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Jan 6 hearings live: Trump is ‘clear and present danger to American democracy’, conservative judge warns

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LIVE – Updated at 22:04

J Michael Luttig, one of the top conservative legal minds, says Trump and his supporters would attempt to overturn the 2024 election.

Closing summary

 

21:37 Oliver Milman

Biden campaigned on fighting climate change, but many of his proposals to do that have stalled in Congress. The Guardian’s Oliver Milman reports that whether or not Washington takes meaningful action to cut its emissions may determine if millions of people live or die:

The rapidly shrinking window of opportunity for the US to pass significant climate legislation will have mortal, as well as political, stakes. Millions of lives around the world will be saved, or lost, depending on whether America manages to propel itself towards a future without planet-heating emissions.

For the first time, researchers have calculated exactly how many people the US could save by acting on the climate crisis. A total of 7.4 million lives around the world will be saved over this century if the US manages to cut its emissions to net zero by 2050, according to the analysis.

The financial savings would be enormous, too, with a net zero America able to save the world $3.7tn in costs to adapt to the rising heat. As the world’s second largest polluter of greenhouse gases, the US and its political vagaries will in large part decide how many people in faraway countries will be subjected to deadly heat, as well as endure punishing storms, floods, drought and other consequences of the climate emergency.

Related: How millions of lives can be saved if the US acts now on climate

Recession ‘not inevitable,’ Biden says in interview

President Joe Biden has defended his economic record in an interview with the Associated Press, downplaying the risk of a recession but acknowledging that many Americans are going through hard times.

Biden doesn’t grant very many interviews, and this encounter comes after a slew of grim economic developments. These include worse-than-expected inflation numbers in May that show prices continuing to rise, gasoline at a record high and aggressive Federal Reserve action that’s raised fears the economy could be set for a prolonged contraction.

All of these have been factors in his record-low approval ratings.

Here’s the president’s perspective on the state of the world’s largest economy:

He said a recession is not inevitable and bristled at claims by Republican lawmakers that last year’s COVID-19 aid plan was fully to blame for inflation reaching a 40-year high, calling that argument “bizarre.”

As for the overall American mindset, Biden said, “People are really, really down.”

“They’re really down,” he said. “The need for mental health in America, it has skyrocketed, because people have seen everything upset. Everything they’ve counted on upset. But most of it’s the consequence of what’s happened, what happened as a consequence of the COVID crisis.”

Speaking to the AP in a 30-minute Oval Office interview, Biden addressed the warnings by economists that the United States could be headed for a recession.

“First of all, it’s not inevitable,” he said. “Secondly, we’re in a stronger position than any nation in the world to overcome this inflation.”

The president said he saw reason for optimism with the 3.6% unemployment rate and America’s relative strength in the world.

“Be confident, because I am confident we’re better positioned than any country in the world to own the second quarter of the 21st century,” Biden said. “That’s not hyperbole, that’s a fact.”

Eastman sought pardon from Trump before he left office

The January 6 committee has concluded for the day, but before they finished, they revealed a key piece of information about the conduct of John Eastman, the lawyer who crafted former president Donald Trump’s strategy to overturn the election in 2020.

Eastman sought a pardon from Trump in the closing days of his presidency, writing to Rudy Giuliani, another lawyer for the president, “I’ve decided that I should be on the pardoned list, if that is still in the works.” The committee added that he did not receive one.

Eastman’s actions were covered in detail at today’s hearing, particularly his efforts to convince Mike Pence that his position as vice-president gave him the authority to hand the election to Trump when Congress met to certify on January 6, 2021. Pence declined to do that.

Related: Trump lawyer knew plan to delay Biden certification was unlawful, emails show

 

The committee is detailing the pressure campaign against Pence, focusing now on a 4 January 2021 meeting called by Trump to discuss the joint session of Congress two days ahead.

© Provided by The Guardian Greg Jacob, former counsel to vice-president Mike Pence, is testifying before January 6 committee. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Eastman attended the meeting between the two leaders, and Jacob said the lawyer presented Pence with two options available to him on January 6.

