Mike Pence Saved The Republic On Jan. 6 – And No One Is Talking About It, Not Even Him
Just last week in New Hampshire, former Vice President Mike Pence finally admitted that he and former President Donald Trump disagreed on what happened on Jan. 6. (Photo: Scott Eisen via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, N.H. - Mike Pence saved American democracy on January 6th and nobody wants to talk about it. Not even Mike Pence.
Since his boss, then President Donald Trump, relied on him publicly and privately to overthrow the November election won by Democrat Joe Biden and instead award Trump a second term in the White House, Pence declined.
After the violent mob Trump invited to Washington storm the Capitol, he chanted "Hang Mike Pence!" when they chased him, was evacuated, the Vice President, in his role as Senate President, came back on stage, visibly annoyed, and finished the job.
“For those who wreaked havoc at our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins, ”said Pence in a language that could have been addressed to Trump himself. “And when we come together again in this room, the world will once again experience the resilience and strength of our democracy because, even after unprecedented violence and vandalism in this Capitol, the elected representatives of the people of the United States have rallied the same day to to support and defend the United States Constitution. "
"Our democracy was literally in limbo," said J. Michael Luttig, a retired federal judge whose 165-word Twitter thread quoted Pence earlier that day to explain his ruling. "This is really scary stuff."
But less than six months after Pence's decision to stand firm - which prevented at least a constitutional crisis and possibly open wars and bloodshed on the streets - his exploits are all but forgotten. In fact, many, if not most, Americans refuse to see them as such.
Mike Pence wasn't a hero. He just wasn't ready to be America's biggest monster, and he would have been.
Amanda Carpenter, Former Assistant to the Texas Republican Senate, Ted Cruz
Democrats contend that compliance with the law and the constitution should not be the basis for praise, especially after four years of obsequious flattery about Trump. Many independents are reluctant to give him credit for preventing disasters, but still see nothing heroic. And for many Republicans, most of whom still support the former president, he is exactly as a former top Trump White House adviser recently described him: "Benedict Arnold Pence".
Ironically, the person least interested in making a big deal out of Pence's actions could be Pence himself, as he takes on the perhaps impossible task of winning over the angry voters for refusing to take Trump Stealing the presidency and trying to find a way to get the job yourself.
Indeed, in his first public remarks about Trump's attempt to overturn elections at a Christian Conservative gathering in late April, Pence described it as "a tragedy in our nation's Capitol," just one of several troubles the nation faced over the past year. like the pandemic or the civil rights protests.
Just last week in New Hampshire, Pence finally admitted that he and Trump disagreed about what happened on January 6 - "I don't know if we ever agree that day" - but even that was before and after marked by great praise for the man who asked him to end American democracy and with pride in the "Trump pence record".
And for Pence's critics, those words, which included a comparison of Trump to former president and conservative icon Ronald Reagan, are proof that Pence's action on Jan. 6 was more about preserving his own political future than that Save land.
“Mike Pence wasn't a hero. He just wasn't ready to be America's biggest monster, and he would have been, ”said Amanda Carpenter, a former assistant to the Texas Republican Senate, Ted Cruz. “He's proud of the Trump pence record? The Trump pence record involves a riot, and he didn't boo about it until January 6th. "
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. (Photo: JOSEPH PREZIOSO via Getty Images)
An American coup
In 220 years, beginning with John Adams in 1800, 16 incumbent presidents have lost attempts to win another term. Trump was the first to try to overthrow democracy itself in order to stay in power - some advisors even discussed the use of martial law.
It got to the point where Trump's top defense minister actively worried about a military coup and every living former defense minister signed a letter reminding the 1.4 million men and women in uniform that their loyalty is due to the constitution , not an individual, and that this principle would be enforced with criminal penalties if necessary.
While Trump didn't start bidding on his Jan. 6 plan, which centered on pence and Electoral College certification, until December 19, the roadmap for that day was actually worked out months earlier when Trump told his supporters that he couldn't possibly lose a fair election.
"The only way you can lose this election is if the election is rigged," he told supporters in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on August 17.
This baseless claim was repeated many times at his rallies and media interviews, and when combined with Trump's refusal to promise that if he lost, he would accept the November results, it provided a clear indication of his strategy if Biden wins.
A major influence on these plans had statements last June that received little public attention, but which some top Trump advisors saw as a serious setback. After the forced evacuation of Lafayette Square with tear gas and beatings on June 1, 2020 so that Trump could host a photo opportunity with a Bible, both Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley apologized for their presence by the side President, saying it was inappropriate for the military to interfere in domestic politics.
The message to Trump was clear. Whatever plan he contemplated if he lost, the military wouldn't be involved.
In fact, when making appearances on Stephen Bannon's pro-Trump podcast, top White House adviser Peter Navarro grumbled that the statements made to the Commander-in-Chief were disrespectful.
