Aides said the hearing would include new materials and documents about Pence’s movements on January 6 and what he was doing when the Senate chamber was forced to evacuate after rioters breached the US Capitol.
Pence will be the focus, but not there
One person who will be noticeably absent Thursday is the former vice president himself.
Earlier this year, the committee’s chairman, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, had suggested the committee would seek testimony from Pence. Still, the prospect of Pence appearing before the committee, particularly in public, has always been viewed as a long shot — to say the least.
But as the committee makes its case that Trump was pushing his vice president to unilaterally overturn the election on January 6, Pence’s absence will undoubtedly be felt.
Asked Wednesday if the committee is still interested in hearing from Pence himself, committee aides demurred, telling reporters the investigation is ongoing and therefore they cannot provide details about any engagement with a particular witness.
“Nothing new to share on that, other than we continue to search for facts and if there is more to share, we’ll share it in the future,” one of the aides said.
Pence is expected to travel to Ohio on Thursday for a roundtable discussion about energy.
A judge and a lawyer
The two witnesses appearing Thursday, Jacob and Luttig, each played a key role in helping Pence stand up to Trump’s pressure campaign. And both can speak to how Trump and his allies were warned that his plan for Pence to throw out electoral votes on January 6 was illegal.
Pence cited Luttig’s statement in the letter released January 6 explaining why he would not stop the certification of the election.
Jacob also played a role behind the scenes on January 6 while he was being evacuated from the Senate with Pence, exchanging heated emails over what was sweating, which were revealed in court filings.
Eastman responded: “The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss did not do what was necessary to allow this to be aired in a public way so that the American people can see for themselves what happened.”
Short, Pence’s former top aide, spoke to the committee via deposition, and committee aides said they expect to use portions of his interview during Thursday’s hearing. But there’s no indication the committee will call him to testify during the public hearings.
It’s not unlike how the committee featured former Attorney General William Barr’s deposition during Monday’s hearing but did not have him appear for public testimony.
‘A great effective criminal defense lawyer’
The committee previewed its Thursday hearing by releasing a video clip from its deposition of Herschmann.
In the clip, Herschmann outlines how he warned Eastman to back off plans to file appeals in Georgia based on the election results after the events of January 6, 2021.
“He started to ask me about something dealing with Georgia and preserving something, potentially, for appeal,” Herschmann says in the video. “And I said to him, ‘Are you out of your effing mind? Because I only want to hear two words coming out of your mouth from now on: orderly transition.’ I said, ‘I don’t want to hear any other effing words coming out of your mouth no matter what, other than ‘orderly transition.’ Repeat those words to me.”
He then goes on to warn Eastman that his actions could potentially be against the law.
“Eventually he said, ‘Orderly transition.’ I said, ‘Good, John. Now I’m gonna give you the best free legal advice you’re ever getting in your life: Get a great effing criminal defense lawyer. You’re gonna need it.’ And I hung up on him.”
The video likely foreshadows what will be an underlying theme of Thursday’s hearing as the committee plans to highlight how Trump continued to embrace Eastman’s plan for overturning the election despite the insistence from his top lawyers that it was not sound legal advice.
Staff attorney will ask questions Thursday
The format of Thursday’s hearing will have a new wrinkle, according to committee aides: Committee counsel John Wood will do some of the questioning of witnesses.
The inclusion of a staff attorney harkens back to House Democrats’ impeachment hearings in 2019, when staff attorneys conducted lengthy questioning of witnesses before the more traditional five-minute rounds were used for House lawmakers.
The select committee has limited who has spoken at the hearings so far, with one member focused on leading each session. On Thursday, Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar in California will have that task.
The committee postponed its planned hearing on Wednesday, which was to have focused on the Justice Department. Now it will hold two hearings next week, and more are likely to come the following week, though the committee has yet to announce specific times or topics for those.