“One of them was that he could reject electoral votes outright,” said Jacob, who was Pence’s counsel at the time and attended the meeting along with Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short and, briefly, Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows.

“The other was that he could use his capacity as presiding officer to suspend the proceedings and declare essentially a 10-day recess,” Jacob said.

During that period, “states that he deems to be disputed — there was a list of five to seven states that the exact number changed from conversation to conversation — but that the vice-president could issue a demand to the state legislatures in those states to reexamine the election and declare who had won each of those states,” Jacob said.

Eastman “did not recommend what he called the more aggressive option” of rejecting the electoral votes entirely “because he thought that that would be less politically palatable,” Jacob said.

While he wouldn’t discuss what he heard Trump and Pence speak about, Jacob said the vice-president rejected Eastman’s argument. “The vice-president never budged from the position that I have described as his first instinct, which was that it just made no sense from everything that he knew and had studied about our Constitution, that one person would have that kind of authority.”

Trump ‘clear and present danger to democracy,’ top conservative judge warns

J Michael Luttig, a former US appellate court judge who is considered one of the top conservative legal minds in the United States, has warned the January 6 committee that Donald Trump poses a continuing danger to the country’s democracy.

“Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy,” Luttig said.

“That’s not because of what happened on January 6. It’s because to this very day, the former president and his allies and supporters pledge that in presidential election of 2024, if the former president or his anointed successor as the Republican party presidential candidate were to lose that election, that they would attempt to overturn that 2024 election in the same way that they attempted to overturn the 2020 election but succeed in 2024 where they failed in 2020.”

“That’s what the former president and his allies are telling us,” Luttig said.

 

John Eastman himself has finally appeared, this time in a frosty videotaped deposition shown by the committee.

I assert my fifth amendment right against being compelled to be a witness against myself,” Eastman said in the compilation of clips from the encounter, which shows lawyers from the committee asking Eastman a series of questions about his actions around January 6.

“Fifth,” he replies to each one.

Before that aired, former White House attorney Eric Herschmann described a call from Eastman the day after the attack.

“He started to ask me about something dealing with Georgia and preserving something potentially for appeal. And I said to him, are you out of your effing mind?” Herschmann recalls.

“I only want to hear two words coming out of your mouth for now on: orderly transition,” he said he told Eastman. “I don’t want to hear any other effing words coming out of your mouth, no matter what.”

“Eventually, he said ‘orderly transition.’ I said, good, John. Now I’m going to give you the best free legal advice you’re ever getting in your life. Get a great effing criminal defense lawyer, you’re going to need it. And then I hung up on him,” Herschmann said.

 

Even after the Capitol had been stormed, Trump lawyer John Eastman continued to pressure Pence to try to overturn the election.

“I implore you one last time, can the vice-president please do what we’ve been asking him to do these last two days: suspend the joint session, send it back to the states,” Pence’s counselor Greg Jacob recalls Eastman asking, citing alleged violations of the Electoral Count Act during the joint session of Congress disrupted by the insurrection.

 

The committee is now dealing with the storming of the Capitol, showing Pence working in what looks like a loading dock after evacuating the Senate chamber as the rioters approached.

“Make no mistake about the fact that the vice-president’s life was in danger,” Representative Pete Aguilar said, pointing to an FBI affidavit from an informant in the Proud Boys militia group.

“They said that anyone they got their hands on they would have killed including Nancy Pelosi,” the informant told the FBI, adding that “members of the Proud Boys said that they would have killed Mike Pence if given a chance.”

As for Trump, Jacob said the president never called Pence to check on him, which the vice-president reacted to “with frustration.”

 

Pence started January 6 out with a prayer with his staff, followed by what witnesses described to the committee as a nasty phone call from Trump.

“The conversation was pretty heated,” testified Ivanka Trump, who saw the president on the phone.

“I remember hearing the word wimp,” Nicholas Luna, an assistant to Trump, testified. “I don’t remember, he said you are a wimp. You’ll be a wimp. Wimp is the word I remember.”

Gen Keith Kellogg, Pence’s national security advisor at the time, said Trump told the vice-president he was “not tough enough to make the call.”

