Mike Pence’s Secret Service Agents Were Terrified on Jan. 6

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Perhaps the best-known security organization in the world is the Secret Service. This elite group of professionals are highly skilled and have a reputation for their paranoia. The Secret Service can win your worst case scenario if you imagine it. It’s literally their job to ask what can possibly go wrong and then shift course to ensure their charges can make it through another day. If their issue wants to visit a war zone, the Secret Service can, with sufficient warning, get the package in and out before potential threats even know they’re in the theater. When those in the backseats are the President, Vice President, their families and—at times—their senior staffers, there’s not a lot of room for simply hoping for the best. Only success is acceptable.

The testimony Thursday night regarding the Secret Service agents who were assigned to Vice President Mike Pence’s protection on January 6, 2021 was both shocking and terrifying. A portion of Jan. 6, committee’s second primetime hearing allowed for audio to be played from an official White House security team. This officer described how agents felt they were dying as supporters of Donald Trump pushed closer towards the Capitol, where they were hiding.

“Members of the V.P. Details at that time started to worry about their lives. There was a lot of yelling—a lot of very personal calls over the radio. This was extremely disturbing. I don’t like talking about it,” the official, who was provided anonymity to be candid, told the committee. “There were calls to say goodbye to family members. Whatever reason, the V.P. detail thought that this was about to get very ugly.”

“About to get very ugly.” At the U.S. Capitol. This was supposed to be a routine rubber stamp of the results for 2020. Panicked calls were made by the House Republican leader to President and then his family. The Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader bunkered down and asking for a security assessment of their fiefdom from the Pentagon’s chief. President tried to steal his motorcade. When that failed, the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader hid down, asking for a security assessment from the Pentagon’s chief. Yes manLet him go to the Hill. If you’re an adherent of America First political ideology, such a stab to the country’s standing as a functioning republic runs quite counter to the slogan.

To be crystal clear: Nothing about that day was normal, and the bipartisan group of House lawmakers trying to get to its bottom isn’t leaving any stones unturned. In fact, it now seems like the plans of wrapping up their query by the end of this month may slip—and for good reason.

The more they learn, the more they ask questions. Why, for instance, wouldn’t Trump admitEven on Jan. 7, the election was complete. What was the point of him attempting to evade his recorded call for peace and vamping on a taped video? What responsibility did Trump bear for watching the violence in his own backyard unfold? What end?

Most Americans have long assumed that the shell that the Secret Service builds around its protectees is impenetrable—even if agents have proven in recent years capable of epic failures in judgment and, in recent days, been shown to mount a colossal bungling of its own records.

The testimony aired Thursday evening of the agents’ state of mind, coupled with the footage from that day of a scurrying Pence, laid bare the very real risk the presidential backup faced. A lack of confidence in the Secret Service is not good. It’s bad for the projection of America’s might.

Expectations have been crushed by the Jan. 6 Committee. In testimony and evidence, the story of that failed uprising is preserved. While it’s easy for Trumpists to shout nuh-uhWhen confronted with facts, the committee had the receipts. For a brief time Thursday night, House Republicans even used their main Twitter account to attack a Republican Hill staffer testifying against her former boss—proving once again that the GOP is making a short-term bet on appeasing Trump over getting right by history.

Washingtonians feel the fragility of democracy Jan. 6 is a reminder of those days following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The country’s arrogance on 9/11 melted—briefly—as one brand of extremism sought to humble Americans. It isn’t a stretch to think a similar radicalization primer found receptive ears 20 years later in the homegrown extremists bent on derailing Americans’ exercise of democratic norms.

With the Secret Service confirming that it feared the Secret Service might not be able defend Vice President, another crisis in American confidence is emerging.

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