Embattled Gaetz one of the ‘fake elector’ proponents who sought ‘broad’ pardon

By: - June 26, 2022 8:52 am

Congressman Matt Gaetz speaking at an “An Address to Young Americans” event, featuring President Donald Trump, hosted by Students for Trump and Turning Point Action at Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona, June 2020. (Photo by Gage Skidmore | Wikimedia Commons).

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida featured heavily during the congressional Jan. 6 hearings Thursday as part of a video chorus of extremist Republican lawmakers threatening to throw out the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Gaetz also figured in evidence that Trumpist members of Congress including himself sought broad pardons for their roles in an election subversion project that culminated in the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol in 2021.

Gaetz forwarded his request for a pardon for himself and unnamed others through U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, according to a document reviewed during the hearing, and via other avenues.

“The general tone was, we may be prosecuted because we were defensive of the president’s positions on these things,” Eric Herschmann, a former White House attorney, said via a video deposition.

“The pardon that he was discussing, requesting, was as broad as you can describe,” Herschman said — “from the beginning of time until today for any and all things. He mentioned Nixon, and I said Nixon’s pardon was never nearly that broad.”

A pardon that broad could cover any wrongdoing by Gaetz to emerge from an investigation into his associate, former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, now awaiting sentencing on six counts involving minors.

Gaetz reportedly is under investigation for obstruction of justice in that matter.

The New York Times first reported Gaetz’s pardon request in September. Trump issued dozens of pardons before leaving office but it doesn’t seem that Gaetz benefitted.

‘Preemptive pardons’

Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified in another video deposition that the entreaties from Gaetz and Brooks for “preemptive pardons” began in early December, even before the Capitol attack, on behalf of themselves and other members of Congress.

Gaetz sought a meeting with Meadows, Hutchinson said.

John McEntee, then in the White House personnel office, confirmed Gaetz’ request.

“I know he had asked for it but I don’t know if he ever received one or what happened with it,” McEntee said.

He knew because Gaetz told him about it directly, he said.

“The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you’ve committed a crime,” observed U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a Republican participating on the select committee.

The videos ran as the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack delved into former President Donald Trump’s attempt to enlist senior U.S. Department of Justice officials in promulgating bogus reports of election irregularities.

‘Joinin’ with the fighters’

“Jan. 6 — I’m joinin’ with the fighters in the Congress and we are going to object to electors from states that didn’t run clean elections,” Gaetz said during a speech at what appeared to be an event sponsored by Turning Point USA, which promotes conservative ideas among young people. “Democracy is left undefended if we accept the result of a stolen election without fighting with every bit of vigor we can muster.”

According to a contemporaneous report by the Palm Beach Post, the event happened in December 2020, as Trump and his GOP allies frantically attempted to cast doubt on the election outcome.

Gaetz ended up among a dozen Florida lawmakers who voted against certifying Biden’s win.

The committee also viewed video clips featuring similar sentiments from congressmen Louie Gohmert of Texas and Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, both of Arizona.

Also during the hearings, high-level former Trump DOJ officials described Trump’s efforts to enlist the department in sullying the election. They included then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, principle acting deputy A.G. Richard Donahue, and assistant A.G. for the Office of Legal Counsel Steve Engel.

They described their determined efforts to prevent the Justice Department being drawn into Trump’s conspiracy theories, and how virtually the entire department leadership threatened to resign if Trump sacked Rozen in favor of Jeffrey Clark, then head of the environmental division but acting as civil division chief and who demonstrated his willingness to pursue Trump’s claims.

This story was originally written and produced by the Florida Phoenix which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus, including the Daily Montanan, supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.