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Jan. 6 transcripts shed new light on how Trump considered blanket pardons

From left, Reps. Bennie G. Thompson, chair of the House Jan. 6 committee; Liz Cheney, vice chair; and Jamie B. Raskin at a committee hearing on July 12, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol released on Tuesday 18 additional transcripts that provided more details about how former president Donald Trump considered “blanket pardons” for those charged in connection with the Capitol riot, and how several of his top political allies pushed unsuccessfully to be included in such pardons.

The transcripts, which come from the committee’s trove of hundreds of interviews, build on a growing body of evidence about the extent to which many in Trump’s orbit, including rioters, White House staffers, Republican members of Congress, and some of the president’s own lawyers, were seeking pardons after the events of Jan. 6, 2021.


Johnny McEntee, Trump’s director of personnel, recalled in an interview how, during his final days in office, the former president had floated the idea of a “blanket pardon” for the breach of the Capitol, but Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, had rejected it.

“Cipollone said no,” McEntee recalled. “One day when we walked into the Oval, I remember it was being discussed, and I remember the president saying, ‘Well, what if I pardoned the people that weren’t violent, that just walked in the building?’ And I think the White House counsel gave him some pushback.”

McEntee recalled Cipollone also rejected Trump’s idea that all White House staff should be pardoned, even those who had played no role in the president’s push to overturn the 2020 election.

“I remember Cipollone questioning on that: ‘Well, why does anyone need a pardon?’ ” McEntee recalled. He added that the president had responded: “ ‘Well, just so they can’t go after them for any little thing.’ And I think Cipollone said, ‘Yeah, but no one here has done anything wrong.’ ”

The batch of transcripts released Tuesday — which included McEntee’s testimony; an interview with Eugene Scalia, Trump’s labor secretary; and two more transcripts from the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, a White House aide — brought the number of transcripts the committee has released to more than 100.


The panel plans to release hundreds more this week. Members of the committee have said they are concerned that if they do not publish all their transcripts, Republicans will cherry-pick information from them for release once they take control of the House on Jan. 3.

The Jan. 6 committee last week published its final 845-page report on the Capitol attack and the events that led to it, declaring that Trump’s relentless push to overturn the 2020 election was the central cause of the violence. Trump has slammed the Jan. 6 report, calling it “highly partisan.”

In its report, the committee referred repeatedly to pardon requests, but singled out those from members of Congress who had attended a Dec. 21, 2020, White House meeting in which a plan to overturn the election had been discussed, as “revealing their own clear consciousness of guilt.”

In his testimony, McEntee recalled that Representative Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, told him he had sought a pardon through Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff. McEntee told the committee he believed Gaetz was concerned about a federal sex trafficking investigation. Gaetz has denied wrongdoing in the matter.

Hutchinson told the panel that both Gaetz and Representative Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican, had pressed for “a blanket pardon for members involved in that meeting and a handful of other members that weren’t at the Dec. 21 meeting as the preemptive pardons.”


She also said Meadows had sought broad pardons.

“Mr. Meadows was personally concerned that there would be a connotation of violence associated with everybody that had gone to the Capitol that day, so he had thought it was an idea worth entertaining and raising to White House Counsel’s Office to pardon those who had been inside the Capitol,” she said.

She added: “There was a period where several White House staffers and administration officials wanted to pardon themselves prior to leaving, and he was one of them. I don’t remember him lobbying the president very hard for it, but I know that, if there were going to be staff pardons, he wanted to be included in that group.”

A spokesperson for Meadows denied that he had ever sought a pardon from Trump.

According to Hutchinson’s testimony, Republican Representatives Louie Gohmert of Texas, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, and Andy Biggs of Arizona, all expressed interest in receiving pardons. She also testified that Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, had “talked about” pardons but did not directly ask for one, and that she had heard that newly elected Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia had also expressed interest to the White House Counsel’s Office.

The lawmakers involved have denied seeking pardons, except for Gaetz and Brooks. Brooks has confirmed seeking a pardon for all members of Congress, but said it was because he believed the Justice Department would be “abused” by the Biden administration. Brooks has released the letter he sent to the White House, in which he said he was putting the request in writing at the instruction of Trump.


Hutchinson also testified that Trump had wanted to include language about pardoning rioters in a speech on Jan. 7, 2021, but that language was removed.