“The Secretary of Defense really wanted the President. He's been so disruptive to the White House and Milley, who basically stalked the President during the Bible Walk last year, ”Navarro said on March 16, two weeks before calling Pence“ Benedict Arnold Pence ”for calling him Trump disobeyed on January 6th
What did Mike Pence's Trump want to do with the country? This is a blood test to be a Republican. You have to say the election was stolen or you can't be a Republican.
J. Michael Luttig, former federal judge.
Navarro, who did not respond to HuffPost's inquiries about the story, also complained that none of the men would support Trump's attempts to use the Insurgency Act of 1807 - which Navarro and other Trump advisors proposed as a tool to help him stay in power stay to lower civil rights protests and riots last summer. "The Pentagon, Esper and Milley, they fought tooth and nail," said Navarro.
With the military unwilling to play along, Trump first turned to the courts to reverse the election results in which he lost 7 million votes nationwide and 306 to 232 in the electoral college. He alleged that the states had illegally changed the electoral rules. He claimed that non-citizens voted. He claimed the dead voted. But none of these lawsuits were dismissed from court to court, either for lack of evidence or because Trump's team waited too long to lodge their complaints about the trial.
Trump then reached out to state legislatures, urging Republicans to reject the vote count and simply cast him their electoral votes. These attempts also went nowhere, and on December 14 the electoral college made Biden's victory official.
Which shifted Trump's focus to his ever-loyal vice president.
Between the boss and the constitution
This was the backstory on the morning of January 6th, when the fate of the Republic was placed in the hands of a former radio talk show host who became Congressman and Governor. Pence faced a difficult re-election in Indiana in the summer of 2016, when he was picked as Trump's runner-up, largely thanks to his reticent demeanor and popularity with evangelical Christian voters.
For four years he made his public figure a complement to his boss, constantly praising his leadership, wisdom, strength, broad shoulders. At times, his actions caused open mockery - perhaps best known when Pence did the same to his own during a meeting at FEMA headquarters in 2018 after Trump inexplicably moved his water bottle from the conference table to the floor.
His break with Trump was all the more dramatic. At 1:02 p.m. on Jan. 6, it came in the form of a Twitter post from Pence's two-page letter to each member of Congress stating that after researching the matter and despite his own concerns about the manner of voting, he had no power had to do something about it.
"My deliberate assessment is that my oath to support and defend the Constitution prevents me from using unilateral authority to determine which votes should and should not be counted," he wrote.
Die-hard Trump supporters, who hung on his every word, found the statement mind-blowing, as Trump claimed less than 24 hours earlier that Pence had the sole discretion to reject "corrupt" and "illegal" state election results, and that he and Pence "Were completely in agreement that the Vice President has the power of attorney".
Unsurprisingly, Trump's statement was a complete lie. In fact, Pence had stated for weeks since Trump and a team of conspiracy lawyers including Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell presented him with the idea that he couldn't do this legally.
"On the way to the 6th, the president was given a lot of unfortunate advice," said a top White House adviser to Trump, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It was disheartening to see the lawyers' clown car showing up every day with the lazy legal theories."
On January 5, at the request of Pence's advisors, Luttig posted a short thread on Twitter stating that Pence did not have the authority to do what Trump wanted and that refusal to do so did not imply infidelity to Trump rather, loyalty to the Constitution.
“I knew what he needed and why he needed me. I'm not naive, ”Luttig recently told HuffPost. “He needed someone who could speak to the President directly. And he needed someone who could talk to Republicans and all Conservatives. "
Pence went on to tell Trump that he was not empowered to overturn an election. The last such conversation was over the phone in the late morning of January 6th, just minutes before Pence left for the Capitol to perform his duties.
Supporters of then-President Donald Trump erected a gallows in front of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, breached security, and stormed the Capitol when Congress upheld the electoral college vote. (Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images)
"Hang up Mike Pence!"
However, Trump continued to pretend Pence's upcoming actions were still an open question.
At a rally on a meadow against the White House backdrop, Trump told the tens of thousands of supporters he had asked to meet in the country's capital on this particular date and time that he hoped Pence would "do the right thing." "would matter," and added, "Because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we'll win the election."
Trump also reiterated his lie that just hours after polling stations closed on November 3, he started telling that he actually won the election and that it was stolen from him. He told his followers that if they wanted to change that, they would have to fight. “Because you will never recapture our country with weakness. You have to show strength and be strong, ”he said.
He told his people that he would go to the Capitol with them to pressure Pence and Congress to do what he asked. But just as Trump finished his hour and 10 minutes on stage, Pence's letter to Congress landed on lawmakers' desks in the Capitol, in their email inboxes, and on Twitter around the world. Instead, Trump returned to the White House - where he reacted furiously and whipped in a Twitter post that Pence “did not have the courage” to do what was necessary.
