Several Republican congressmen pressured White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to convince President Donald Trump to issue them pardons for their efforts to help him overturn the 2020 election—most prominently Rep. Matt Gaetz, according to testimony provided to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“The general tone was, ‘We may get prosecuted because we were defensive of the president’s positions on these things,” former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann said during video testimony played during the hearing.
Herschmann said that Gaetz told him the pardon the Florida congressman was requesting would have covered “from the beginning of time up until today, for any and all things.” Gaetz compared the pardon he wanted to that received by President Richard Nixon after Watergate, Herschmann said; Herschmann said that Nixon’s pardon “was never nearly that broad.”
Rep. Mo Brooks, the Alabama congressman who led the efforts in the House to overturn the election results, sent an email on Jan. 11 asking the White House for pardons for himself, Gaetz, and “every Congressman and Senator who voted to reject the Electoral College vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania.”
Trump “considered offering pardons to a wide range of individuals,” according to Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican on the Jan. 6 select committee.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide for Meadows, told the committee in a videotaped deposition that Reps. Gaetz and Brooks both wanted “blanket” and “preemptive” pardons.
“Mr. Gaetz was personally pushing for a pardon, and he was doing so since early December,” Hutchinson told investigators. “I’m not sure why.”
In addition to pushing Trump’s false election fraud claims, Gaetz has been under investigation by the Justice Department since summer 2020 for alleged potential sex trafficking of a minor. He has denied any wrongdoing, and so far has not been charged in the probe, which resulted in a plea deal with a former friend and ally in Florida Republican politics.
Hutchinson also said that Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, directly asked for a pardon, as well as Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Scott Perry, the Pennsylvania congressman who pressured the Justice Department to investigate whether Italian satellites had been used to change American votes.
Hutchinson said that Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan did not directly ask for a pardon but rather for “more of an update on whether the White House was going to pardon members of Congress.” And she said that while Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia did not ask for a pardon, she’d “heard” that Greene asked the office of the White House Counsel for one.
Former White House Presidential Personnel Office director John McEntee also said that Gaetz had told him he asked Meadows for a pardon. McEntee said Trump had personally talked about a blanket pardon “for the January 6 thing.”
“The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you’ve committed a crime,” Kinzinger said at the end of the hearing.