The latest public hearing in the US Congressional panel’s inquiry into the Capitol riot focused on former President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure his vice president to cancel the 2020 election .
Committee co-chair Liz Cheney said ahead of Thursday’s session that the panel would focus on Trump’s “relentless efforts” to pressure Mike Pence “both privately and publicly.”
“Vice President Pence consistently demonstrated his loyalty to Donald Trump for four years, but he knew he had a higher duty to the Constitution of the United States,” Cheney said last week.
What actions did Pence take on January 6 and the days before? And what pressure was he under?
Here’s what we know:
Trump’s frantic push to claim victory
As Trump’s frantic efforts to avoid defeat were overruled by courts and state officials, he and his allies focused on Jan. 6 — the day a joint session of Congress would convene to formalize victory. of President-elect Joe Biden — as their last chance to stay in power.
The heavy-handed lobbying campaign intensified in the days leading up to Jan. 6 as Trump, attorney John Eastman and others in Trump’s orbit tried to convince Pence he had the power to overthrow. the will of voters in a handful of critical battleground states simply to reject Electoral College votes or return the results to the states — even though the Constitution specifies that the vice president’s role in the process is largely ceremonial .
Pence spent hours snuggling with staff, including his general counsel, Greg Jacob. He studied the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which governs the debates, and met with the Senate parliamentarian to understand his role. He has also received outside advice, including from former Vice President Dan Quayle.
Some aides have called on Trump not to place his staunchly loyal vice president in such a precarious position. Pence was already widely seen as a potential future presidential candidate and a public rift with Trump was seen as a potential career end. But Trump kept pushing, both publicly and behind the scenes.
On Jan. 4, Eastman and Trump pressed Pence to agree to the plan during an Oval Office meeting. And at a rally that evening in Georgia, Trump said his fate lay in the hands of his vice president. “Hopefully Mike Pence pulls through for us,” he told the crowd.
Trump continued to press in an Oval Office meeting the next day, again demanding that Pence use powers the vice president did not possess to overturn the will of voters. Pence made it clear he was unconvinced.
“Hang Mike Pence”
The pressure continued all night. “If VP @Mike_Pence comes in our place we will win the presidency,” Trump tweeted around 1am.
“All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the United States, AND WE WILL WIN,” he wrote later that morning. “Do it Mike, it’s time for extreme courage!” »
Pence was at his residence at the Naval Observatory on the morning of Jan. 6 when he spoke one last time with Trump, who was joined in the Oval Office by his daughter Ivanka and Pence’s national security adviser Keith Kellogg. .
During the 11 a.m. call, Trump reprimanded Pence for not being tough enough to agree to the scheme, according to Kellogg’s testimony to the committee.
Pence then traveled to the Capitol to oversee the counting of votes for the Electoral College. But Pence made his decision official first. In a letter to his congressional colleagues, Pence explained why he could not go along with Trump’s plan.
“It is my considered judgment that my oath to uphold and defend the Constitution precludes me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” he wrote.
US Senate summoned to session
At 1:03 p.m., he formally summoned the U.S. Senate into session as pro-Trump rioters, who had already broken through the Capitol barricades, clashed with police outside.
At this point, Trump was already close to concluding his Ellipse speech in which he repeatedly targeted Pence and urged his supporters to “fight like hell.”
“If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election,” Trump falsely told the crowd. “All Vice President Pence has to do is send him back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people.”
Outside the Capitol, the scene turned into violent chaos as rioters, some armed with pipes, bats and pepper spray, charged into the Capitol, quickly overwhelming police.
At around 2:12 p.m., Pence was rushed off the Senate floor as rioters poured inside. The Washington Post first reported that Pence, who was joined that day by his wife and daughter, was at one point within 100 feet of a group of protesters.
Pence spent the next few hours hiding with his staff and family — first in his state office, then in an underground loading dock inside the Capitol complex. He repeatedly rejected calls from security personnel to leave, insisting it was crucial he remained in place.
“He looked at this and said, ‘I don’t want the world to see the vice president leaving the Capitol in a 15-car motorcade,'” Pence chief of staff Marc Short told CNN on Wednesday. “‘This is the hallmark of democracy and we will finish our job.'”
But even as the horror unfolded live on television, Trump, instead of urging his supporters to go home, lambasted 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 are told. had asked to certify before,” Trump tweeted at 2:24 p.m.
Trump’s tweet echoed through the angry crowd. Footage obtained by the committee shows rioters reading Trump’s words aloud and crowds indulging in chants of “Hang Mike Pence!” A makeshift gallows was photographed outside.
Cheney accused Trump of being made aware of the chants and “responded with this sentiment, ‘Maybe our supporters have the right idea.’ Mike Pence “deserves it.” Trump responded on his social media app, saying he “NEVER said, or even thought to say, ‘Hang on Mike Pence.’
Appeals to US lawmakers
Pence worked on the phone from his then-secret location.
Short told Fox Business that Pence’s first calls were to House and Senate Republican and Democratic leaders — Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer — “to make sure they were safe and to ensure that their functions were correct”.
Pence also “contacted the Pentagon to ensure additional reinforcements were sent” under encouragement from House and Senate leaders, who made it clear in later calls that they were frustrated that the National Guard was not there. not arrived.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee in his testimony that the military leaders had spoken two or three times with Pence and that the vice chairman “was very spirited, very direct, very firm for [Acting Defense] secretary [Christopher] Miller”.
“Drop the army here, bring the guard down here. End this situation, et cetera,” Milley recalled.
Indeed, at 4:08 p.m., Pence made an urgent phone call from the Capitol as rioters hit police and vandalized the building, telling Miller that the Capitol was unsecured and asking military leaders for a delay in securing the building. , according to a document prepared by the Pentagon for internal use that was obtained by The Associated Press.
“Clear the Capitol,” Pence told them.
Milley told the committee that Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, had a different focus when they spoke as well. “He said, we have to kill the narrative that the vice president makes all the decisions. We need to establish the narrative, you know, that the president is still in charge and things are stable or stable, or words to that effect,” Milley said.
Pence reconvenes the Senate
At 8 p.m., after hours of fear and carnage, the Capitol was finally deemed safe.
Pence summoned the Senate with a message.
“Today was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol. But thanks to the swift efforts of the United States Capitol Police, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the violence has been suppressed. The Capitol is secure. And the work of the people continues,” he told the nation. “Let’s get back to work,” he said to applause.
Just after 3:40 a.m., Pence officially declared Trump’s electoral defeat — as well as his own.