His mob had already broken the police lines and entered the Capitol, and news of Trump's tweet made the rioters even more angry. Hundreds of them roamed the halls and reached the Senate Chamber less than a minute after the Secret Service got Pence, his family, and his top aides to safety.
One of the rioters posted a video stating, “When we found out that Pence was turning on us and that they stole the election, as officially, the crowd went nuts. I mean, it became a mob. "
Another, known to be horned and shirtless, left a note on Pence: "It is only a matter of time before justice will come."
The chaos lasted for hours. Four Trump supporters died, including one who was shot and killed by police trying to climb through a broken window into a vestibule that was still being evacuated by members of the house. One hundred and forty officers were injured and one died the next day. Two more took their own lives in the coming days.
Eventually police and National Guard regained control of the building and established a perimeter, and when Pence returned to the podium to resume the certification process, Trump's last attempt to steal the election and overthrow democracy was dead.
I couldn't see it much longer because it was gross. And it was scary.
Others in Congress and in Trump's own administration played a vital role that day in suppressing Trump's rise to power, from military leaders who made it clear they would not play a role in the election to former Attorney General Bill Barr who declared it do not give election fraud of the nature and extent, Trump alleged to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who described his decision to honor the election results as "the most important vote I have ever cast."
But no one played such a prominent role as Pence, who then continued to follow the forms of a peaceful transfer of power by attending Biden's inauguration, even as Trump himself sat at his Palm Beach country club when Chief Justice John Roberts took the oath of office .
"What Pence did was laudable and not praised for it," said George Conway, a longtime courtroom attorney, a member of the Conservative Federalist Society and an outspoken critic of Trump.
Pence gave his most detailed public account of the day to date at a local GOP Lincoln-Reagan Day dinner in New Hampshire last week, acknowledging for the first time his break with Trump, which should have happened. "As I said that day, January 6th was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol," he said.
A little later, Pence added a biblical reference to his own role: "Be ready to keep our oath, even if it hurts, as the good book says."
"Chaotic, uncontrolled, potentially violent"
It underlined, in an almost comical way, what he had saved the country from.
Pence's statement to the New Hampshire Republicans lacked any sort of reminder of what would have happened if he had done what Trump, his innermost advisors, and stubborn supporters wanted.
For while it is true that neither the Constitution nor the Electoral Census Act gives the Vice President the power to choose and choose the votes of the states he adopts and does not accept, documents and laws in themselves are not self-executing. They require officials in positions of authority to honor and obey them.
If Trump had had a more forgiving vice president - for example, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who had already helped Trump force Georgia electoral officials to "find" an additional 12,000 votes for him - his plan would likely have worked. And lawyers agree that the consequences for the country would have been devastating.
Both the spokeswoman for the Democratic House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and McConnell, who was still the majority leader in the Senate at the time, would have rejected such a move. The couple could even have gone so far as to remove the vice president from chairmanship and ratify the December 14 electoral college results unchanged, said Conway, who believes Pence would have been legally restricted.
“He couldn't have declared Donald Trump the winner. He could have just screwed up the process and slowed things down, ”Conway said.
But that doesn't take into account Trump's likely refusal to accept a Congressional decision contradicting that of his Vice President, and then what he might have told his supporters - including a significant number of white racist "militia" members - to do on his own on behalf, said Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard.
“Chaotic, unregulated, potentially violent,” he said. "It's frightening how it all normalized."
That and the subsequent “and then what” break completely new ground. Would Congress have asked the Supreme Court to declare Biden the winner? Would the High Court have accepted such a case? Would Trump have respected a judgment he didn't like?
"Hell would have broken out, and I don't think there is a plausible way for the Supreme Court to bring normalcy," Tribe said. "The court would not have been eager to plunge into this whirlwind."
Luttig, who sat on the federal appeals court for 15 years and was considered for the Supreme Court by former President George W. Bush himself, said the country could well have gotten into a situation where there was no legally confirmed presidential election winner . "That would have been a real constitutional crisis," he said.
He added that he remembered watching television coverage from the Capitol that day, knowing that Trump and his mob were reacting to Pence's actions that he himself recommended. "I couldn't see it much longer because it was gross," he said. "And it was scary."
In this screenshot from a webcast by Congress.gov, the Senate votes 57-43 for the acquittal of former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial in the U.S. Capitol on February 13, 2021. (Photo: Handout via Getty Images)
The elites who didn't make a mistake
For scholars of the autocracies, a crucial moment in their downfall is when the autocrat suffers a setback that makes him appear weak, leading to denunciations from top aides and allies leading to the end of the regime.
