New report zeroes in on a 'puzzle piece' in the story of Jan. 6 that critics have 'largely overlooked'
Donald Trump and Mike Pence at the White House. (CNN/Screenshot)

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s January 6 select committee continues to probe the events that followed the 2020 election, much is being uncovered about former President Donald Trump’s unsuccessful efforts to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence into refusing to certify now-President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. But according to Politico’s Kyle Cheney, one thing that has been “largely ignored” about the weeks leading up to the January 6 insurrection was the lawsuit that Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas filed against Pence on December 27, 2020.

Cheney, in an article published by Politico this week, explains, “Backed by a squad of lawyers associated with Trump ally and conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell, Gohmert argued Pence should assert unilateral control over certification, governed only by the vague wording of the Twelfth Amendment. Gohmert’s move forced Pence to publicly resist Trump’s subversion of the election, only a week before the fateful January 6 joint session of Congress. When the Justice Department stepped in to defend Pence from the lawsuit on December 29, it marked the first time Pence signaled he wouldn’t fold to Trump’s demands.”

By December 27, 2020, William Barr was no longer U.S. attorney general. As much of a Trump loyalist as Barr had been, he made it clear that he didn’t buy into Trump’s false and debunked claims of widespread voter fraud — and Trump was furious with him. But then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen, who replaced Barr, didn’t go along with those claims either. And much of the Rosen-era DOJ, according to Cheney, didn’t like Gohmert’s lawsuit against Pence.

“Pence allies have long believed that Trump played a role in Gohmert’s legal strategy, and they've indicated that Trump was frustrated that the Justice Department intervened to defend his vice president against Gohmert’s suit,” Cheney notes. “But what remains unknown is just how involved Trump was in Gohmert’s legal strategy.”

According to Cheney, “A litany of new details about Trump’s pressure campaign against Pence have emerged in recent weeks. Those include memos from Trump attorneys John Eastman and Jenna Ellis that lay out fringe legal rationales for halting certification, as well as proof of further public and private force exerted by Trump himself. Gohmert’s suit is rarely mentioned in the publicly available pre-January 6 timetable.”

Ultimately, Gohmert’s attempt to bully Pence didn’t work.

“Gohmert’s goal, outlined in the suit, was to force Pence to ignore the 130-year-old law that governs the final certification of presidential elections and instead wield total authority over the proceedings,” Cheney recalls. “Pence ultimately decided that he lacked this power and his role was almost entirely ceremonial. He revealed his final decision on January 6, shortly before a pro-Trump mob ransacked the Capitol amid chants that he was a ‘traitor’ and should be hanged.”

However, one person in the DOJ who was favorable to Gohmert’s lawsuit, according to Cheney, was then-Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Clark, who, unlike Rosen, wanted the DOJ to pursue Trump’s voter fraud claims.