Former Vice President Mike Pence was, in many ways, the protagonist of Thursday's third televised hearing of the House Jan. 6 committee: a man who resisted intense pressure from powerful allies and narrowly escaped violent death to do the right thing, saving the constitutional republic. The main villains were conservative lawyer John Eastman, who wrote multiple memos arguing that Pence had the right to unilaterally overturn the election result and urged him to do so, and former President Donald Trump.
Before Pence left his official residence to ceremonially oversee the counting of President Biden's electoral victory in Congress, Trump called him at 11:20 a.m., the panel recounted. Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump told the committee the conversation was "pretty heated" and Trump used a "different tone" than normal with Pence.
"I remember hearing the word 'wimp,'" Trump aide Nick Luna told committee investigators. "'Wimp' is the word I remember." Julie Radford, Ivanka Trump's chief of staff, testified that the president had used "the P word" — The New York Times previously reported that Trump had used two P words, telling Pence he could "either go down in history as a patriot" or "a pussy."
After their call, Trump added passive-aggressive references to Pence to his speech at the pre-riot "Stop the Steal" rally. By the time Pence arrived at the Capitol, an angry mob of Trump supporters was already gathering outside, the committee said, and Trump's subsequent tweets berating Pence riled up the crowd, leading to chants of "Hang Mike Pence!" When Trump learned about those chants, the committee said in an earlier hearing, he said "maybe our supporters have the right idea," and Pence "deserves it."
And it wasn't an ideal threat, Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said at Thursday's hearing. A confidential witness told the FBI some of the Proud Boys who breached the Capitol said if they had found Pence, they would have killed him. When Pence was being evacuated to a secure loading dock in the Capitol basement, Aguilar said, he and his entourage came within 40 feet of angry rioters.
The Jan. 6 committee also showed some newly released photos of Pence sheltering during the riot, including one of him watching Trump attack him on his phone, his daughter scowling nearby.
Pence did not attend Thursday's hearing. Instead, while his bravery was lauded in Washington, he was in Ohio at an energy roundtable. He did not take any questions.