If I were at the center of a possible criminal conspiracy to overturn a national election, I’d refrain from antagonizing a blockbuster witness who’s sitting on the sidelines.
Especially since the January 6 committee still has several hearings left, including one in primetime.
Can you imagine the hype if they managed to convince Mike Pence to testify live against Trump at the final 8 p.m. event?
Maybe Trump is keeping that in mind. His criticism of Pence at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference today was mild, even insisting that he never called him a “wimp” for refusing to block certification of the electoral college on January 6. Which may be true, technically: The word he once used to describe Pence, according to an aide to Ivanka Trump, was “pussy.”
But he did criticize Pence in today’s speech in the course of doubling down on “stop the steal” once again:
Donald Trump, while denying that he ever called Mike Pence a “wimp,” says that Pence “did not have the courage to act” in overturning the election.
He then calls him a “human conveyer belt” when it came to certifying Joe Biden’s election. pic.twitter.com/ZaFBqIS9La
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) June 17, 2022
There was this too. The 1800 incident involving Thomas Jefferson he mentions is convoluted but this will catch you up if you’re curious:
Donald Trump on Pence not overturning the election: “So, I said ‘Mike, if you do this, you can be Thomas Jefferson.’ And then, after it all went down, I looked at him one day and I said ‘Mike, hate to say this, but you’re no Thomas Jefferson'” pic.twitter.com/rLzb1u7rdr
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) June 17, 2022
One irony of invoking Jefferson in the context of the insurrection is that he was probably the least authoritarian of the Founding Fathers, the man who once wrote that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.” Another is that Pence too has invoked the Framers when explaining his actions on January 6. Last November, at an event at the University of Iowa, he was asked who told him to defy Trump’s plan to overturn the election. “James Madison,” Pence replied.
Which is a good answer in virtually any situation.
Anyway, Team Pence says Trump is lying:
Pence chief of staff Marc Short says this never happened. https://t.co/AlBWjs0VkG
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) June 17, 2022
A third irony of today’s address is captured by this Politico reporter:
Really something else to hear Trump rail against Pence — this seems to be a real focus of his speech — in front of a sympathetic and approving crowd who in years past celebrated Pence at this same conference as a top conservative Christian leader.
— Meridith McGraw (@meridithmcgraw) June 17, 2022
Pence was added to the ticket in 2016 at the urging of Paul Manafort, who feared Trump would be a tough sell to Christian conservatives given the, uh, entire history of his personal life. Pence’s evangelical credentials were impeccable, lending Trump the credibility he needed to win over social conservatives. Now it’s Trump who’s the star guest at the Faith & Freedom conference a year after Pence was heckled there as a “traitor” for refusing to participate in a coup. The 2016 ticket combined nationalism and Christianity; the Christian nationalist byproduct of their union is much more like Trump in spirit than Pence.
There’s still time to make amends, Mike. Testify. Tim Miller makes the case:
Mike Pence has the opportunity to put a stake through the heart of the man who abused him and left him for dead. That chance is right now. Before this committee.
He could testify in front of the entire world and with the eyes of history upon him that Donald Trump was a traitor to America who spurred on a mob in an illegal attempt to stay in power. It would be a moment that would reverberate for ages.
Mike Pence may no longer be working under an oath that requires such testimony, but he nevertheless has a duty to his country to speak the whole truth and let the chips fall where they may.
I’m sure the D.C. smart set will declare that demanding Pence testify against Trump is foolish, because of what it might do to his career prospects. But it’s not entirely clear what those prospects are anyway.
Pence continues to operate under the delusion that he has a future in the “Hang Mike Pence” party, gearing up to run for president in 2024 in a field that will include Trump himself. And he intends to do so, surreally, without attacking Trump (much) according to WaPo: “Pence has said he does not plan to wage a scorched-earth campaign against Trump or to criticize him aggressively.” Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, told the Post, “The way he views it is, he did his duty, he doesn’t need to talk about it more… He doesn’t want to re-litigate the past. He believes that voters want to look forward, not backwards.”
Well, that’s true. Voters care about inflation and gas prices, not January 6. But why does Pence think they might prefer him to Trump, let alone to Ron DeSantis, to lead them into that future? How often do Trump or DeSantis get heckled as “traitors” in front of conservative crowds?
Pence testifying before the committee would be viewed as the final betrayal by righties, a de facto conspiracy with Liz Cheney to try to render Trump unelectable going forward. Pence’s presidential hopes would be demolished. The wrinkle, as Miller notes, is that they’re already demolished. For Pence to stand a chance in 2024, he’d need both Trump and DeSantis not to run, and even then he’d need to hold off any opportunistic populists who’d jump into the race to fill the vacuum, like Tucker Carlson.
Realistically, his presidential dream ended on January 6. That’s a bummer for him, and unfair in that it was snatched away because he insisted on doing something virtuous and patriotic. But that’s his reward for partnering with Trump in the first place believing that doing so would make him the heir apparent in the GOP. He’s another Republican who placed ambition above civic duty until Trump finally asked him to do something unthinkable. Go read “The Snake,” Mike. It’s instructive.
The one hope the committee has of getting Pence to testify is that maybe his anger at being criticized by Trump will finally get the best of him:
Several people close to Pence said his anger died down over Trump’s actions that day, particularly after Trump showed regret privately in a meeting with Pence in the Oval Office a few days later and suggested they still be friends. But Pence’s anger at times has been rekindled in recent months as Trump has attacked him. The two have not spoken for about a year, aides said, and Pence does not have any plans to talk to Trump as he eyes a 2024 bid.
If he’s going to finish sixth in Iowa either way, he might as well do some good for his country on his way out of politics by testifying. Preventing this scenario would be a fine legacy.
Trump floating pardons for January 6th defendants pic.twitter.com/lhfmVMlzaN
— Acyn (@Acyn) June 17, 2022