 

The January 6 committee has resumed its hearing, after spending most of the past two hours detailing the pressure campaign in the days before the insurrection against vice-president Mike Pence.

Despite the fact that the vice-president consistently told the president that he did not have and would not want the power to decide the outcome of the presidential election, Donald Trump continued to pressure the vice-president, both publicly and privately,” California Democrat Pete Aguilar said as the hearing resumed.

“You will hear things reached a boiling point on January 6, and the consequences were disastrous.”

 

At Trump’s request, Pence met with Eastman again on 5 January. According to Jacob, Eastman made a new request as soon as the meeting began: “He said, ‘I’m here to request that you reject the electors.’”

That was the option that just the day before Eastman had said was “less politically palatable,” and Jacob told the committee he “was surprised, because I had viewed it as one of the key concessions that we had secured the night before from Mr Eastman, that he was not recommending that we do that.”

Jacob then recounts how he debated the legality of the approach with Eastman, concluding that if the courts didn’t declare it illegal, it would create a standoff pitting the president against the vice president, Congress, and states nationwide. The “issue might well then have to be decided in the streets. Because if we can’t work it out politically, we’ve already seen how charged up people are about this election, and so it would be a disastrous situation to be in”, Jacob said.

But Eastman wouldn’t give in. “I concluded by saying, John, in light of everything that we’ve discussed, can’t you just both agree that this is a terrible idea?” Jacob recalls telling Eastman, referring to Trump. “And he couldn’t quite bring himself to say yes to that. But he very clearly said, ‘Well, yeah, I see. We’re not going to be able to persuade you to do this.’”

Pence’s chief of staff feared Trump would ‘lash out in some way’

The January 6 committee is taking a quick break, but just before they concluded, they aired testimony from Pence’s former chief of staff Marc Short, who said he so feared for the vice-president’s safety as tensions rose with Trump that he warned the Secret Service.

“The concern was for the vice-president’s security and so I wanted to make sure the head of the vice-president’s Secret Service was aware that likely, as these disagreements became more public, that the president would lash out in some way,” Short said.

The New York Times had broken the story of Short’s concerns earlier this month.

 

The committee is now looking at the actions of John Eastman, the architect of Trump’s theory that he could overturn the election.

Eastman, an attorney who formerly taught law at Chapman University in California, is a recurring character in the January 6 inquiry. Luttig is now taking apart Eastman’s theory, which asserted that rather than certifying slates of electors from swing states that supported Biden, Pence could instead certify alternate electors from those states who would support Trump, handing him a second term.

“He was incorrect,” Luttig said, going on to say, “There was no basis in the constitution or laws of the United States at all for it, the theory espoused by Mr Eastman, at all. None.”

 

With its focus on arcane aspects of the law, this hearing is so far denser than the prior two, but the committee is sticking with its strategy: bringing out testimony from former senior Trump officials who say they never believed in the president when it came to his belief that he could win a second term.

Lawmakers have heard Luttig and Jacob roundly reject the legal theories promoted by Trump attorney Eastman, and the committee has now aired video testimony from a number of former White House officials, including Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, White House attorney Eric Herschmann and Jason Miller, a former senior adviser to Trump.

Miller put the view of Eastman’s theory most concisely with his reply when asked how other senior officials viewed it: “They thought it was crazy.”

 

Thompson has sweared in the day’s two witnesses: Greg Jacob, who was Pence’s counsel during his time in office and with him on the day of the insurrection, and J Michael Luttig, a retired judge and informal Pence adviser.

Jacob has given a lawerly assessment of the origins of the theory that Pence had the power to stop Joe Biden from assuming office.

“What you have is a sentence in the constitution that is inartfully drafted,” Jacob said.

“But the vice-president’s first instinct when he heard this theory was that there was no way that our framers, who abhorred concentrated power, who had broken away from the tyranny of George III, would ever have put one person, particularly not a person who had a direct interest in the outcome, because they were on the ticket for the election, in a role to have decisive impact on the outcome of the election.”

“And frankly, just common sense, all confirmed the vice-president’s first instinct on that point. There is no justifiable basis to conclude that the vice-president has that kind of authority,” Jacob concluded.

