Thursday’s 1/6 hearing was The Mike Pence Show: A detailed examination of the pressures brought to bear on the former vice president by Donald Trump and others, along with revelations that most everyone applying that pressure knew full well what they were doing was illegal. Bearing the day’s testimony in mind, I’d like you to watch for something over the coming weeks and months.
One of the biggest takeaways from this hearing is that Pence is lucky to be able to walk around with his head still attached. The name “Pence” did not appear anywhere in Trump’s prepared remarks for that day, but after a heated morning phone call that had Trump calling Pence all sorts of derogatory names, Trump voluntarily fed Pence’s name to the crowd multiple times in order to gin them up against him. The insurrectionists were at one point 40 feet from Pence during the sacking the Capitol.
On Thursday, Democrats in the committee and many voices in the media hailed Pence for his heroic stand against the gaff of 1/6 and fulfilling his constitutional duty. “Steely … grim” were some words used to describe Pence’s demeanor on the morning of 1/6. Although he was pushed by Dan Quayle and others to perform this duty, he did it.
Knowing all this, we can see how difficult Trump is actually. tried to have his own vice president killedPence knows that I know this. What I want you all to see is how Pence is going pretzel himself in order to win favor from the very voters who gave him a gibbet 17 months ago. You can see that he wants to run for president. There is no bottom to this barrel.
As for significant revelations, Thursday’s top surprise was the fact that John Eastman, the conservative Trump lawyer who drafted one of the how-to insurrection memos motivating Trump, sought a pardon by way of Rudy Giuliani for his role in the debacle. “Eastman repeatedly acknowledged that his proposal for former Vice President Mike Pence to unilaterally reject electors lacked a legal basis,” reports Axios. It appears that asking for a pardon after the fact was a smart move.
The hearing’s most important part was not heard at all, except in brief snippets. Former Judge J. Michael Luttig (an apparent conservative stalwart judge and mentor to Ted Cruz) was the main witness. He made a prepared statement to committee. The entire document is a scathing condemnation of Trump’s various minions. It minces no words:
A stake was driven through the heart of American democracy on January 6, 2021, and our democracy today is on a knife’s edge. The United States was not at war against any foreign power on that fateful day. She was at war with her own country. We Americans were at war with each other — over our democracy…
Revolutionaries, not patriots attacked America and American democracy on January 6, 2021. On that terrible day, the walls of all three institutions of democracy were climbed and broken. And almost two years thence, one of America’s two political parties cannot even agree whether that day was good or bad, right or wrong. Worse, it can’t agree on January 6. Not needed. Take a moment to reflect on this. The former president and his party are unable to decide whether the revolt at US Capitol to disrupt and stop the constitutional counting vote for the presidency was necessary. If so, it is possible that another revolt will be necessary in the future to accomplish what the previous rebellion failed to do.
Strong and appropriate as those words are, the day’s doings were marked more significantly by a parade of former Trump aides who tried to swaddle themselves in righteousness. Pence attorney Greg Jacobs led the way, time and again laboring to make clear that he and all the others knew the whole scenario was sideways … and yet he and all the others chose to remain silent until now.
I know that there is no turning back. Every lawyer present at the plotting meeting said nothing, and all the self-serving Biblical gobbledygook they put on the walls of the hearing room should not be used to save them from this fate.
Jacobs. Eastman. Stepien. Herschmann. Miller. Barr. It continues, and brings to mind words written by Richard Nixon in a memo to H.R. Haldeman in December of 1970… and yes, God help me, I’m quoting “Tricky Dick” to make sense of Donald Trump. “The greatest mistake most Presidents make,” wrote Nixon, “is to allow themselves, because of sentiment, to be surrounded in top positions by first-rate, second-rate men.”
I’m not going to say it was due to sentiment, because among other reasons I am not at all sure Donald Trump is capable of achieving so human an emotion, but boy howdy, did he ever surround himself with first-rate, second-rate men. These hearings have gone a long way toward establishing Trump’s legal culpability for the sacking of the Capitol, but they have also established that Trump should not be allowed to staff an ice cream truck on a hot summer day.
But we also knew that. Keep an eye on Pence as he moves forward. He will feed himself to the GOP base if he can … because at the end of the day, he was the original first-rate, second-rate man selected by Trump to join him in polluting the White House.
Never forget: This is the same fellow who told Sean Hannity in October 2021, “I know the media wants to distract from the Biden administration’s failed agenda by focusing on one day in January. They want to use that one day to try and demean the character and intentions of 74 million Americans who believed we could be strong again and prosperous again and supported our administration in 2016 and 2020.”
Nothing about him has changed. The fact that Pence did his duty, more or less, on “that one day” puts me in mind of the scold I must occasionally drop on my daughter: You don’t get extra points for doing what you’re supposed to do.