What we learned about Mike Pence and Donald Trump in the Jan. 6 hearing
Pence’s refusal to overturn the election avoided plunging the U.S. into a Constitutional crisis, said a former federal judge who advised him
Former President Donald Trump pressured then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election using powers he didn’t have, and he put Pence’s life in danger, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol said during its Thursday hearing.
“[Pence] resisted the pressure, he knew it was illegal, he knew it was wrong,” said committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, R-Miss. “We’re fortunate for Mr. Pence’s courage on Jan. 6. Our democracy came dangerously close to catastrophe. That courage put him in tremendous danger.”
Pence’s former legal counsel Greg Jacob said Pence’s first reaction to hearing the argument that the vice president could pick the president was that the founders wouldn’t have allowed it.
“There was no way they would have put in the hands of one person the authority to determine who was going to be president of the United States,” Jacob said.
Pence was also pressured to send electoral votes back to the states, an action there is no precedent for in U.S. history, Jacob said.
When speaking about the plan with its architect, former Chapman University School of Law professor John Eastman, Jacob asked why former Vice President Al Gore wouldn’t have just declared himself the winner of the 2000 election if he could have..
“Al Gore did not have a basis in 2000, Kamala Harris shouldn’t be able to do it in 2024, but I think you should do it today,” Eastman said, according to Jacob.
Eastman later asked for a pardon from Trump, which he did not receive.
The committee showed how Trump turned up the pressure against Pence, including revising drafts of his Jan. 6, 2021 speech to include Pence, and ad libbing about Pence more during his remarks. His tweets also had an impact.
Trump tweeted at 2:24 p.m. on Jan. 6 that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution” and the committee’s investigation found the crowds inside and outside the Capitol both surged after the tweet was posted, said Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif.
Pence was then evacuated to a secure location on the Capitol grounds where he stayed for four-and-a-half hours. The mob got within 40 feet of Pence, and an informant from the Proud Boys, an extremist group that led the breach into the Capitol, told the FBI that the Proud Boys “would have killed Mike Pence, if given the chance.” Trump never called to check in on Pence’s safety, Jacob said.
Jacob said his faith sustained him when he was in the secure location with Pence and that he read from his Bible.
“Daniel 6 was where I went and in Daniel 6, Daniel has become the second in command of Babylon, a pagan nation, but he completely faithfully serves, he refuses an order from the king that he cannot follow, and he does his duty consistent with his oath to God, and I felt that that was what had played out that day,” Jacob said.
J. Michael Luttig, a former federal judge who advised Pence, also testified Thursday and called Trump’s efforts to overturn the election “the most reckless, insidious, and calamitous failures in both legal and political judgement in American history.”
He said if Pence had declared Trump president despite losing the electoral vote, it would've plunged the U.S. into “a revolution within a Constitutional crisis.” And the threat isn’t over, he warned.
If Trump or his appointed successor were to lose in 2024, “they would attempt to overturn that 2024 election in the same way they attempted to overturn the 2020 election, but success in 2024 where they failed in 2020,” Luttig said.
“I don’t speak those words lightly. I would have never spoken those words ever in my life except that that’s what the former president and his allies are telling us,” he said.