Luttig, whom committee chair Bennie Thompson described as “one of the leading conservative legal thinkers in the country” reiterated his belief that if Pence had done as Trump asked, it would have been an unprecedented blow to American governance.

“That declaration of Donald Trump as the next president would have plunged America into what I believe would have been tantamount to a revolution within a constitutional crisis,” Luttig said.

 

The committee just aired a video intended to show the threats to the vice-president on January 6, beginning with Trump’s speech to supporters who went on to attack the Capitol: “Mike Pence is gonna have to come through for us and if he doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country.”

The video then shows the crowd breaching the building while chanting “hang Mike Pence!” It ends with the image of a makeshift gallows with a hangman’s noose in front of the Capitol.

“How did we get to the point where President Trump’s most radical supporters with a violent attack on the Capitol and threatened to hang President Trump’s own vice president?” asked California Democrat Pete Aguilar, who showed the video.

Answering that question is the goal of today’s hearing.

January 6 committee begins third hearing

The January 6 committee has begun its third hearing, which will be focused on efforts to pressure vice-president Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election.

“We are fortunate for Mr. Pence’s courage. On January 6, our democracy came dangerously close to catastrophe. That courage put him in tremendous danger. When Mike Pence made it clear that he wouldn’t give in to Donald Trump’s scheme, Donald Trump turned the mob on him,” the committee chair Bennie Thompson said in his opening remarks.

As with the prior two hearings, today will include in-person testimony from witnesses along with video clips of interviews with former Trump administration officials and others.

Related: January 6 panel to show how pressure from Trump put Pence’s life in danger

 

18:06 Joanna Walters

The White House media briefing is taking place now, with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre presiding – squeezing it in before the next January 6 committee hearing, which is just moments away.

She said that the Biden administration is “working very hard to learn more” of the fate of two US citizens who are missing in Ukraine.

There are concerns they have been captured by the invading Russian forces.

Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Andy Huynh, 27, of Hartselle, Alabama, went to Ukraine as volunteer fighters to assist the Ukrainian forces’ efforts to push the Russians back.

The men’s families have not heard from them since June 8, Reuters reports, and they did not return from a mission around the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine, where there is fierce combat as Russia advances.

“When it comes to wrongfully holding Americans and using them as bargaining chips … the US opposes that everywhere,” Jean-Pierrre said.

She said she could not confirm whether the two men are being held.

© Provided by The Guardian White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during the daily briefing. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Real estate firm must comply with New York AG’s Trump investigation – court

18:06 Joanna Walters

Real estate company Cushman & Wakefield plc must comply with subpoenas from New York state attorney general Letitia James as part of her civil investigation into Donald Trump, an appeals court has ruled, Reuters reports.

James’ investigation is examining whether Trump and his family company, the Trump Organization, misled banks and tax authorities about the value of its assets to get financial benefits like favorable loans and tax breaks.

© Provided by The Guardian State attorney general of New York Letitia James marches during the National Puerto Rican Day Parade Sunday June 12, 2022 in New York City. Photograph: Erin Lefevre/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

In April, James won a court order to force Cushman to comply with subpoenas for records that would help determine whether appraisals it conducted for several Trump properties, such as the Seven Springs estate in New York’s Westchester county and 40 Wall Street in Manhattan, were fraudulent or misleading.

Cushman appealed the ruling, calling James’ probe “overly intrusive.”

The appellate division of New York state’s main trial court on Thursday denied Cushman’s appeal, and ended a temporary stay on the enforcement of the subpoena.

Spokespeople for Cushman and James’ office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Cushman previously said it stood by its work and that suggestions the company was not cooperating in good faith with James were “untrue.”

The ruling adds to a string of recent victories for James in the face of Trump’s efforts to derail the investigation. New York state’s top court on Tuesday ruled that Trump and two of his adult children, Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump, must testify under oath beginning July 15.

