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Coup Plot All Four Arizona House Republicans Sought Pardons from Trump

Alex Constantine - June 26, 2022

Report: Pardons were sought for Arizona's GOP U.S. House members, with Biggs seeking his directly

Ronald J. Hansen - Arizona Republic, June 23, 2022

Presidential pardons were sought for all four of Arizona's congressional Republicans after the 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol, with Rep. Andy Biggs specifically seeking one for himself, according to material released Thursday by the committee probing the insurrection.

The information dealing with the sprawling requests for legal protection came up near the end of a hearing that revealed the breadth of efforts by President Donald Trump to push the U.S. Justice Department to help promote the false narrative of a stolen election.

Five days after the riot, Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., wrote an email shared by the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol regarding pardons for "every Congressman and Senator who voted to reject the electoral college vote submissions of Arizona and Pennsylvania."

Biggs and Arizona Republican Reps. Paul Gosar and Debbie Lesko voted to set aside Arizona and Pennsylvania's electors. Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., voted to set aside only Pennsylvania's.

In all, 147 Republicans voted to set aside certified election results after police quelled the riot.

The basis for the prospective pardons wasn't clear, and it was unclear whether the members wanted what Brooks discussed.

In a written statement, Biggs, who has resisted a subpoena from the committee, maintained he didn’t seek a pardon.

“The unAmerican January 6 Committee continues to pursue me with the false allegation that I sought a presidential pardon,” Biggs said. “To the extent Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House staffer, believes I requested a presidential pardon, she is mistaken.

“Like the many selective leaks from this illegally formed Committee, today’s video testimony from Ms. Hutchinson was deceptively edited to make it appear as if I personally asked her for a presidential pardon.

“These hearings, without cross-examination or advance disclosure of evidence, have become a Soviet-style show trial; the truth is less important than the outcome. And the media is aiding and abetting the entire disgraceful affair.”

In a written statement, Gosar said he never sought a pardon for himself.

“At no time did I request a pardon for myself. At no time has there ever been a reason to request a pardon for myself. The absurd claim that I requested a blanket pardon or a preemptive pardon is depraved nonsense from lunatics,” he said.

The other Arizona members were not immediately available for comment.

The House Judiciary Committee's Republicans suggested in a tweet that the committee had again missed its mark: "Another pathetic day for the January 6th Committee. Sad that they have to alter evidence to fit their narrative. Too bad no one watched!"

Biggs is a member of the Judiciary Committee.

In a snippet of the committee's videotaped interview with Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Mark Meadows, then the White House chief of staff, she identified Biggs as among the lawmakers who individually contacted her to inquire about preemptive pardons.

Others included Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Scott Perry, R-Pa., Hutchinson told investigators.

Biggs and Gosar quickly emerged as among the most vocal proponents of a stolen election, alleging fraud even before all of the votes were counted.

Biggs and Gosar discussed the approaching Jan. 6 date as "The Alamo" or "D-Day" in a December 2020 broadcast of conservative commentator Sean Hannity's radio show.

Before the riot, Ali Alexander, organizer of the "Stop the Steal" rallies, named them, along with Brooks, as the most important members in pushing that effort forward.

Biggs has maintained he had no involvement with Alexander.

Alexander has said in court papers that he personally discussed the matter with Biggs.

"At Alexander’s December 9, 2021, deposition, he testified that he had a few phone conversations with Representative Paul Gosar," according to a lawsuit over access to Alexander's phone records. "He also testified that he spoke to Rep. Biggs in person and never by phone, to the best of his recollection."

Alexander famously called Gosar the "spirit animal" of the "Stop the Steal" efforts in a video posted before the attack that has since been deleted.

Alexander described Biggs as a hero of the movement during a 2020 rally in Phoenix and led a chant in his name.

The issue of presidential pardons has hung over the investigation, from whether members of Congress sought them to whether pardons were dangled in front of Trump supporters.

Lesko has previously cast doubt on Hutchinson's veracity.

In April, the Jan. 6 committee released documents showing Hutchinson said she "believes" Lesko was among those who attended a key strategy meeting at the White House on Dec. 21, 2020, as Trump's allies sought to sidestep certified election results.

A spokesperson for Lesko maintained she didn't.

"There is no record of Congresswoman Lesko attending any such meeting on her calendar and the congresswoman has no recollection of participating in the meeting," said Rachel Harris, Lesko's chief of staff.

Biggs and Gosar were widely known to have attended the meeting. The same day, both men participated in a videoconference with Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, in an effort to convince him to support their efforts to consider that fraud shaped the state's election.

Bowers, who testified Tuesday to the Jan. 6 committee in Washington, was unpersuaded, but did examine Maricopa County's election headquarters to learn more about the vote-counting process.

Arizona House speaker praised: Bowers applauded on plane after testimony

The committee's fifth public hearing in recent days laid out an effort by Trump and his allies to enlist the Justice Department and other federal agencies to seize election equipment, cast doubt on the election results despite a lack of evidence and pressure to change leadership based on whether the acting attorney general would press Trump's election agenda.

Reach the reporter Ronald J. Hansen at ronald.hansen@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4493. Follow him on Twitter @ronaldjhansen

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