Jan. 6 panel airs evidence of more GOP lawmaker pardon requests
'The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you've committed a crime,' committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger said
Five Republican members of Congress requested pardons from former President Donald Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, according to evidence presented Thursday by a House select committee.
The panel investigating the attack presented emails and video testimony that Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania asked for pardons.
“The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you've committed a crime,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said near the end of a more-than-two-hour hearing that focused mainly on the Justice Department.
The revelations come as the panel presented further testimony about Trump’s broader campaign to overturn his loss to President Joe Biden in the leadup to the attack.
After the hearing, Kinzinger deflected a reporter’s question about what conduct the Republican members of Congress may have had in mind when requesting pardons.
“I won't go any deeper than what we've presented. But look, all I know is if you're innocent, you're probably not going to go out and seek a pardon,” Kinzinger told the media after the hearing. “So we'll let them speak to that, and they can answer those questions.”
The revelations Thursday expanded on comments from the committee’s first hearing. Back then, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said Perry and “multiple” members of Congress had requested pardons following the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, but she did not provide evidence or name the other members.
During Thursday’s hearing, the committee presented excerpts from a Jan. 11, 2021, email from Brooks to the White House titled “Pardons,” which said, “President Trump asked me to send you this letter. This letter is also pursuant to a request from Matt Gaetz.”
Brooks’ email also requested that Trump provide “general (all purpose)” pardons to several people, including all members of Congress who voted against certifying the Electoral College votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Brooks issued a statement after Thursday’s hearing that said he would agree to sit for a deposition with the committee as long as it met five conditions. Those conditions included that only members of Congress could pose questions and that questions would be limited to the events of Jan. 6.
“Quite frankly, I don’t believe I have knowledge of January 6 events that are not already known or that add to what the Committee already knows," Brooks wrote.
Brooks’ email and other testimony also mentioned a pardon request from Gaetz. The committee aired deposition clips in which three former officials — Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; John McEntee, the former director of the Office of Presidential Personnel; and Eric Herschmann, a former White House attorney — testified that Gaetz had requested a pardon.
Hutchinson said Brooks and Gaetz both advocated for a “blanket pardon” for members of Congress who were at a Dec. 21 meeting between several Republican members of Congress and Trump.
Herschmann said Gaetz had requested a pardon because “we may get prosecuted because we were defensive of the president’s position on these things.”
Gaetz’s requested pardon “was as broad as you could describe, from the beginning of time up until today,” Herschmann said. “I think, of all things, he mentioned Nixon, and I said, ‘Nixon’s pardon was never nearly that broad.’”
McEntee also testified that Gaetz said he had requested a pardon from Trump.
Gaetz tweeted out a response to the committee’s testimony Thursday, echoing other Republican criticisms of the panel’s legitimacy. “The January 6 Committee is an unconstitutional political sideshow. It is rapidly losing the interest of the American people and now resorts to siccing federal law enforcement on political opponents,” Gaetz tweeted.
Hutchinson also testified that Gohmert had sought a presidential pardon. Gohmert, an outspoken Trump ally who repeated the former president’s claims of election fraud, was also named several times during Thursday’s hearing.
Gohmert also launched a lawsuit against Vice President Mike Pence on Dec. 27, 2021, arguing Pence could assert sole control over the certification of the 2020 election results, which was later rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
Hutchinson also testified that Biggs and Perry requested a pardon.
Perry, in a statement issued Thursday evening, denied that he had ever requested a pardon from Trump.
“I stand by my statement that I never sought a Presidential pardon for myself or other Members of Congress. At no time did I speak with Miss Hutchinson, a White House scheduler, nor any White House staff about a pardon for myself or any other Member of Congress — this never happened," Perry said.
Representatives for Gohmert, Biggs and Brooks did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Members and DOJ
Thursday’s hearing mostly focused on Trump’s effort to pressure Justice Department officials to parrot his false claims about electoral fraud and those same officials’ resistance to his claims.
Trump reportedly invoked his allies in Congress during one call with former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue urging the Justice Department to intervene in the election.
Donoghue testified to the committee Thursday that Trump said, “Just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.”
Donoghue and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen mentioned Perry several times as being involved with elevating former Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Clark, who was serving as acting head of the department’s civil division in December 2020.
Donoghue said at one point he had a phone conversation with Perry, apparently at Trump’s request, in which Perry discussed elevating Clark to acting attorney general.
“[Perry] said something to the effect of ‘I think Jeff Clark is great. and I think he's the kind of guy who could get in there and do something about this stuff,’” Donoghue said.
Perry was also named in a Senate Judiciary Committee staff report on the attack released last year. The report said Perry connected Clark, who was a Justice Department attorney at the time, with Trump.
The Jan. 6 committee also showed several texts between Perry and Meadows in which Perry advocated for Trump to elevate Clark.
Perry also texted Meadows on Dec. 31 about what Kinzinger called a “wild, baseless” theory that votes were changed in Italy from Biden to Trump.
Kinzinger noted a meeting Trump had Dec. 21 with Republican members of Congress, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., Perry and others. Kinzinger said White House records showed Perry met with Clark and Trump later that day.
Cheney noted that Perry had refused to cooperate with the committee, including after it issued a subpoena for his testimony.
The committee sought information about his attempts to elevate Clark as well as his communications with Meadows, according to a letter the panel published last year.