'Our Democracy Came ... Close to Catastrophe'

Jan. 6 chair Bennie Thompson praises Mike Pence's defiance of Trump
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 16, 2022 12:24 PM CDT
Updated Jun 16, 2022 2:20 PM CDT
Focus Shifts to Pence as Jan. 6 Hearings Resume
Vice President Mike Pence returns to the House chamber after midnight, Jan. 7, 2021, to finish the work of the Electoral College after a riot at the Capitol disrupted the process.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Day Three of the Jan. 6 hearings has put the focus squarely on Mike Pence. More specifically, on the pressure former President Trump placed on Pence to prevent the election results from being certified—and the vice president's refusal to do so. During the Capitol breach, rioters famously erected gallows and chanted "Hang Mike Pence," and the vice president was evacuated from the Senate floor to his ceremonial office nearby.

  • Praise: Panel chair Bennie Thompson praised Pence for refusing to obey Trump as the Senate met to certify election results. "Thanks in part to Mike Pence, our democracy withstood Donald Trump's scheme and the violence of Jan. 6," he said in opening remarks. Thompson added that "we are fortunate for Mr. Pence’s courage on Jan. 6,” because "our democracy came dangerously close to catastrophe," per the New York Times.
  • Against advice: Vice chair Liz Cheney said that Trump "was told repeatedly that Mike Pence lacked the constitutional authority and legal authority to do what President Trump was demanding he do," per CNN. She said that what Trump asked of Pence “was not just wrong, it was illegal and unconstitutional.”
  • Photo: ABC News has obtained a photo of Pence and his family—wife Karen, brother Rep. Greg Pence, and daughter Charlotte—taking refuge in the VP's ceremonial office. In the image, Karen Pence is drawing curtains to shield the family from the view of rioters.

  • Pence adviser: J. Michael Luttig, a retired conservative judge who advised Pence, told the panel that if Pence had gone along with Trump, it would have been "the first constitutional crisis since the founding of the republic.” He also said he “would have laid (his) body across the road” before advising Pence to agree to Trump's demands.
  • Marc Jacob: Former Pence attorney Jacob testified about Pence's first reaction to the theory—which was being strongly pushed by Trump ally John Eastman—that the VP could sway the results. "The vice president's first instinct when he heard this theory was that there was no way that our framers ... would ever have put one person—particularly not a person who had a direct interest in the outcome because they were on the ticket for the election—in a role to have a decisive impact on the outcome of the election,” he said. Jacob added that Pence was correct, with no VP in history ever claiming that kind of power.
  • Acknowledgements? The panel also played video of Jacob testifying that Eastman told Trump two days before the riot that the idea of having Pence overturn the vote was against the law. Pence chief of staff Marc Short testified that Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows also agreed it was illegal. But "Mark had told so many different people so many things.”
(More Jan. 6 hearings stories.)

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