Testimony describes how Trump pressured then-Vice President Mike Pence in private taunts and public entreaties to stop the certification of Joe Biden's victory in the run-up to the January 6 Capitol insurrection.

The ongoing hearings may not change hearts or minds in politically polarised America, but the panel's investigation is intended to stand as a public record for history.
The ongoing hearings may not change hearts or minds in politically polarised America, but the panel's investigation is intended to stand as a public record for history. (AP)

Donald Trump pressured his vice president to go along with an illegal plot to overturn the 2020 US election, congressional investigators and former administration aides have said.

The House committee probing last year's attack on the US Capitol detailed on Thursday how the former president berated Mike Pence for not going along with the scheme.

At its third public hearing into the January 6, 2021 insurrection, the panel detailed a "relentless" pressure campaign by Trump on Pence — as key to a criminal conspiracy to keep the defeated president in power.

"Donald Trump wanted Mike Pence to do something no other vice president has ever done," panel chairman Bennie Thompson said.

"The former president wanted Pence to reject the votes and either declare Trump the winner or send the votes back to the states to be counted again."

"Mike Pence said no. He resisted the pressure. He knew it was illegal. He knew it was wrong," he added.

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'Pretty jarring'

Trump's lawyer John Eastman was the architect of the "nonsensical" plot, said committee vice-chair Liz Cheney, pushing the scheme aggressively despite knowing it to be unlawful.

The defeated president used rally speeches and Twitter to exert intense pressure on his deputy to abuse his position as president of the Senate and reject the election results.

But Pence released a letter to Congress saying the vice president had no "unilateral authority" to overturn election counts.

Democratic committee member Pete Aguilar said an informant from the far-right Proud Boys told the FBI the group would have killed Pence given the opportunity.

The California congressman said the mob storming the Capitol came within 12 meters (40 feet) of Pence and to "make no mistake about the fact that the vice president's life was in danger."

Former chief of staff Mark Meadows told Trump about the violence erupting at the Capitol but the president tweeted that Pence did not have the "courage" to overturn the election, aides told investigators in videotaped depositions.

Immediately after the tweet, the crowds at the Capitol surged forward, the committee said. The mob threatened to hang Pence for failing to cooperate as they stormed the Capitol, even erecting a gallows in front of the building.

"What the former president was willing to sacrifice — potentially the vice president — in order to stay in power is pretty jarring," Aguilar said.

The committee also heard from retired federal judge John Michael Luttig, who testified that the US would have been plunged into "a revolution within a paralysing constitutional crisis" had Pence folded under Trump's pressure.

Trump reacted to the hearing by demanding that he receive "equal time" on the airwaves to lay out his theory that the election was stolen.

However, opponents pointed out that he has not taken up the committee's invitation to testify.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies