Pence was 40ft from mob on January 6: ‘Vice-president’s life was in danger’
Marching on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021, a supporter of Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election recorded himself on his phone.
He said: “I’m telling you, if Pence caved, we’re gonna drag motherfuckers through the streets. You fucking politicians are gonna get fucking took to the streets.”
Mike Pence, Trump’s vice-president, refused to stop certification of Joe Biden’s victory. In the eyes of Trump and the mob, he did indeed “cave”.
On Thursday, in their third hearing, the seven Democrats and two Republicans on the House January 6 committee also displayed a court filing from the Department of Justice revealing the shocking scope of the threat to Pence during the attack on the Capitol.
The document, the California Democrat Pete Aguilar said, “explains that a confidential informant in the Proud Boys [extremist group] told the FBI the Proud Boys would have killed Mike Pence if given a chance.
“The witness whom the FBI affidavit refers to stated that other members of the group … said that anyone they got their hands on would have been killed, including Nancy Pelosi”, the House speaker.
Politicians were not killed, or dragged through the streets of Washington. But the mob that smashed its way into Congress gave every indication of trying. Some chanted “Hang Mike Pence”. A gallows was erected outside.
In its Thursday hearing, the January 6 committee examined Trump’s pressure campaign against Pence and shone a harsh spotlight on the peril in which it placed the vice-president.
Bennie Thompson, the panel chair, said: “Mike Pence’s courage put him in tremendous danger. When Mike Pence made it clear that he wouldn’t give in to Donald Trump’s scheme, Donald Trump turned the mob on him.”
The committee focused on a tweet sent by Trump at 2.24pm, when he knew the Capitol had been breached and when Pence had been hustled from the Senate chamber.
Trump wrote: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
The committee’s first hearing was watched by 20 million in primetime. That session revealed Trump’s chilling response when told rioters chanted that Pence should hang.
Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican and deputy committee chair, said then: “Aware of the rioters’ chants to ‘hang Mike Pence,’ the president responded with this sentiment: ‘Maybe our supporters have the right idea.’ Mike Pence ‘deserves it’.”
That bombshell came at the very start of televised hearings. In the second half of the third hearing, the committee came back to the very real threats to Pence’s safety.
In recorded testimony about a conversation on 5 January 2021, Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, said: “The concern was for the vice-president’s security so I wanted to make sure the head of the vice-president’s Secret Service was aware it was likely, as these disagreements became more public, that the president would lash out.”
Aguilar read tweets sent by Trump on 6 January in which he claimed Pence had the authority to reject electoral college results. Witnesses including Ivanka Trump discussed a call Trump placed to Pence. Nick Luna, Trump’s former body man, said: “I remember hearing the word ‘wimp’.” Ivanka Trump’s former chief of staff, Julie Radford, said Donald Trump used “the p word”, presumably a reference to “pussy”.
The committee played footage of Trump telling a rally near the White House Pence could stop certification and should “come through”.
Pence issued a letter saying he would not.
Aguilar said: “We all know what happened next. The president’s words had an effect. President Trump’s supporters became angry. When the vice-president issued his public letter, the crowd at the Capitol erupted in anger. Rioters who had erected makeshift gallows began chanting, ‘Hang Mike Pence.’”
The committee played more footage of Trump supporters.
One said: “Pence is nothing but a traitor and he deserves to burn with the rest of them. Pence didn’t do what we wanted. Pence voted against Trump. That’s when we marched on the Capitol.”
In the Senate chamber, a Trump supporter said: “Justice is coming.”
At 2.26pm, Pence had been rushed to a secure location, an underground parking bay, where he stayed for four and a half hours.
“Approximately 40ft,” Aguilar said. “That’s all there was: 40ft between the vice-president and the mob. Make no mistake, the vice-president’s life was in danger.”