© Provided by The Guardian A video clip of Ivanka Trump giving testimony that she accepted the view of former US attorney general Bill Barr that there was no election fraud Donald Trump’s defeat, as the House panel investigating the 1/6/21 attack on the US Capitol holds a hearing. Members, from left: Stephanie Murphy, Pete Aguilar, Adam Schiff, Zoe Lofgren, Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Jamie Raskin, Elaine Luria. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

 

John Hinckley has been released from court oversight, concluding his punishment for shooting and wounding former president Ronald Reagan and several others in 1981.

Hinckley celebrated his release with a tweet, according to the Associated Press:

“After 41 years 2 months and 15 days, FREEDOM AT LAST!!!,” he wrote on Twitter shortly after noon on Wednesday.

The lifting of all restrictions had been expected since late September. US district court judge Paul L Friedman in Washington had said he would free Hinckley on 15 June if he continued to remain mentally stable in the community in Virginia where he has lived since 2016.

Hinckley, who was acquitted of trying to kill the then US president by reason of insanity, spent the decades before that in a Washington mental hospital.

Hinckley has gained nearly 30,000 followers on Twitter and YouTube in recent months as the judge loosened Hinckley’s restrictions before fully lifting all of them.

But the greying 67-year-old is far from being the household name that he became after shooting and wounding the 40th US president and several others outside a Washington hotel. Today, historians say Hinckley is at best a question on a quiz show and someone who unintentionally helped build the Reagan legend and inspire a push for stricter gun control.

“If Hinckley had succeeded in killing Reagan, then he would have been a pivotal historical figure,” HW Brands, a historian and Reagan biographer, wrote in an email to the Associated Press. “As it is, he is a misguided soul whom history has already forgotten.”

The former president’s foundation has objected to the lifting of the oversight on Hinckley.

Related: John Hinckley gains full freedom 41 years after Ronald Reagan assassination attempt

 

The Republican point man on the Senate’s efforts to reach a bipartisan gun control compromise says the negotiations are coming down to the wire.

Speaking on conservative host Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Texas senator John Cornyn said lawmakers need to hash out the remaining issues over the compromise today if the chamber is to vote on it next week.

While the bill text hasn’t been written yet, the compromise has more momentum behind it that prior attempts to respond to mass shootings. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said he will schedule a vote on the measure as soon as he can, while top Republican Mitch McConnell said he would support it, improving the legislation’s chances of winning the 10 votes necessary from Republicans to pass through the chamber.

January 6 committee to seek testimony from Ginni Thomas

The January 6 committee will ask Ginni Thomas, wife of conservative supreme court justice Clarence Thomas, to testify as evidence mounts that she encouraged efforts to stop Joe Biden from taking office:

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Thomas had exchanged messages with John Eastman, the lawyer for Donald Trump who was an architect of the efforts to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election win.

Election subversion risks ‘breaking America,’ Pence lawyer to tell committee

Conspiracies like the effort to block the certification of Joe Biden’s election win could tear the United States apart, former vice-president Mike Pence’s lawyer Greg Jacob will tell the January 6 committee today.

“The law is not a plaything for presidents or judges to use to remake the world in their preferred image,” Jacob said in his opening remarks, which do not mention Donald Trump by name but are sharply critical of the idea that Pence could unilaterally decide an election — an idea the former president promoted.

“Our Constitution and our laws form the strong edifice within which our heartfelt policy disagreements are to be debated and decided. When our elected and appointed leaders break, twist, and fail to enforce our laws in order to achieve their partisan ends, or to accomplish frustrated policy objectives they consider existentially important, they are breaking America,” Jacob said.

You can read the full remarks below:

 

16:09 Eric Berger

Eric Berger reports on another factor that led to the United States’s disastrous experience with Covid-19: its lack of a universal health care system:

The US could have saved more than 338,000 lives and more than $105bn in healthcare costs in the Covid-19 pandemic with a universal healthcare system, according to a study.

More than 1 million people died in the US from Covid, in part because the country’s “fragmented and inefficient healthcare system” meant uninsured or underinsured people faced financial barriers that delayed diagnosis and exacerbated transmission, the report states.

The US had the highest death rate from the virus among large wealthy countries and is also the only one among such countries without universal healthcare. It spends almost twice as much on healthcare per capita as the other wealthy countries, according to Kaiser Family Foundation data.

