The third of seven expected hearings of the January 6 Committee was held on Thursday. Just like the two before it, there were plenty of “wow” moments. It is also clear there are plenty more wows to come.
Here in Indiana, we know former Vice President, former Indiana governor, former congressman, and former radio personality, Mike Pence better than most. I have written more about him than anybody ever should have, though I continue to be deeply thankful someone wrote more, specifically Tom LoBianco, in his book about Pence, “Piety and Power.” It appears he has a few more chapters to add.
Since none of my past installments about him were complimentary, let me be clear here: I appreciate his service on January 6, 2021, when he did his constitutional duty to certify the 2020 presidential election results under incredibly and unnecessarily difficult circumstances. I realize that wasn’t as easy as it should have been.
However, in the grand scheme of things, and in this regard, there is no question it was grand and a scheme, Pence’s service on that horrible day occurred in only one brief moment among many.
For example, two days earlier, on January 4, 2021, while campaigning in Georgia in that state’s senate runoffs, Pence continued to tease the Trump-faithful where he stood on the matter. He told a rally crowd that day, “I share the concerns of millions of Americans about voting irregularities…come Wednesday (January 6) …we’ll have our day in Congress. We’ll hear the evidence.” No, they wouldn’t. There wasn’t any evidence to hear. And Pence knew that when he said it.
For all of the legitimate courage that it took for a man who had been dancing with the devil for four and half years to finally break away on January 6, he immediately went back to the dance floor in the following moment. What was that moment? Trump’s second impeachment trial.
That moment was the time to handle the toughest question of this entire ordeal: How should America handle a president responsible for such abhorrent, dangerous and clearly unconstitutional behavior? The constitution says we should impeach that president. I have said countless times since the Senate failed to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial that one day, they will wish they had. Convicting him then, and prohibiting him from holding public office again, would have given the country the opportunity to begin healing. It would have given the GOP the opportunity to begin rebuilding. It would have given the red-hat-wearing, MAGA-flag-waving crowd some closure about the reality of their hero’s future.
Pence could have helped then and didn’t.
I was stricken on Thursday by the photos from January 6 of Pence being escorted out of the Senate Chamber, followed by those of his group sitting in the private office, and then ultimately in the parking area. The presence of his family confuses me. I understand why they would be there under normal circumstances, but that’s not what these were. The day before, Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, had notified the secret service that he was concerned about the vice president’s safety and that the detail should be prepared for the heightened risk. Under those circumstances, I would have insisted my family skip it.
The most disturbing exchange detailed at Thursday’s hearing was when the secret service instructed the Pence team to get into the cars in the Capitol garage. Pence’s chief counsel at the time, Greg Jacob, testified that most of the staff had already gotten into the cars when he noticed the vice president standing outside having an exchange with his security detail leader, Tim Giebels. Pence was refusing to get into the car. Jacob testified that Pence said to Giebels, “Tim, I know you, I trust you, but you’re not the one behind the wheel.”
Who was it that Pence didn’t trust? Again, these words were not spoken, but it is clear to me that he didn’t trust Trump. How could he?
Pence could help America truly understand the depth of Trump’s betrayals. He could help America heal. He could help make sure only trustworthy people are ever behind that wheel again. But he hasn’t. Not yet at least.
With only a few, tightly planned public statements objecting to the notion that any vice president has the power to negate a presidential election, Pence has been perpetuating the myth that there is some redeemable quality of the man who sent a mob to kill him. And his family. And Democracy.
I appreciate Pence’s moment of courage on January 6. But we should still expect more.