The U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol has gone through a months-long effort to gain testimony and documents from top advisers to Donald Trump, but according to The New York Times, the most serious negotiations may be those surrounding the witness who the committee would most like to see sit down in the chamber for a candid conversation: Mike Pence.
The six months since the committee was formed often seem to have been spent in lengthy negotiations with former officials like Mark Meadows—negotiations that eventually ended with Meadows backing away from the deal and becoming the subject of a referral to the Department of Justice for a contempt of Congress of charge. Meadows follows the greasy path of former senior adviser Steve Bannon, who has already been indicted for his refusal to cooperate, but whose trial is not scheduled to begin until July, demonstrating once again how the court system can be used to effectively quash congressional investigation through appeals and delays. Over 300 people who have some connection to events on Jan. 6 have appeared to give testimony to the committee, but almost all of this has happened behind closed doors, and almost all of it involved lower-level players who were witness to some small part of the overall scheme.
It’s very easy to feel, more than a year after the mob of screaming Trump supporters overran the Capitol, that nothing is happening. Bannon’s trial is months away, and any results are sure to be appealed. The Department of Justice still hasn’t even returned an indictment against Meadows, and it’s not certain they will. Even the clear-cut case concerning release of presidential papers, a case that Trump has lost over and over (and over), is still lingering out there for possible review by the Supreme Court with no actual end date in sight.
If the committee could get Pence to actually sit down, raise his hand, and speak frankly about what happened both on and before Jan. 6, it could potentially open the floodgates. But is that ever likely to happen?
Considering that Trump cheered on a crowd that was calling for Pence to be executed, refused to respond to Pence’s pleas for help during the worst moments of the crisis, and that Pence had to eventually work around Trump to bring in the National Guard after hours of waiting for Trump to act, the odds of getting Pence on the stand might seem good. On the other hand, it took no more than hours for Pence to begin issuing statements defending Trump following those events. Even with the word that his staff had been locked out of the White House, Pence praised Trump and has since made it clear that he is unwilling to say anything against his former boss.
The reverse is not true of Trump, who continues to make speeches in which he lambasts Pence for failing to carry through in his role during the attempted coup. “Disappointment” has become the key word that Trump uses in describing the man who failed to pull the trigger on his assassination plot for democracy.
Will Trump’s continued sneers be enough to move Pence to testify? It seems unlikely.
According to the Times, communications with Pence have been “informal” and for months Pence has told the committee that he is “undecided” about appearing. This appeared to be Pence placing a very pale finger in the wind, checking to see what move would be best in his almost certainly doomed effort to land the 2024 GOP nomination.
More recently, Pence has apparently determined that the spirits advise against it. That decreasing chance of cooperation is surely because Pence has seen the praise that Fox News and others have ladled onto Republicans who refuse to appear—and the scorn rolled out for any sign of possible cooperation.
Pence’s odds of appearing also seem to have been given a cold-water shrink after seeing that the committee is increasingly likely to issue a swath of criminal referrals, not just for contempt of Congress, but directly related to the crimes committed during Trump’s coup attempt.
Even without seeing Bannon or Meadows grilled by the members of the committee, the information that’s been released through the actions of the select committee in the last few months has been extensive. It has become clear that the violence insurrection that broke through the doors of the Capitol was just one part of a coup that originated in the White House. The plan to overturn the results of the 2020 election by refusing to acknowledge votes from states that President Joe Biden won, and to create a pretense for either a do-over election or an outright assertion that Trump had won, went much further than even political insiders realized. The plan was passed around the White House in numerous forms, briefed to Pence and other officials, discussed with propagandists at Fox News, and even given as a presentation for Republican members of Congress. The Big Lie got a Big Sales Job.
Even if none of the people who have earned a contempt of Congress charge never appear, even if the phone records and other papers the committee is still seeking remain hidden, there is every expectation that the select committee will report that Donald Trump conducted an illegal coup attempt. Odds are good that the committee will send to the Department of Justice a referral for sedition, or some equally serious charge against Trump and many of his co-conspirators.
Whatever the committee ultimately does, its impact would be greatly enhanced by clear public testimony delivered by someone inside Trump’s circle. However, that’s unlikely to be Pence.
Right now, Mike Pence is the man who did not throw the switch when democracy was strapped to the chair. That has given him a certain level of credibility with the people not still wearing MAGA hats or T-shirts mentioning “Brandon.” On the other hand, he’s not out there joining Rep. Liz Cheney to rail against Trump, which helps maintain the illusion that he still has a future in the Republican Party.
He’s perfectly poised in a position that’s useless, meaningless, and pointless. Which sounds just like where Mike Pence will be staying.
Republished with permission from Daily Kos.