Brooks’s turn on Trump could give the Jan. 6 probe momentum
Rep. Mo Brooks’s (R-Ala.) sudden turn against former President Trump this week was an unexpected gift for the House Jan. 6 Select Committee that may help bolster its investigation and the case it has started to lay out against Trump.
The Alabama Republican’s admission that the former president had urged him to overturn the 2020 election, including in the months after President Biden took office, could add to the committee’s effort to show that Trump engaged in criminal conduct while trying to remain in power.
On Wednesday, Trump rescinded his endorsement of Brooks, who is running for an open Senate seat in this year’s Republican primary.
In response, the congressman made the extraordinary claim that the former president had been pressuring him to “rescind” the 2020 election even after the White House had changed hands.
“President Trump asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency,” Brooks said in a statement on Wednesday. “As a lawyer, I’ve repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit what President Trump asks. Period.”
In later comments to various news outlets, Brooks said that Trump made such requests as recently as September of last year.
The Alabama lawmaker made the claim Wednesday after a sudden rift between himself and Trump over a disagreement on whether to urge voters to move on from the 2020 campaign.
His statement marked the first time one of Trump’s allies had accused the former president of urging illegal actions in order to restore his presidency.
The revelation adds a new dimension to the fallout from the Capitol riot, that Trump continued his efforts to overturn the election long after he had left office.
Experts say that any effort to undo the election at that point could not be considered lawful.
“There is no way to overturn the election today. And a special election — I mean, it’s not in the statutes. It’s not in the Constitution. I don’t know where that would come from,” said Neil Eggleston, who served as White House counsel under former President Obama and as an investigator on the House select committee probing the Iran-Contra scandal.
“As I think Mr. Brooks said he told the president, the matter was over on Jan. 6, when Congress certified the election,” Eggleston said. “In my view, it was over in December when all the states reported their electors and what happened on January 6 was a formality. But at the very latest it ended on Jan. 6.”
It’s unclear whether the select committee will pursue Brooks’s claims in its investigation. A spokesman for the panel did not respond when asked for comment.
But Brooks’s admission adds to the select committee’s findings and could provide momentum for its probe.
“It adds urgency to the work of the Jan. 6 committee,” said Jessica Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Marymount University. She added that it fits a trend in the information that has come out about Trump’s efforts to remain in office.
“There’s a well-documented pressure campaign by the former president when it comes to federal officials, state officials, local officials to try and subvert the outcome of the 2020 election. But the evidence just keeps coming.”
On Jan. 6 and in the weeks leading up to it, Brooks supported Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. As Congress was certifying the election results hours after the riot had ended, Brooks tried to raise objections to derail the process.
And in the hours before the insurrection, Brooks spoke to Trump supporters at the “Stop the Steal” rally, wearing body armor and exhorting the crowd to fight to undermine efforts to certify Biden’s win.
“Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” he said in his remarks.
The Brooks news comes as the select committee ramps up its investigation, fighting various legal challenges to its subpoenas.
The panel responded earlier this month to a lawsuit from Trump legal adviser John Eastman who challenged his subpoena, saying that it had developed a “good faith basis” to believe that Trump engaged in criminal conduct in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The allegation, which has little bearing on whether the former president will ultimately face criminal charges, was leveled against Eastman’s argument that his subpoenaed communications were protected under attorney-client privilege. However, the committee said such privilege would be forfeited if the lawyer aided Trump in illegal conduct.
Eastman has denied the allegation, arguing that he was providing legal advice based on his own interpretation of the Constitution in urging then-Vice President Pence to halt the certification.
If Trump is ever forced to mount a legal defense in either a civil or criminal case, he is likely to make similar claims: that his efforts to overturn the election were supported by advice he had received that such actions were lawful.
But Brooks’s claim could undermine that, because it shows that Trump had continued his campaign after leaving office and long after he could lay any claim to holding on to the White House.
While it could also prove useful for the select committee’s efforts to enforce its subpoenas in court, Levinson said that the latest news just reinforces a massive record supporting the basis of the panel’s investigation and its authority to pursue it.
“How many different chapters of the story that say almost the same thing are we going to have before we close the book?” Levinson said.
— Updated at 7:58 a.m.