How Trump Pressured Pence With Taunts, Lies and an Angry Mob
OMike Pence and his staff were praying in the Vice Presidential Residence at the Naval Observatory compound, Washington on the morning of January 6, 2021. It was clear that it would prove difficult so they asked God for guidance and wisdom. That’s when President Trump called.
Trump was berating Pence about his insistence that Pence had no legal authority to refuse the Electoral College votes to Congress that night, a decision that could have cost Trump the election. White House staff and family members around Trump in the Oval Office during his call with Pence described to the Jan. 6 committee how Trump’s tone got “heated.” Trump called Pence a “wimp” and “the P-word,” witnesses said, and told Pence he had made the wrong decision picking Pence for Vice President.
Pence came back to the prayer circle looking “steely,” “determined” and “grim,” recalled Pence’s legal counsel Greg Jacob. For Vice President Pence, the day was only going to get more difficult.
Throughout Thursday’s hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the attack on the Capitol, witnesses laid out how Trump pressured Pence in public and private to try and overturn the election. That campaign, the committee argued, included Trump recklessly endangering Pence’s life.
Trump fired up his supporters hours prior to the Capitol attack at an Ellipse rally near the White House. Officials involved testified to the committee that Trump ad-libbed lines about Pence in the speech, saying ”If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election,” and “I hope Mike has the courage to do what he has to do and I hope he doesn’t listen to the RINOS and the stupid people that he’s listening to.”
As the day went on, more pressure was applied. Witnesses testified that Trump had been told a violent mob had breached the Capitol before he tweeted at 2:24 pm that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what was necessary.” The committee showed video of Trump supporters on the steps of the Capitol reading Trump’s tweet aloud, their anger growing at the Vice President, who they believed had “betrayed” Trump. The committee then showed video of the crowd chanting “hang Mike Pence” and a noose set up outside the Capitol building.
Sarah Matthews, a former deputy press secretary under Trump, described in taped testimony seeing Trump’s tweet about Pence and thinking Trump “was pouring gasoline on the fire.”
The committee based its findings on video evidence that the mob entered the building, and determined that Pence was within 40 feet. He was evacuating the Senate chamber from an underground loading dock at the Capitol Complex, where his motorcade was being staged according to Rep. Pete Aguilar (a California Democrat) on the committee.
“Make no mistake about the fact the vice president’s life was in danger,” Aguilar said.
Pence declined to be loaded into his vehicle by Secret Service agents once he reached underground parking. “The Vice President had refused to get into the car,” Jacob recalled. Pence, Jacob said, “did not want to take any chance that the world would see the Vice President fleeing the Capitol.” Pence waited in that underground location for more than two hours while rioters roamed the Capitol building, some of them looking specifically for him. This had been an extremely close call. Also, the committee showed fragments from an FBI informant’s affidavit that stated members of Proud Boys wanted to kill Pence if they found him on that particular day.
While he was waiting for the chaos above him to stop, Pence kept in touch with the acting secretary. He checked for the safety and well-being of all other officials. Throughout the whole ordeal Trump didn’t contact his Vice President. Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, expressed “frustration” that Trump hadn’t checked on their safety, Jacob said.
Pence continued to live in the Capitol Building, until the Senate Chamber was cleared from the mob.
Pence returned to the Constitution’s only power that he could do, which was to oversee the congressional count of the Electoral College totals as sent by the States. He officially declared Biden the winner of the presidency at 3:46 AM.
Pence, who had sought legal counsel over several weeks, had concluded that after rebelling against King George and creating the government of the separation, the Constitution’s creators would have not intended for Vice President Donald Trump to affect the outcome of an election. Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, said that was what Pence believed when he met with Trump on Jan. 5, the day before the riot. But Trump made a statement claiming that he believed he could overturn the election results shortly after the meeting. Short said Trump’s statement was a lie.
The committee showed video testimony of Trump’s aide Jason Miller saying Trump himself dictated the Jan. 5 statement. “He dictated most of it,” Miller told the committee. “Ultimately the way this came out was the way he wanted it to.” Despite Trump lying about Pence’s view of his role in a public statement, the Vice President didn’t succumb to the pressure, a decision that multiple committee members praised on Thursday.
“Our system nearly failed and our democratic foundation nearly failed,” Rep. Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming and the committee’s vice chair, said during Thursday’s hearing. “Trump’s pressure campaign to stop the electoral count did not end with Vice President Pence—it targeted every tier of federal and state elected officials.”
While waiting in the secure location under the Capitol complex, Pence’s legal counsel Jacobs recalled reading his Bible about Daniel refusing an order from the Babylonian king. “I felt that’s what played out that day,” Jacob said.
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