• The January 6 panel previewed Thursday's hearing with a clip featuring testimony from Trump's former White House attorney Eric Herschmann.
  • Herschmann pushed back on false claims that the election was stolen.
  • He previously represented Trump in his first Senate impeachment trial.

The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack previewed its upcoming hearing on Thursday by playing videotaped testimony from Eric Herschmann, an ex-senior advisor to former President Donald Trump who said voter fraud claims in the 2020 election were bogus.

In the clip, Herschmann spoke candidly about a confrontation he had with conservative lawyer John Eastman a day after the riot. Eastman, who amplified 2020 election conspiracy theories, was still keen on pursing efforts to overturn the results in Georgia, according to Herschmann.

"I said to him, 'Are you out of your effing mind?'" Herschmann, an attorney, told the January 6 panel in his recorded deposition. "'I only want to hear two words coming out of your mouth for now on: Orderly transition.'"

After Herschmann repeatedly instructed Eastman to say those two words, he eventually did.

"'Now I'm going to give you the best free legal advice you're ever getting in your life,'" Herschmann continued, according to his testimony. "Get a great effing criminal defense lawyer. You're going to need it.' And then I hung up on him."

The blunt remarks made national headlines this week as Herschmann is shaping up to be a prominent figure in the January 6 hearings. The former Trump White House lawyer has emerged as one of several top aides who warned Trump and his allies after the election that there was no proof the race was rigged and stolen, and their efforts may be illegal. 

"I never saw any evidence whatsoever to sustain those allegations," Herschmann said in his deposition played by the January 6 committee during Monday's hearing. "What they were proposing I thought was nuts," he added at another point.

The White House attorney challenged false election claims

Herschmann earned his law degree from Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law in New York. He previously served as vice president and counsel for Citibank, and later was the executive vice president of the energy firm Southern Union Company. He also worked as an assistant district attorney for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

The longtime lawyer joined the Trump White House as a senior advisor in August 2020 after spending nearly 25 years as a partner at the New York litigation firm Kasowitz Benson & Torres, earning more than $3.3 million from the firm, according to financial records reported by The National Law Journal. The law firm briefly represented Trump in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Politico reported.

Months before he entered Trump's inner orbit, Herschmann argued on behalf of the president in his first Senate impeachment trial over his dealings with Ukraine. Herschmann often pivoted away from Trump during the trial and instead targeted then-former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, and their business in Ukraine.

Herschmann once again took aim at Hunter Biden while working for Trump during the 2020 election. As Trump lagged behind then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in national polls, Herschmann and others in Trump's circle sought to boost his candidacy by elevating Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine, according to a New York Times column.

In the aftermath of Trump's loss, Herschmann was one of a number of officials who found himself distancing from Trump and those close to his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who spread false election claims. News reports at the time highlighted Herschmann's fierce opposition. He fell into a screaming match with lawyer Sidney Powell and former national security advisor Michael Flynn, both of whom had promoted baseless election conspiracy theories, during one December 2020 Oval Office meeting first reported by the New York Times.

Powell, in the meeting, claimed that federal judges who dismissed the Trump team's election lawsuits were corrupt.

"That's your argument?" Herschmann told her, Axios reported. "Even the judges we appointed? Are you out of your fucking mind?"

Eric Herschmann, an attorney for President Donald Trump, speaks during the impeachment trial on Jan. 30, 2020. Foto: Senate Television via AP

Days before the January 6 riot, Herschmann attended another White House meeting, in which he and other Trump lawyers sought to convince the president not to replace acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with then-Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark, who had supported false election claims. 

"Mr. Herschmann, I can recall in great detail, was highly critical of Mr. Clark's qualifications and capabilities. And, again, I'm putting that in a relatively polite manner. He was aggressive," Rosen, who was at the meeting, testified last year before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Herschmann went on to cooperate with January 6 committee's investigation and met with the panel in April. In addition to his colorful language, Herschmann gave his deposition in a room with a baseball bat hung on the wall and the word "JUSTICE" inscribed on it in bold, white letters. Observers also noted a large painting behind him of a panda, by the artist Rob Pruitt, is similar to one that appeared in the 2015 erotic drama "50 Shades of Grey."

The committee's third hearing on Thursday afternoon will focus on Trump's efforts to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to throw out electoral votes on January 6. Herschmann did not return Insider's request for comment.


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