As former President Donald Trump sought to overturn the 2020 election, nearly a dozen Republican members of Congress — including Maryland’s Andy Harris — gathered with the president in the White House and discussed having Vice President Mike Pence reject the election results, according to the Jan. 6 committee.
The House members’ attendance at the Oval Office meeting — which the committee said also included Pence, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and attorney Rudy Giuliani — was confirmed by White House visitor logs, the committee said during a hearing Tuesday.
The disclosure of the Dec. 21, 2020, meeting adds to evidence showing Trump’s congressional allies played a significant role in the Republican president’s plan to reject Democratic President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
Part of Trump’s strategy “involved certain members of Congress who amplified his unsupported assertions that the election was stolen,” Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida said during the hearing.
Harris, whose district currently includes parts of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties, as well as the Eastern Shore, issued a statement through his office Tuesday night in reply to Baltimore Sun questions.
“I haven’t had a chance to watch the hearing today,” it said. “I was busy working on important issues like bringing down the price of gas and groceries and securing our communities against violent crime.”
“We’ve asked witnesses what happened during the Dec. 21 meeting and we’ve learned that part of the discussions centered on the role of the vice president during the counting of the electoral votes,” Murphy said. “These members of Congress were discussing what would later be known as ‘Eastman theory,’ which was being pushed by attorney John Eastman,” she said.
According to earlier testimony, Eastman was promoting a plan under which Pence was to reject certified electors during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.
The committee said White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who appeared Friday before the panel, argued Pence lacked the authority to single-handedly block Biden’s victory. Pence did not follow the Eastman plan.
“I think the vice president did the right thing,” Cipollone said in recorded testimony played by the committee. “I think the vice president did the courageous thing.”
While states certify their own results, it is left to Congress to formally accept the vote submissions. That is usually a perfunctory step.
The Dec. 21 meeting was organized following an email from Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks to Meadows, according to the committee, which obtained the message. The subject line was “White House meeting Dec. 21 regarding Jan. 6,” and it cited “massive fraud and voter theft.”
Others at the meeting, according to the committee, included Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona. All are Republicans. Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, then a congresswoman-elect, also attended.
Maryland Policy & Politics
In a tweet Tuesday, Gaetz called the meeting “friendly” and suggested Pence was not pressured to reject elector slates.
”Pence actually joined this meeting. It was thoughtful, collegial - even friendly. We ate Swedish meatballs in the Cabinet Room. Pence thanked us all for our service there,” the tweet said.
According to Murphy, the committee heard testimony in an earlier hearing that Brooks, the Alabama Republican, ultimately requested a pardon. Murphy said some other members of Congress who attended the meeting also sought pardons. She did not name them.
Harris was among 147 lawmakers who opposed formal certification of Biden’s win when Congress met on Jan. 6.
The House select committee was formed to study the violent attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters earlier that day.
Harris is running unopposed in the July 19 primary for the GOP nomination for a seventh two-year term. Two Democrats, Heather Mizeur and David Harden, are competing for their party’s nomination to face Harris in November. Libertarian candidate Daniel Frank Thibeault also will challenge Harris in the general election.
Mizeur and Harden both called Harris a “traitor” Tuesday afternoon in response to the news of his attendance at the White House meeting. Harden tweeted: “Andy Harris is a traitor to our democracy.” Mizeur issued a statement saying, “Andy Harris is a traitor to our nation, plain and simple.” She also called on him to disclose whether he “was ever involved in pardon discussions.”
This article has been updated to correct the year that Congressman Andy Harris attended a White House meeting to discuss rejecting election results.