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From Lincoln to Luttig: ‘Clear and present danger to American democracy’ still looms

On this day 164 years ago, Abraham Lincoln warned: The nation faces a crisis with the potential to fracture the Union.

As a Senate candidate addressing the Illinois Republican Convention in Springfield, Lincoln paraphrased Mark 3:25 of the New Testament, saying:

[A] house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Thursday, in its third public hearing, the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol presented the nation with evidence and testimony surrounding the scheming of President Donald Trump and legal advisor John Eastman to pressure Vice President Mike Pence on and leading up to Jan. 6 to invalidate the results of the 2020 presidential election.

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In testimony Thursday from former federal judge and legal advisor to Pence, J. Michael Luttig, his words rang like an echo of the past:

I have written that today, almost two years after that fateful day in January of 2021, that still, Donald Trump and his law allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.”

Luttig recognized the nation’s fragility in those consequential moments on and around Jan. 6. He said that if former Vice President Mike Pence had rejected the electoral votes, as the president and his supporters relentlessly pressured him to do:

(It) would have plunged America into what I believe would have been tantamount to a revolution within a Constitutional crisis in America.”   

The warning from Luttig followed gripping, sworn testimony from Pence general counsel Greg Jacob, who was with Pence and his family on Jan. 6 as the vice president was evacuated from the Senate chamber. Pence was first taken to his private office with his family, and then, as the nation learned today for the first time in never-before seen photos, whisked to what appeared to be a loading dock for trash pickup and deliveries, deep within the labyrinthian Capitol complex.

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Thursday’s testimony painted a picture of a persistent Eastman championing a legal theory that Pence possessed the authority to refuse to certify the election results on Jan. 6, even while Jacob testified Eastman admitted to him the plan was likely to “lose 9-0” if ever brought before the Supreme Court.

The hearing wrapped up with the revelation that Eastman e-mailed Rudy Giuliani in the days following Jan. 6, saying Eastman had decided he “should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works.” Eastman was also shown in a videotaped deposition to committee staffers repeatedly citing the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination in response to every question posed to him.

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