The Republicans Matt Gaetz and Mo Brooks sought a blanket pardon of members of Congress involved in Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn his defeat by Joe Biden through lies about electoral fraud, the House January 6 committee revealed on Thursday.
A witness said Andy Biggs of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania also contacted the White House about securing pardons. The same witness, former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, said she heard Marjorie Taylor Greene, an extremist from Georgia, wanted a pardon too.
The committee displayed an email written by Brooks, of Alabama, on 11 January 2021, five days after the deadly attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters.
Brooks, who delivered a fire-breathing speech at a rally before the Capitol riot, sought pre-emptive pardons for “every congressman and senator who voted to reject the electoral college vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania”.
A total of 147 Republicans lodged such votes, even after the Capitol was stormed, an attack that endangered the life of the vice-president, Mike Pence, and to which a bipartisan Senate committee linked seven deaths.
Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, potential rivals to Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, were among them.
For the January 6 committee, the Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger said Brooks “emailed the White House, quote, ‘pursuant to a request from Matt Gaetz [of Florida]’, requesting a pardon for Representative Gaetz, himself and unnamed others.
“Witnesses told the select committee that the president considered offering pardons to a wide range of individuals connected to the president,” Kinzinger added.
It has been widely reported that Trump allies sought January 6-related pardons before Trump left office, and that Trump considered offering pre-emptive pardons to himself and family members. He has repeatedly floated the idea of pardoning Capitol rioters should he return to power.
The January 6 committee previously revealed that John Eastman, the law professor who pushed Pence to overturn election results, contacted Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, to ask if a pardon was possible.
In testimony played on Thursday, Eric Herschmann, a Trump White House lawyer, said of Gaetz: “The general tone was, ‘We may get prosecuted because we were defensive of the president’s positions on these things.’
“The pardon that he was discussing, requesting was as broad you could describe, from the beginning of time up until today, for any and all things.
“He mentioned Nixon and I said Nixon’s pardon was never nearly that broad.”
Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 over the Watergate scandal, involving political dirty tricks and their cover-up. He was pardoned by Gerald Ford, his successor in office.
In other testimony played on Thursday, Hutchinson, a former assistant to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said: “Mr Gaetz, Mr Brooks, I know both advocated for there to be a blanket pardon … pre-emptive pardons.
“Mr Gaetz was personally pushing for a pardon … since early December. I’m not sure why. He reached out to me to ask if he could have a meeting with Mr Meadows about receiving a presidential pardon.”
Hutchinson listed the other Republicans who requested pardons.
On Twitter, Gaetz said: “The last Republican president to be sworn in without congressional Democrats objecting to electors was George HW Bush.” He did not immediately comment about the pardon revelations.
Kinzinger said: “The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you’ve committed a crime.”