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Trump put Pence in more danger than we knew




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We now know that there were two times when Vice President Mike Pence’s life was in particular danger on January 6, 2021.

The first came shortly after Pence was evacuated from the Senate Chamber after rioters gained access to the building. The vice president was pushed into a ceremonial office down a small hallway, moments before a mob of rioters climbed a flight of stairs to arrive near the same location. If Constable Eugene Goodman hadn’t had the presence of mind to urge the rioters in the opposite direction, they would have passed through the hallway and past the door to the room in which Pence was sheltering.

We were aware of this contact with danger. During Thursday’s hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the riot, we learned the second that came after Donald Trump specifically targeted his vice president with tweets of condemnation.

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A lot happened between 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. that day. At 2:12 p.m., a member of the far-right extremist group Proud Boys smashed a window with a stolen police shield and rioters began to invade the Capitol. At 2:13 p.m., Pence was evacuated and shortly after arrived at this nearby office. Chris Hodgson, director of legislative affairs for Pence, told committee investigators that soon after the noise of the rioters became audible.

Minutes later, Fox News aired an interview with a Trump supporter who expressed frustration at Pences’ public refusal to go along with Trump’s plan to reject electoral votes submitted by states. Shortly after that, Trump, most likely watching Foxs coverage, tweeted condemnation of Pence:

Mike Pence didn’t have the guts to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution, by giving states a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones they were told asked to certify before. The United States demands the truth!

During Thursday’s hearing, the committee released several video clips showing Trump supporters reacting to both Pence’s initial refusal to play along with Trump’s plan and Trump’s tweet about it. In a prepared video, the committee noted that the tweet was quickly followed by a further surge of rioters in several locations.

At around 2:25 p.m., the video shows, Pence was evacuated from the ceremonial office via stairs to a safer location. In an animation, the committee showed how close the rioters were at the time of the evacuation: 40 feet.

Diagrams show for the first time how Pence was evacuated from the Senate Chamber and how close rioters closed in on him on January 6, 2021. (Video: The Washington Post)

This is important information for several reasons.

The first is that it reinforces the fact that the danger to Pence was permanent. Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-California) revealed during the hearing that a confidential Proud Boys informant told the FBI that the Proud Boys would have killed Mike Pence if they had had a chance. Given that the members of the Proud Boys were both among the first to arrive inside the building and had a demonstrated predilection for violence, this is no idle threat.

Another is that she reveals that Pence was in danger even after Trump’s tweet.

The crowd was already furious with Pence; Trump’s tweet sounded like pouring gasoline on the fire, as a former White House aide said in recorded testimony. That’s because the staff and, almost certainly, Trump were aware of the violence that was already underway on Capitol Hill, another key revelation that emerged from the hearing.

Ben Williamson, an aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, texted Meadows at 2:02 p.m. suggesting we might want to release some kind of statement because things were getting a little hairy on Capitol Hill, as he said. . He then went to Meadows to reiterate the recommendation. Meadows got up quickly and left the room. In other testimony released during the hearing, Williamson described following Meadows to the Oval Office suggesting he was going to speak with Trump.

Aguilar told the hearing that Meadows likely knew about the violence before that. (By 1:50 p.m., rioters had reached the scaffolding in place for the inauguration.)

We received testimony that the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was briefed on the violence on Capitol Hill at 2 p.m. and likely earlier, Aguilar said. The testimony further establishes that Mr. Meadows promptly informed the president and that he did so before the president posted his 2:24 p.m. tweet criticizing Vice President Pence.

Again, however, this was only the latest point at which Trump intentionally directed the mob’s anger at Pence. In his speech at the rally at the Ellipse, Trump repeatedly insisted that it was all up to the vice presidents to decide, although several advisers advised Trump and his team that Pence had no authority to derail the inauguration of Joe Bidens.

Our investigation found that early drafts of the Jan. 6 Ellipse speech prepared for the president, Aguilar said at another time, included no mention of the vice president.

So Trump excoriates his vice president in this speech for example: Mike Pence, I hope you will stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country, and if you are not, I will be very disappointed in you were late additions meant to either put pressure directly on Pence or incite the crowd to do so.

Members of the Pences team had warned the Secret Service the day before that they expected the vice president to be at the center of the anger on Jan. 6; they understood what it meant to counter Trump on this. Sure enough, just before 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 6, Pence and his family were hustled to a new, safer position in the Capitol with rioters 40 feet away.

At the same time, Trump was busy: trying to take advantage of the delay in counting electoral votes to make phone calls pressuring senators to reject submitted votes. In other words, to do what Pence understood, he had no power to do.

Has Donald Trump ever called the VP to check on his safety? Aguilar asked Greg Jacob, a lawyer for Pence who testified Thursday.

He didn’t, Jacob replied.




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