Harris’s attendance indicates he was more intimately involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results than previously known, making him one of Trump’s closest allies in Congress as the president desperately tried to cling to power despite being told by White House lawyers and the Justice Department that there was no evidence of widespread election fraud.
“In the weeks after the election, the White House coordinated closely with President Trump’s allies in Congress to disseminate his false claims and to encourage members of the public to fight the outcome on January 6,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), who co-led the Tuesday hearing with Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.). “We know the president met with various members to discuss January 6 well before the joint session.”
Murphy said White House visitor logs showed that the president had a “private meeting with Republican members of Congress” on Dec. 21, a meeting that also included Vice President Mike Pence, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The meeting had been previously disclosed in reporting at the time and in more-recent court documents.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) had sent an email to Meadows to set up the meeting, with the subject line “White House meeting Dec. 21 regarding January 6,” according to the committee. In the email, Murphy noted, Brooks said he had not asked anyone to join him in the “January 6 effort” because he believed “only citizens can exert the necessary influence on senators and congressmen to join this fight against massive voter fraud and election theft.”
Witnesses told the Jan. 6 committee that the meeting in part centered on “the role of the vice president during the counting of electoral votes,” Murphy said. The participants discussed what has come to be known as “the Eastman theory”: that Pence could unilaterally decide which electoral votes to reject or accept to keep Trump in power. Trump and his attorney John Eastman repeatedly pressured Pence to either throw out results in contested states or delay the proceedings so the contested states could reexamine results and potentially send alternate electors for Trump — plans that White House lawyers have testified they considered illegal.
Murphy said requests for pardons came from Brooks and “other members of Congress who attended this meeting.” The Jan. 6 committee previously named five Republicans who allegedly sought Trump pardons, although Harris was not among them.
Harris did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Former Justice Department lawyer Richard Donoghue testified last month that, according to notes he took of the conversation, Trump told him on Dec. 27 that the Justice Department should “just say the election is corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R [Republican] Congressmen.”
Harris, despite previously saying he would hew to a six-term limit, is seeking a seventh term in Congress this year. He is unopposed in the July 19 Maryland primary, but two Democrats are vying to defeat him in November, each of whom called Harris a “traitor” as his involvement in meetings with Trump about Jan. 6 was revealed.
“We learned yesterday that my opponent, Andy Harris, was in the White House plotting with Trump to overturn a free and fair election,” Heather Mizeur, the former Maryland House delegate for Takoma Park who has raised nearly $2 million in her race, tweeted on Wednesday morning. “He’s a traitor to our country, and with your help, I will unseat him in November.”
Harris “dishonored his office, broke his oath, and chose the pursuit of power over the rule of law,” Dave Harden, a former Foreign Service officer hoping to defeat Mizeur in the Democratic primary, tweeted on Wednesday. “He has disgraced us.”
Along with Harris, Reps. Brian Babin (Tex.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Louie Gohmert (Tex.), Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.), Jody Hice (Ga.), Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Scott Perry (Pa.) attended the Dec. 21 White House meeting in person. Republican Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) also was there.
In a recorded interview in March, Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Meadows, said several other members who were not physically present dialed in over the course of the meeting. She said that she was not at the meeting the entire time but that during the parts she witnessed, “a few Members expressed their opinions and their thoughts on January 6th, what they believed that the Vice President’s role could potentially be,” according to a transcript of her interview in court documents.
“They felt that he had the authority to … send votes back to the States or the electors back to the States, more along the lines of the Eastman theory,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said that to the best of her recollection, none of the lawmakers disagreed, according to the transcript.
Harris objected to the election results hours after the mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, and in the early morning of Jan. 7 got into a heated verbal altercation with a Democrat on the House floor, leading colleagues to intervene.
Democrats were eager to defeat Harris in November, particularly after the Maryland General Assembly drew a redistricted congressional map that would have made it possible for Democrats to win in Harris’s Eastern Shore-anchored 1st District. However, those hopes were largely dashed when a Maryland judge found that map to be an illegal gerrymander and ordered that a new one be drawn.
Now, under the final map, the district is solidly red, and political observers consider Harris to be safe in November.