Related: US could have saved 338,000 lives from Covid with universal healthcare, study finds

 

The House subcommittee investigating the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic announced that Deborah Birx, the former president’s Covid-19 coordinator, will testify publicly next week.

Birx was among the public health officials who became household names during the pandemic’s worst months, but later fell out of favor with Trump. Last October, the Democratic chair of the subcommittee Jame Clyburn said its interviews with Birx “confirm that President Trump’s prioritization of politics, contempt for science, and refusal to follow the advice of public health experts undermined the nation’s ability to respond effectively to the coronavirus crisis.”

 

15:33 Hugo Lowell

The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell explain why the January 6 committee has opted to make today’s hearing about the actions of Mike Pence, who played a major role in torpedoing Trump’s plan to stop Biden from taking office:

The House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack intends to outline at its third hearing on Thursday how Donald Trump corruptly pressured then vice-president Mike Pence to reject the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election and directly contributed to the insurrection.

The panel will first examine the genesis of Trump’s pressure campaign on Pence to adopt an unconstitutional and unlawful plan to reject certified electors from certain states at the congressional certification in an attempt to give Trump a second presidential term.

The select committee then intends to show how that theory – advanced by external Trump legal adviser John Eastman – was rejected by Pence, his lawyers and the White House counsel’s office, who universally told the former president that the entire scheme was unlawful.

Related: Third panel hearing will show Trump’s pressure on Pence to overturn election

Retired judge to warn of Trump’s ‘well-developed plan’ to overturn election

In his testimony before the January 6 committee today, former US appellate court judge J Michael Luttig will warn that the plot to overturn the 2020 election was well-coordinated and threatened the nation’s very existence, according to his opening remarks obtained by CNN.

Luttig is one of two guests in Thursday’s third hearing of the committee, which will focus on Trump’s pressure campaign against vice-president Mike Pence to get him to go along with his plans to stop Joe Biden from taking office.

“The war on democracy instigated by the former president and his political party allies on January 6 was the natural and foreseeable culmination of the war for America,” Luttig warns in his opening remarks. “It was the final fateful day for the execution of a well-developed plan by the former president to overturn the 2020 presidential election at any cost, so that he could cling to power that the American People had decided to confer upon his successor, the next president of the United States instead.”

“Had the Vice President of the United States obeyed the President of the United States, America would immediately have been plunged into what would have been tantamount to a revolution within a paralyzing constitutional crisis,” Luttig says.

 

The Washington Post report further detailing Ginni Thomas’s involvement in the effort to stop Joe Biden from taking office underscores just how much evidence the January 6 committee is accumulating in its effort to unravel what happened that day.

It’s not clear if the lawmakers will opt to publicly explore what they’ve learned about conservative supreme court justice Clarence Thomas’s wife in the course of their investigation, but they must surely feel tempted. Thomas was the only one of the court’s nine members who dissented from a January ruling ordering the release of records from the Trump administration to the committee.

The revelations about Ginni Thomas come as tensions around the court are as high as ever. Its conservative majority is widely believed to be poised to strike down the nationwide right to an abortion, and a draft opinion of the decision was leaked last month, sparking uproar. Other decisions expected in the coming days or weeks could expand the right to carry a concealed weapon, weaken the government’s ability to regulate and upend the Biden administration’s effort to end the “remain in Mexico” policy Trump implemented to stop border crossings.

Trump is out of office but the court’s rightward swing is one of his legacies. Had he not won in 2016, it’s possible the institution’s ideological makeup may look quite different.

January 6 committee considering new evidence of Ginni Thomas’ effort to overturn election

Good morning, US politics blog readers! Today’s marquee event in Washington will be the third hearing of the January 6 committee, which is to center on the pressure campaign around Mike Pence, the vice-president to Donald Trump. The Washington Post is reporting that the committee is also considering what to do with new evidence that shows Ginni Thomas, wife of conservative supreme court justice Clarence Thomas, was talking to a lawyer for Trump, who played a major role in trying to stop Joe Biden from taking office.

Here’s what else is happening today: