WASHINGTON — Did Mike Pence save the republic and American democracy?
What we didn’t realize last June when the House Jan. 6 Committee began its hearings was that it was the recalcitrance of Vice President Pence that kept the American democracy as we knew it from unraveling before our disbelieving eyes.
We didn’t realize that if Pence had caved to President Trump, delaying the Electoral College certification that day, that 245 years of existence as a democratic republic could have been lost.
That if a delay in the Electoral College count on Jan. 6 had occurred, that would have given President Trump an opening to invoke the Insurrection Act, declare martial law, and deputize the Oath Keeper and Proud Boy militias, who had planned to gather their weapon caches at a hotel across the Potomac River in Arlington and occupy the Capitol and White House in an effort to, as Trump advisor Steve Bannon put it, “kill the Biden presidency in the crib.”
While Trump had been laying the “rigged election” groundwork for months, even years, on Election Night Trump did just what Bannon predicted: “This is a fraud on the American public. Frankly, we did win this election.”
Except he didn’t. Trump lost to Biden by more than 7 million votes. He lost the Electoral College 306-232.
Court defense documents in Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes’s sedition trial reveal: “When he believed that the President would issue an order invoking the Insurrection Act, he was prepared to follow it. When that invocation did not come, he did precisely nothing,” Rhodes lawyers wrote in court documents.
Trump did not invoke the insurrection act on Jan. 6 because Vice President Pence refused to join the coup d’etat.
Shocked Americans (and the whole world) watched as President Trump begged Secret Service to let his armed supporters enter his speech at the Ellipse before he sent the mob to the Capitol. By the end of the day, some 150 Capitol and Metro PD officers had been wounded in what was described as “medieval” hand-to-hand combat that killed five people. A couple later committed suicide. It is a wonder that under siege police didn’t fire into the crowd, setting off a gun battle inside the citadel of American democracy. The worst case scenario had, some how, some way, been averted. And yet, some 900 Americans are facing charges ranging from disorderly conduct to sedition.
According to Politico, Trump and Pence had a tense phone conversation on the morning of Jan. 6. The conversation came after Trump had pressured his vice president for weeks to try and somehow object or delay as he presided over Biden’s certification, Politico reported. Pence firmly resisted and would gavel down Trump’s defeat in the early hours of Jan. 7, after rioters had been cleared from the Capitol.
“Vice President Pence uttered what I think are the six most chilling words of this entire thing I’ve seen so far: ‘I’m not getting in that car,’” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) described Pence’s refusal to Secret Service to evacuate the Capitol. “He knew exactly what this inside coup they had planned for was going to do.”
Pence evacuated the Senate just minutes before the chamber was breached, and later was rushed to safety as rioters were just 40 feet away. Greg Jacob, the vice president’s lawyer, testified at the third hearing and said he had not known they were that close. Jacob said Secret Service agents wanted them to leave the building but Pence refused to get into the car. “The vice president didn’t want to take any chance” that the world would see him leaving the Capitol, Jacob said.
At 4:08 p.m., Pence gave an order to top Pentagon officials that was technically not his to issue: “Clear the Capitol. Get troops here. Get them here now.”
The vice president’s order to the military seemed to have finally snapped things into place. Pence had let congressional leaders know that armed Guard troops were on the way. “To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win,” Vice President Pence said once lawmakers reconvened after many spent hours in lockdown. “Violence never wins. Freedom wins, and this is still the people’s house.”
At 3:32 a.m., Pence cited the results for Biden’s victory in Vermont, which pushed the Democrat past the 270 electoral votes for Congress to confirm him as the next president nearly 15 hours after the joint session began.
Is Mike Pence an American hero?
Had he gone along with President Trump’s coup conspiracy, we would be living in a very different nation than the one we grew up in.
Pence told David Muir on ABC World News Tonight, “I’ll never forget the simmering indignation that I felt that day, seeing those sights on the cellphones as we gathered in the loading dock below the Senate chamber. I couldn’t help but think not this, not here, not in America.”
Pence reacted to Trump’s 2:24 p.m. Jan. 6 tweet (“Mike Pence doesn’t have the courage”), noting that it “criticized me directly at a time that a riot was raging in the Capitol hallways. The president’s words were reckless, and they endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol building.”
“It didn’t end well,” Pence acknowledged of his relationship with President Trump in an epic understatement.
The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.