As more evidence emerges about the dangerous lengths some people in Trumpworld considered going in order to keep the former president in office last January, former Vice President Mike Pence looks more like a hero for resisting.
Everyone already knows that some of the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were chanting for Pence’s execution, and everyone knows that Trump put untoward pressure on Pence to comply with Trump’s efforts to override Joe Biden’s legitimate victory. Everyone also knows that Pence rightly resisted Trump’s pressure and that he refused to leave the Capitol complex entirely when the incursion occurred, instead insisting that he must perform his constitutional duty as soon as the attackers were expelled.
Still, new reporting, combined with newly highlighted reports that may have been in circulation (but not prominently), shows that Pence’s obedience to constitutional principle took even more fortitude than most people gave him credit for.
Pence actually fought off numerous schemes to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, most of which would have required him to assert a unilateral power nobody ever before had suggested a vice president possesses.
What’s new here is both the extent and the nature of the pressure that Pence bravely resisted. Subpoenas and contempt referrals from Congress’s special commission on the riots detail the extent, which ranged from a basic delay in certification to a scheme to have Pence cooperate with the National Guard to invalidate millions of ballots.
The nature of Trump’s pressure on Pence was particularly cynical. Rather than ask Pence to unilaterally overturn the election for Trump’s sake, the president presented the choice to Pence in terms of Pence’s own power and glory. Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, a careful and trustworthy reporter, relayed the story in some Dec. 11 tweets.
Referring to the throngs Trump was assembling for the Jan. 6 “rally,” Trump reportedly said to Pence, “If these people say you had the power, wouldn’t you want to?”
Pence, mindful of propriety and decency, answered, “I wouldn’t want any one person to have that authority.”
Trump, appealing to atavistic, adolescent motives, persisted, “But wouldn’t it be almost cool to have that power?”
To which Pence answered definitively, “No.”
The next day, even as the mob inside the Capitol was chanting for Pence’s execution, Trump was tweeting that Pence lacked the necessary courage to do what he should. But Trump had it backward — Pence stood by his constitutional oath before God and country, against immense and malevolent pressure.
Pence served his country and the Constitution amid chaos. Pence’s conscience made him not cowardly but courageous. It’s past time he gets credit and commendations.