WASHINGTON – At least five House Republicans sought pardons from President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, White House officials told the House Jan. 6 committee in a video shown Thursday.
The GOP lawmakers – Mo Brooks of Alabama, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania – have denied wrongdoing and accused the committee of playing politics.
Members of Trump’s staff identified “members of Congress who contacted the White House after Jan. 6 to seek presidential pardons for their conduct,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., one of two Republicans on the special House panel investigating the attack.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., the committee’s other Republican, said: “The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you have committed a crime.”
Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, said Brook, Gaetz, Biggs, Gohmert and Perry all asked for pardons.
She singled out Gaetz, saying he “was personally pushing for a pardon, and he was doing so since early December. I’m not sure why.”
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Eric Herschman, who worked as a lawyer in the White House, said Gaetz asked for a very broad pardon.
“The general tone was, ‘We may get prosecuted because we were defensive of the president’s positions on these things,'” Herschmann said of Gaetz’s request.
John McEntee, who ran the White House’s personnel office, said he also knew about Gaetz’s request. “He told me he asked Meadows for a pardon,” he said.
McEntee also told the committee that Trump “had hinted at a blanket pardon” for a number of associates involved in the “January thing.”
The accused pardon-seekers are all members of the House Freedom Caucus, which was once led by Meadows when he a member of the House of Representatives.
Members have criticized the committee’s accusations.
Gaetz did not address the pardon issue directly, but said in a tweet that “the January 6 Committee is an unconstitutional political sideshow.”
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Brooks, who this week lost a primary runoff for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, defended his pardon request. Brooks told CNN there was “a concern Democrats would abuse the judicial system by prosecuting and jailing Republicans.”
The offices of Biggs and Gohmert did not immediately return USA TODAY’s inquiries.
Hutchinson said another Republican congressman – Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio – asked for an update on presidential pardons, but didn’t ask for one directly. She also said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., did not ask her for a pardon, but she heard from another staffer that the Georgia firebrand had asked for one.
Greene responded with a tweet: “Saying ‘I heard’ means you don’t know. Spreading gossip and lies is exactly what the January 6th Witch Hunt Committee is all about.”
Brooks emailed the White House on Jan. 11, 2021, five days after the attack on the Capitol, asking that Trump give pardons to “Every congressman and senator who voted to reject the Electoral College vote submissions from Arizona and Pennsylvania.”
It is not known why some Republicans feared prosecution, or whether they discussed the issue directly with Trump.
Meadows tweeted about a Dec. 21, 2020, meeting that Trump had with several Republican members of Congress “preparing to fight back against mounting evidence of voter fraud.”
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Hutchinson said, “Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Brooks both advocated for there to be a blanket pardon for members involved in that meeting and a handful of other members that weren’t at the Dec. 21 meeting.”
Greene herself later recounted the meeting on a Newsmax TV show.
“I was the only new member at the meeting,” Greene said. “I called President Trump on Saturday and said we’ve got to have a meeting. There’s many of us that feel like this election has been stolen.”
During a hearing earlier this month, Cheney accused Perry of seeking a pardon and the Pennsylvania congressman denied it.
Perry tweeted Thursday: “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 Ms. Hutchinson, a White House scheduler, nor any WH staff about a pardon for myself or any other Member of Congress — this never happened.”