By Jacob Fischler, Tennessee Lookout
WASHINGTON, DC–The private and public conflict between Donald Trump and Mike Pence over certifying the 2020 election results put the vice president within steps of the Jan. 6 attackers, the U.S. House committee investigating the insurrection said Thursday.
As the mob approached the U.S. Senate chamber in the Capitol, the vice president’s Secret Service retinue hustled him into a secure location. Pence’s and the rioters’ paths were within 40 feet of each other, said U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar, a California Democrat, who led much of the committee questioning in the panel’s third public hearing.
Then-President Trump put Pence in danger by pressing him to execute a plan championed by John Eastman, an outside Trump attorney, to reject slates of electors from seven states that Trump lost: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Pence viewed that plan as illegal and wrong and consistently told Trump as much, people close to Pence told the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Pence later publicly declared he was duty-bound to respect the will of voters and not single-handedly overturn the election.
“President Trump is wrong,” Pence said in February 2022 remarks to the conservative Federalist Society that the committee replayed Thursday.
“I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone. And frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”
Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson said he didn’t often agree with Pence, but that he endorsed that view.
“He resisted the pressure,” the Mississippi Democrat said of Pence. “He knew it was illegal. He knew it was wrong. We are fortunate for Mr. Pence’s courage on Jan. 6. Our democracy came dangerously close to catastrophe. That courage put him in tremendous danger.”
The plan to replace legitimate electors with slates of fake electors who would support Trump gained steam in early January, driving a wedge between Trump and Pence.
Pence told the president several times the plan was unconstitutional and illegal.
On the morning of Jan. 6, before addressing supporters on the White House Ellipse, Trump phoned Pence, who moved into a room to be alone to take the call.
Witnesses to Trump’s end of the call, including his daughter Ivanka Trump, characterized it as “heated.”
Former White House aide Nicholas Luna said Trump called Pence a “wimp.” Ivanka Trump’s former chief of staff, Julie Radford, said the first daughter told her Trump used an obscener term with a similar meaning.
Ivanka Trump said her father’s tone was different from what she’d “heard him take with the vice president before.”
A confidential informant associated with the far-right Proud Boys group–which the panel has said was among the organizers of attempts to violently overturn the election–told the FBI the group would have killed Pence at the Capitol if they were able, Aguilar said, citing an affidavit.
Secret Service agents tried to get Pence into a car to leave the Capitol complex, Greg Jacob, an attorney for Pence, said.
Pence refused, saying he did not want the world “to see the vice president of the United States fleeing the United States Capitol, and he was determined that we would complete the work that we had set out to do that day,” Jacob said. “And rioters who had breached the Capitol would not have the satisfaction of disrupting the proceedings beyond the day on which they were supposed to be completed.”
Instead, Pence stayed in the secure location, where he monitored events of the day.
The committee showed a photograph, made public for the first time, of Pence in the secure area watching a Trump video praising the rioters but telling them to leave the Capitol.