Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday he was not involved in any conversations with Trump allies about the possibility of him presiding over the Jan. 6, 2021 joint session of Congress.
“We were talking about presiding over the Senate but a lot of people get that mixed up with some idea that I was going to preside over the joint session,” Grassley said as he got out of the Senate subway for the first votes of the day. “You know that’s not what I ever intended to do. I was never involved in any conversations on that or anything.”
When pressed about how the mix up happened, Grassley was led away by a staffer and reporters were told the senator’s office could send out a statement to elaborate.
Questions around Trump allies’ discussions about Grassley presiding over Congress instead of then former Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6 resurfaced on Tuesday when Trump lawyer John Eastman was asked about those conversations during his disbarment trial in California.
Eastman evaded the question and claimed conversations on that topic were protected by attorney-client privilege, according to Politico. When pressed further about which client he was referring to Eastman said, “President Trump.”
The idea of Grassley filling in for Pence to preside over the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 first surfaced when it appeared that Grassley was preparing to take such an action.
On Jan. 5, 2021, just a day before Congress was scheduled to count the electoral college votes for the 2020 election, Grassley told reporters that he would preside over the Senate debate over disputes of the 2020 election results if Pence did not show up, as the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported.
At the time, Grassley suggested Pence was not expected to attend the session, but his office later clarified that was a “misinterpretation” and that Pence was expected to be there.
“Well, first of all, I will be — if the Vice President isn’t there and we don’t expect him to be there, I will be presiding over the Senate,” Grassley said at the time, according to a transcript of his remarks a spokesperson later sent out.
It was only later revealed that Eastman and other Trump allies may have been discussing the idea of Grassley presiding as early as December 2020. It came in email exchanges between Eastman and Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn. The two were discussing edits to Eastman’s now-infamous two-page memo outlining Pence’s options on Jan. 6 when Eastman reportedly raised the prospect of Grassley filling in for Pence.
In that December 23, 2020 exchange, Eastman told Epshteyn that he hoped members of Congress wouldn’t “constrain Pence (or Grassley)” from blocking the certification of the election.
Shortly after this story was published, Grassley’s office responded to TPM’s request for additional comment with the following statement, emphasis theirs:
“Neither Sen. Grassley nor his staff were ever made aware of any plans to overturn the election. In response to press questions during a media call on January 5, 2021, Sen. Grassley said that, as Senate President pro tempore at the time, he would be in line to preside over the Senate if the Vice President was not present at any point in the Senate’s proceedings to consider any objections to electoral votes raised in the joint session of Congress. Sen. Grassley had every expectation that Pence would attend and preside over the joint session of Congress, which was convening to count the electoral votes.”