The relationship between Donald Trump and Mike Pence reminds me of one of the greatest leads to a newspaper story I have ever read.
It was written in the 1970s in the Washington Star by a reporter named Sheilah Kast who was covering a criminal case in Arlington, VA, involving a young woman who had been attacked by a man who climbed into her garden apartment and raped her, not once, but twice, at knifepoint, with the attacks coming a week apart.
Sheila began the story: “He raped her and now she wants to marry him.” I knew I had to keep reading.
So it is with the saga of Mike Pence and Donald Trump, the one who repeatedly held the Twitter knife at his throat. Trump precipitated all those “Kill Mike Pence” shouts in the halls of the Capitol and the erection of a gallows and a noose on the lawn below. We all would like to know what Pence was thinking as he and his family were rushed to safety by the Secret Service as the mob was steps away.
When did his Secret Service detail alert the White House about the situation and what did his detail tell their superiors? When were the president’s advisors told about the situation with the Vice President?
Surely there was a lot of abuse by Trump we do not know about, and there is no time to wait for Pence’s memoirs to give us a whiff. His presidential aspirations are beyond irrelevant.
Perhaps the Democrats wanted to keep it short to give the Biden Administration more time to begin facing its enormous challenges. While the Democrats presented a stunningly convincing and compact case against Trump, it was still little more than a slick television drama with compelling narrators, but no live witnesses except the members of Congress themselves.
At least in a symbolic sense, there may be no more important victim to have as a witness than Pence, whose long-standing loyalty as a co-conspirator with Trump was honored by abandonment.
What was missing was the human touch of victims — a firsthand account from one of the 140 policemen who were hurt. A few minutes from the Capitol Hill policeman who lost an eye, or the one who lost three fingers. And testimony from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who engaged in an expletive-filled call with Trump while the Capitol riot was going on. McCarthy reportedly demanded Trump get the insurrectionists to back down, only to have the president tell him “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
And at least in a symbolic sense, there may be no more important victim to have as a witness than Pence, whose long-standing loyalty as a co-conspirator with Trump was honored by abandonment. The absence of Pence’s testimony would be a lost opportunity for the House impeachment managers. To me, his absence amounts to obstruction of completely informed justice.
With the Washington Post reporting that Pence plans to remain subservient to Trump and silent about him, Pence must feel he is going out on a high point. Even Democrats are hailing his “courage” for standing up to Trump’s demand that he overturn the certification of the Electoral College votes.
He did his job as prescribed by the Constitution. To call Pence a hero for resisting Trump, to me, is the equivalent of giving Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) a medal for acknowledging that the attacks on 9/11 occurred. I can understand why Pence is avoiding the spotlight; he was a key co-conspirator for the entire Trump administration.
What is stopping the impeachment managers from forcing Pence to testify?
Should we not all know by now what Pence was thinking as his boss repeatedly tweeted about his lack of courage while urging him to do “the right thing”?
Is that set of facts not central to the charge of incitement that includes Trump making Pence the focal point for the mob attack?
Surely the Senate needs to know what else Trump asked Pence to do and what else he told Pence about the campaign to undermine the integrity of the election and overturn its results.
He has no grounds to refuse to testify and, if necessary, the Senate could subpoena him if he declines to come voluntarily.
Regardless of whether Pence thinks his silence is the only way to protect his political future and the safety of his family and himself, the safety of the nation is the only concern that should really matter.
My guess is his resolve to stay loyal to Trump would crumble within five minutes during direct examination under oath.
Imagine the questions:
- What did the president say as he discussed ways to overturn the results of the election?
- Please tell us about your discussions with Mr. Trump with regard to your role as the president of the Senate.
- What did he say about his efforts to change the results in Georgia?
- Did the president or his aides tell you anything about his plans to involve the Justice Department in election fraud?
- Did the president consult you about possible changes at the Department of Justice after the acting attorney general declined to interfere in the election results?
- Tell us about the efforts the president’s aides made to enlist you to talk him out of possibly illegal acts with regard to the election.
- Did he ever make any promises to you of supporting you for president after he leaves office?
I am sure readers can think of dozens more excellent and relevant questions for Pence that the House impeachment managers could ask. They made the threats to Pence one of the pivot points of the video presentation, so I do not understand why they would be hesitant to call him to testify in person. Think of what he might say, if grilled, about the president’s lack of curiosity.
That takes me back to that Sheilah Kast story. If her memory serves her, after the woman testified against her assailant, she felt remorse and visited him in prison. They hit it off, she continued to visit, and they eventually married. So even though Pence reportedly remains angry that Trump waited five days to talk to him after the attack, maybe that gesture — and Pence’s ongoing ambition — will be enough to keep his lips sealed and subvert any efforts to hold Trump accountable for “The Big Lie.”
Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Trump White House Archived / Flickr.