For the fascism expert Ruth Ben-Ghiat, January 6th can be seen as a moment of vulnerability for Donald Trump - if not because of his rule over the United States, then certainly because of his influence over the Republican Party. And on that day and in the days to come, she said, “converting the elite” could have ended him forever.
It never happened.
"We had an act of political violence straight out of the authoritarian playbook," said Ben-Ghiat, author of Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present and a history professor at New York University. “Pence could have been that elite defector. And he decided not to do it. "
Instead, he and the majority of the Republican Party fell behind Trump almost immediately. Critics such as Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger have been marginalized. Wyoming MP Liz Cheney, who was number 3 in the leadership of the House GOP, has been removed from that post and replaced with a Trump acolyte. Even McConnell, who attacked Trump from Senate floor after plotting his acquittal for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, later told Fox News that he would vote for Trump in 2024 if he joined the GOP Would be a presidential candidate.
A senior GOP adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was a very short window to ban Trump from the party immediately after the Capitol attack. "Things could probably have been done on January 7th," he said. "But they weren't."
Now the strategy is to ignore January 6th as much as possible in order to win back the House and Senate in 2022 and instead focus on Biden's policies on taxes, spending and immigration. "Obviously, when it comes to January 6th, that's not good for Republicans," he said, adding that Trump remains powerful in the party because a large percentage of GOP voters continue to support him. "There is nothing you can do because the base is following him."
And that, Ben-Ghiat said, is precisely the lack of leadership that allows Trump to lead one of the nation's two major parties, despite everything he's done.
“So many people could have been elite defectors, but they didn't. There really isn't enough support to pull the party away from Trump, ”she said. "Trump is still the leading leader."
To Luttig, who worked in the Reagan White House and was directed by George H.W. Bush, this reality is terrifying. "What did Trump ask Mike Pence to do with the country?" He said. “This is a blood test for being a Republican. You have to say the election was stolen or you can't be a Republican. "
Stuck in Trump's shadow
Forty miles east of Pence's Manchester Rede, and a few hours earlier, the Rotary Club of Portsmouth gathered on the second floor of the Portsmouth Country Club clubhouse for their weekly meeting. Members swore allegiance to the flag, sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee," bowed their heads to invoke, noted the birthdays of the month, and discussed the upcoming calendar before settling down for the day's guest speaker from Shoals Marine Laboratory, the told them about her educational and research work on sea birds and aquatic life.
Not a word of politics was noticed, let alone the 2024 presidential candidate.
Yet it is precisely such voters - older, wealthier Republicans and Republican-minded Independents - that could make all the difference to pence in a New Hampshire primary in 2024, especially given the likelihood of no competitive democratic competition to attract voters in the open air. Basic state.
Unfortunately for Pence, at least for now, they are not keen on the idea of his candidacy.
Cathy Nickerson, 61, a Republican registered and insurance saleswoman in neighboring New Market, says she sympathizes with pence but doesn't feel like he's the best candidate for 2024. "He was in an absolute no-win situation," she said.
"I appreciate what he did when he got up that day," said Rick Wallis, a 62-year-old banker from nearby Dover and an independent voter. He added that he can't stand Trump and that Pence has supported him for too long. “I feel bad that he was thrown under the bus. But he stays with the party that threw him under the bus. "
He thought he could ride the tiger to the end, until it found itself in his jaws.
Jennifer Horn, former New Hampshire GOP Chair
The Democrats are unlikely to save the man who made Trump possible for four years and who, even after escaping the Capitol for his personal safety, still refuses to forcibly convict him, said David Axelrod, the architect of Successful Campaigns by Former President Barack Obama.
“I think many are grateful that he did his duty, but jaundiced by the fact that he defended Trump for months and years when he collected all of the kindling that happened on Nov.
Trump fans, meanwhile, view Pence with a skeptical look at best and will likely do so as long as Trump attacks his former vice president for failing to do what he asked for on Jan. 6.
"Sure. I think Trump carries a lot of weight with his supporters. He's still the party leader," said Bruce Breton, an elector for the City of Windham and an early Trump supporter actually follow his every move and every word. "
Even Republicans who broke up with Trump early on - a small but potentially significant slice of the vote pool - say they can't see support for Pence.
"He thought he could ride the tiger until it was in its jaws," said Jennifer Horn, a former New Hampshire GOP chairman. "The fact that he showed a tiny respect for the system at the last moment of his tenure does not excuse everything else."
For those less interested in Republican Party's dynamism, the bigger question is how can the country recover from Jan 6 if not even the man who saved it from an autocrat wants to talk about it.
“What happens to a non-partisan system when a party has given up democracy?” Ben-Ghiat wondered.
Tribe said he was grateful for Pence's actions that day - "God knows where we would be" - but worried about the future. "I don't think we dodged the bullet completely," he said. "Democracies don't last forever, and ours are about to either take off and prove the autocracies are wrong or collapse."
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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