archives and Records Administration included paper documents that were torn up by former President Trump.”

Republicans balk at defending Trump from Jan. 6 rioters, but would back him as 2024 candidate
Meanwhile, new details about the lengths some Trump advisers were willing to go to to keep him in power have emerged with CNN’s new report on voting machine executive orders from Zachary Cohen and Paula Reid.

The ploy to wield the federal government’s power to access voting machines in the states Trump lost was the brainchild of retired Col. Phil Waldron and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a former security adviser Trump’s national campaign, sources said. The two army veterans spread false information about stealing the election from Trump. Any operation allowing military or federal agents to seize voting materials for political purposes would have been unprecedented in US history.

The existence of a draft order directing the Pentagon to seize voting machines, which was first reported by Politico, emerged last month. This document was given by the National Archives to the select committee. Multiple sources now tell CNN that a second version of the document, asking DHS to perform the same task, also exists.

New evidence only raises the stakes for the committee

Frequent new revelations about January 6, more than a year later, only hint at the mountain of information the House committee already has access to and the wide range of possible questions it might have for Penny.

Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who serves on the House Select Committee, told CNN on Sunday that no decision has been made on whether to try to talk to Trump or Pence, but that ” weigh heavily” on the committee. .

Given that Short and another key aide to Pence — his former national security adviser, Keith Kellogg — have already testified before the committee, Pence may be hoping the panel will consider his aides did indeed speak for him.
Trump offers a chilling glimpse of a possible second term

Any further signs of Pence’s personal cooperation with a committee decried by Trump and House Republicans as a witch hunt would likely end what already looks like an unworkable political balancing act. In view of a possible future bid for the White House, Pence claimed he had done his constitutional duty on Jan. 6 by defying Trump’s demands to help steal the election. But he still tried to claim a share of the political heritage of the ex-president. Still, many Republicans remain skeptical about the future of a vice president who always showed ostentatious loyalty to Trump but broke with him at the last minute, in a party that remains the cult of Trump. the personality of the former president.

Just Sunday, Trump released an angry statement accusing Pence of failing to exercise nonexistent powers to simply select him as president for a second term when Congress convened to count electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump’s rant was a window into his mindset and the grave threat any further White House term would pose to American democracy as he relentlessly obsesses over his false claims that he was illegitimately coerced into leave power. But it may also have been intended to intimidate Pence into going no further with the committee.

The statement from a notoriously vengeful ex-president also suggests that as long as Trump remains a force in the GOP, Pence will never realize his hopes of reaching the White House on his own. His fate may have been settled for good when Trump told his crowd on Jan. 6 to march on Capitol Hill to force the then vice president to “do the right thing.” And Pence instead honored his duty to the Constitution.

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