WASHINGTON — He started the day with a prayer.
Vice President Mike Pence, who was preparing for the final phase of President Donald J. Trump’s relentless campaign to force him to illegally try to undo the results of the 2020 election, began on January 6, 2021, surrounded by aides at his official residence at the Naval Observatory, asking God for guidance.
The group expected a difficult day. But what followed over the next 12 hours was more harrowing than they’d imagined.
An angry mob with baseball bats and pepper spray chanting “hang Mike Pence” came within 10 yards of the vice president. Mr. Pence’s Secret Service had to get him to safety and keep him in the entrails of the Capitol for nearly five hours. mr. Trump called Mr. Pence a “dummy” and worse in a rude and abusive phone call that morning from the Oval Office, Mr. Trump and former White House aides.
And a confidential witness who traveled to Washington with members of the far-right Proud Boys militia later told investigators that the group would have killed Mr. Pence — and Chairman Nancy Pelosi — if given the chance.
Those were some of the extraordinary new details that emerged during the third public hearing held Thursday by the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol.
Mr. Pence’s day dawned as it so often does. The vice president, whose evangelical faith was a selling point for adding him to the 2016 presidential ticket but often a source of skepticism for Mr Trump, was joined by three people in prayer: his chief counsel, Greg Jacob; his chief of staff, Marc Short; and its director of legislative affairs, Chris Hodgson,
Mr. Pence and the team were subject to a barrage of demands from Mr. Trump that the vice president deny the Electoral College victory of Joseph R. Biden Jr. to certify it in a joint session of Congress – an unconstitutional action unprecedented in the two and a half centuries since the nation’s founding.
“We just asked for guidance and wisdom, knowing the day was going to be a challenge,” said Mr. Short in a videotaped testimony from the committee.
While Mr. Pence was at the Naval Observatory, Mr. Trump was in the Oval Office with aides and family members trickling in and out, including Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Lara Trump, Kimberly Guilfoyle and Ivanka Trump. He had already sent two Twitter messages further pressuring Mr Pence, the first at 1am. The second, at 8am, concluded, “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme bravery!”
At 11:20 a.m., Mr. Trump called Mr. Pence, who stepped away from his aides to take the call.
The group in the Oval Office could hear Trump’s side, but paid little heed to what seemed to start out as a routine conversation. But as Mr. Trump became increasingly heated that Mr. Pence remained steadfast in his refusal to give in, the call became hard to ignore.
The themes of the House Committee hearings on January 6
“I remember hearing the word ‘wimp’,” Nick Luna, an aide to Trump, said in a video testimony. “‘Wimp’ is the word I remember.”
Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and a former top White House adviser, said in her videotaped testimony that “it was a different tone than I heard him hit with the vice president before.”
Mrs. Trump’s chief of staff, Julie Radford, appeared in a video testimonial to say that shortly after the phone call, Mrs. Trump told her that Mr. Trump had a “disturbing” conversation with Mr. Pence. The president, Ms. Radford said, used “the P word.” (DailyExpertNews previously reported that Mr. Trump had told Mr. Pence, “You can go down in history like a patriot or you can go down in history like a pussy,” according to two people briefed on the conversation.)
At the Naval Observatory, Mr. Pence returned to the room after taking the call and looked ‘steal’, ‘determined’ and ‘grim,’ his former aides told the committee.
Mr Trump, meanwhile, revised a speech he delivered to crowds of supporters at the Ellipse later that day. An early draft of the speech, the committee said, contained no mention of Mr Pence. But after the call, the president added language that evoked the crowd on video footage.
“I hope Mike will do the right thing,” Trump said in his speech. “I hope so. I hope so. Because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win.”
“All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify it and we become president and you are the happiest people,” Trump continued, referring to one of his demands that Mr. Pence sends the election results back to the states, a delaying tactic he hoped would eventually keep him in office. If Mr. Pence didn’t follow the rules, Mr. Trump told the crowd, “that will be a sad day for our country.”
He added: “So I hope Mike has the courage to do what he has to do. And I hope he doesn’t listen to the RINOs and the stupid people he listens to,” using the term ‘in name only. of the Republicans’.
Mr. Trump instructed his supporters to march to the Capitol and speak up.
By the time Mr. Pence arrived at the Capitol with his wife Karen Pence and their daughter Charlotte, an angry mob had gathered outside.
Inside, as the joint session began, Mr. Pence’s associates released a memo to the public in which the vice president believed he had no power over the certification claimed by Mr. Trump and his attorney, John Eastman. to have.
Just after 2:10 p.m., the procedure was interrupted by loud noises. The crowd poured into the building. At 2:24 p.m. — when Democrats on the committee said Mr Trump was aware that the Capitol had been violated — the president posted on Twitter that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what it took.”
At that point, Secret Service had moved Mr. Pence from the Senate Chamber to his office across the hall. His advisers said the noise from the rioters had become audible, leading them to believe they had entered the building. Yet there was still no ubiquitous sense of alarm.
Once in his office, Mr. Pence sat with his family, including his brother, Representative Greg Pence, and top assistants, while Mr. Short ducked down to get some food. Mrs. Pence closed the curtains to keep the rioters from looking in.
Mr. Short walked back to the office. By this time, Tim Giebels, the senior Secret Service agent for Mr. Pence, had made a few attempts to get Mr. Pence and his family to move to another location. But soon he stopped making a suggestion. Mr. Pence, he said, had to get to safety.
The entourage began descending a flight of stairs to an underground loading dock — the point where they came within 40 feet of the rioters. Mr. Pence and his aides didn’t realize at the time how close they were to the crowd, some of whom threatened to kill him.
“I could hear the noise of the rioters in the building,” Jacob said during the hearing on Thursday. “I don’t think I was aware they were that close.”
From the loading dock, Mr. Pence made phone calls to congressional leaders evacuated from the Capitol complex and ordered the Pentagon to dispatch the National Guard. The Secret Service ordered him to get into a car and evacuate, but he refused to leave the building.
“The vice president didn’t want to take any chances that the world would see the vice president of the United States flee the United States Capitol,” Mr. Jacob said Thursday, noting that Mr. Pence didn’t want the rioters the satisfaction to disrupt the proceedings more than they already had. “He was determined that we would complete the work we had planned that day.”
One person he never spoke to again that day was Mr. Trump, who did not call to check on Mr. Pence’s safety. Neither does White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
Just after 8 p.m., the Senate Chamber reopened after the rioters were evicted from the complex.
“Today was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol,” said Mr. Pence when the proceedings started again. He was greeted with applause when he said, “Let’s get back to work.”
Back at the White House, spurred on by some of his advisers, Mr. Trump told his aides that he wanted to deny Mr. Short access to the West Wing from then on.
At 3:42 am it was all over. Mr Biden’s victory was confirmed.
At 3:50 a.m., as Mr. Pence and Mr. Short went their separate ways, Mr. Short texted his boss a passage from the Bible.
“I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith,” the report read.