One of the people with the most intimate knowledge of Donald Trump’s plot to overturn the election, and the insurrection that later ensued, is Mike Pence. In addition to repeatedly pressuring the then V.P. to block the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win—by reportedly calling the evangelical Christian a “pussy” and threatening to end their friendship if Pence didn’t follow through—the 45th president spent most of January 6, 2021, making his number two the target of an angry, armed mob that seemingly wanted him dead.
At the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, then president Trump told the angry crowd of supporters—some of whom he’d been informed had weapons—“I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so”; “All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people”; “Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us, and if he doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country because you’re sworn to uphold our Constitution”; and “Mike Pence, I hope you’re going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country. And if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you. I will tell you right now. I’m not hearing good stories.” Later, when the violence at the Capitol was so bad that the V.P.’s Secret Service agents feared they wouldn’t make it home, Trump tweeted that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.” Notified his supporters were chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” the president apparently told his chief of staff that the V.P. deserved it.
Unfortunately for the country, Pence inexplicably does not appear interested in telling the January 6 committee or the Justice Department what he knows, presumably in the hopes of staying in the good graces of the MAGA crowd, should he run for office in 2024. But some of his former aides are seemingly happy to do just that, a turn of events that probably doesn’t bode well for the former guy!
On Monday, Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, confirmed to ABC News that he’d appeared before a federal grand jury investigating the attack on the Capitol. (According to The Wall Street Journal, that appearance occurred last week.) Speaking to ABC News reporter Linsey Davis, Short said Monday that he couldn’t say much but that “having the Capitol ransacked the way that it was, I think did present liability and danger.” He added: “And I think the Secret Service did a phenomenal job that day. I think that the bigger risk, and despite the way perhaps it was characterized in the hearings last week, candidly, is that if the mob had gotten closer to the vice president, I do think there would have been a massacre in the Capitol that day.” In other words, he believes Trump’s followers intended to kill the vice president. Which most would agree is pretty bad!
In addition to having insight on the threat to Pence’s life on January 6—Short was at the Capitol with the V.P. at the time—the former chief of staff was present for a critical meeting in the Oval Office on January 4, 2021, during which right-wing attorney John Eastman, a.k.a. one of Trump’s coconspirators, pressured Pence to either suspend the Electoral College certification and ask willing state legislatures to recheck their results or simply reject Biden’s electoral win outright. It was during that meeting that Eastman reportedly admitted that he knew his proposed ideas were illegal but urged Pence, in the presence of Trump, to go along with them anyway. Also at the meeting was Pence’s chief legal counsel, Greg Jacob, who also recently appeared before the grand jury—and told the January 6 committee: “During that meeting on the fourth, I think I raised the problem that both of Mr. Eastman’s proposals would violate several provisions of the Electoral Count Act. Mr. Eastman acknowledged that that was the case, that even what he viewed as the more politically palatable option would violate several provisions.” (A lawyer for Eastman did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment. In March a federal judge wrote that Eastman and Trump “likely” committed a crime while trying to overturn the election, saying that “the illegality of the plan was obvious.”)
Former prosecutors told the Journal that Jacob’s testimony “could help prosecutors show that Mr. Eastman knew his plan wouldn’t withstand legal scrutiny but pursued it anyway.” As CNN reported in February, the January 6 panel had “long considered Jacob a potential fact-witness in [its] probe,” but his firsthand accounts became even more significant after it was revealed by The Washington Post that Eastman, advising Trump at the time, sent Jacob an email while the Capitol was being attacked in which he blamed Pence for causing the violence.