Jun 2, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Blockbuster witness for Jan. 6 hearings

Illustration of the shadow of a gavel over an american flag
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

J. Michael Luttig, a former federal judge and lawyer who advised former Vice President Mike Pence, is expected to testify in the Jan. 6 select committee's public hearings this month, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The committee, which has until now been interviewing witnesses behind closed doors, has revealed little about its plans for the public hearings set to begin next week.

  • The desire to showcase Luttig — a judge lionized within the conservative legal movement — matches what sources have described as the committee's strategy to reach as broad an audience as possible, including conservatives.

The big picture: Luttig, who served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, was a key behind-the-scenes figure in the lead up to Jan. 6. He furnished Pence with the legal argument the vice president used to publicly reject Trump's unconstitutional order to overturn President Biden's victory.

What we're watching: Axios understands the committee has been discussing formally inviting Luttig to testify, but official invitations have not been sent.

  • Luttig is expected to describe his view of the stakes of Jan. 6 and his argument that American democracy is at a crossroads.
  • He'll then answer questions, many of which are likely to be centered on the technicalities of the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act of 1887 — the statute that Trump hoped Pence would violate to reverse his 2020 election loss.
  • The Jan. 6 committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The upcoming public hearings, spread across two weeks, will mark the first time the committee has had an opportunity to reveal the complete findings of its months-long investigation into the breach of the Capitol.

  • Committee sources told Axios they want to tell a story of Jan. 6 in such a way that the American people understand the gravity of what happened — and the role former President Trump and his associates played in ginning up the mob that tried to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power.
  • The committee has not announced the roster of witnesses for the hearings.

What he's saying: "January 6 was never about a stolen election or even about actual voting fraud," Luttig wrote in a CNN op-ed in April.

  • "It was always and only about an election that Trump lost fair and square, under legislatively promulgated election rules in a handful of swing states that he and other Republicans contend were unlawfully changed."
  • In that piece and other op-eds, Luttig warns that Trump's efforts to decertify elections remain a threat to democracy.
  • "Trump and his allies and supporters in Congress and the states began readying their failed 2020 plan to overturn the 2024 presidential election later that very same day, and they have been unabashedly readying that plan ever since, in plain view to the American public."
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