Mike Pence: The Most Reluctant Of Heroes
We will never forgive Donald Trump for ... everything.
But one of those everythings is the way he made us feel grateful to otherwise reprehensible characters like Liz Cheney, Joe Walsh, and Rick Wilson. If we wanted to get in bed with Bill Kristol, we'd have become Republicans! But then Republicans lost their goddamn minds, and so we find ourselves saying things like "That George Conway makes a damn good point!" Or, today, "Thank goodness for Mike Pence!"
Mike Freakin' Pence!
Maggie Haberman got the scoop at the New York Times, as she is wont to do. Apparently, Pence's chief of staff Marc Short notified the Secret Service on January 5, 2021, that the vice president was in danger, and that the threat was coming direct from the Oval Office.
Mr. Short did not know what form such a security risk might take, according to people familiar with the events. But after days of intensifying pressure from Mr. Trump on Mr. Pence to take the extraordinary step of intervening in the certification of the Electoral College count to forestall Mr. Trump’s defeat, Mr. Short seemed to have good reason for concern. The vice president’s refusal to go along was exploding into an open and bitter breach between the two men at a time when the president was stoking the fury of his supporters who were streaming into Washington.
The warning to Tim Giebels, the head of Pence's security team, came on the eve of the ceremonial certification of the Electoral College, as thousands of deranged Trump supporters were flooding into DC. Hopped up on lies about a stolen election and Pence's ability to unilaterally overturn it, the potential for violence was eminently clear to many people in Trumpland the day before the Capitol riot. Indeed, Mark Meadows's aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified to the January 6 Committee that her boss received a similar warning on the same day.
Haberman's article details the months immediately after the campaign as Trump's legal team cast around for means to overturn the electoral results. It was, unsurprisingly, a dangerous — and yet totally hilarious! — shitshow. For instance, Kelli Ward, the chair of the Arizona GOP and a total wackaloon, tried to get Pence to meet with Kraken lawyer Sidney Powell between Christmas and New Years. Pence refused, but not because Powell was a total nutjob who was going around insisting that dead Hugo Chávez had stolen the election for Biden. No, Pence was worried that it was a ruse to serve him with papers in Louie Gohmert's batguano lawsuit seeking to block his ability certify electors.
As things got ever more tense between Pence and Trump, the vice president reached out to Jared Kushner to mediate. But Kush said he was far too busy doing Middle East stuff to get involved in the peaceful transition of power. Oh, hey, didn't that asshole incorporate his hedge fund on January 21, 2021, and then get $2 billion from Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund? Ah, well, priorities!
Meanwhile, Pence was getting spammed with "legal memos" telling him to just do it and be legends, by everyone from constitutional traffic lawyer Jenna Ellis to "Hot Johnny McEntee," the president's body man who became head of the Presidential Personnel Office and got Defense Secretary Mark Esper fired. The heaviest hitter was now-former law professor John Eastman, who said if Pence wasn't willing to toss out swing state electoral votes completely, he could always say the results were fishy and order a 10-day review — conveniently giving Republican-dominated legislatures the time and pretext to claw back the Biden electors and substitute the cosplay Trump ones.
Throughout the whole thing, Trump was blocking transition funding in order to keep Pence from doing his damn job and preparing to hand the reins over to incoming Vice President Kamala Harris. Pence, being Pence, refused to say one way or the other what he planned to do, saying his staff was investigating the issue, leaving the impression he might be persuaded to participate in Trump's and Eastman's electoral coup. By January 6, when Pence finally nutted up enough to say out loud that he wasn't going to do it, things had deteriorated to such an extent that he released his memo saying he had no authority to overturn the Electoral College results without even giving the White House a heads up.
After all that insanity, Pence spent an entire year after leaving office singing Trump's praises and angling to get his spot back on a 2024 Trump presidential ticket. Because he's a weak, tiny, craven little man.
But still, when the chips were down, he actually stood up for democracy and refused to mount a coup. So, slow clap for Mike Pence, the very reluctant hero of the day. And maybe a slightly faster clap for the Secret Service, which failed to give the Capitol Police a heads up about the impending violence, but does seem to have persuaded Trump not to accompany the rioters as they assaulted the Capitol by telling the old man they could not protect him in the crowd.
And if that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, God only knows what the January 6 Committee is going to reveal on Thursday when it holds the first public report on its investigation. Be there, should be wild.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.