Journalist highlights a key 'pivot point' in the Jan. 6 investigations that leads directly to Trump
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s January 6 committee has covered a lot of ground in its probe of the Capitol riot and the events leading up to it, including former President Donald Trump’s efforts to bully former Vice President Mike Pence into helping him overturn the 2020 election results. Journalist Marcy Wheeler examines Trump and Pence’s post-election activities this week on her Empty Wheel blog, citing Pence as an important “pivot point” between the January 6 committee’s investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation of January 6.
“Over the course of a year,” Wheeler explains, “the news-friendly January 6 select committee and even the public parts of the locked-down DOJ investigation have met at a common pivot point in their investigation of January 6: on Trump’s efforts to pressure Mike Pence to violate the Constitution. Trump did so, first, with personal pressure. Then, he sent his mob.”
On January 6, 2021, Pence was responsible for overseeing Congress’ electoral vote count and the certification of now-President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory; that was his duty as vice president. Trump insisted that Pence didn’t have to certify the 2020 election results if he didn’t want to, but Pence maintained that he had no choice.
“The Select Committee appears to have corroborated stories told by Bobs Woodward and Costa in (their book) ‘Peril,’” Wheeler observes. “After losing all their attempts to challenge the election in the courts and backed by a coup memo from (attorney) John Eastman, in December 2020, Trump’s people started demanding that Pence refuse the vote totals from a select group of states…. Pence conducted a series of consultations, most notably with his predecessor Dan Quayle, who counseled Pence could only open the ballots.”
Wheeler continues, “In the hours before the riot, conservative legal stars John Yoo and Michael Luttig backed the vice president as well. That led to the remarkable scene on January 5…. as Trump invited Pence to call on unconstitutional power from the mob.”
By “the mob,” Wheeler isn’t referring to an organized crime entity like la Cosa Nostra or the Sinaloa drug cartel, but rather, the violent insurrectionist mob of Trump supporters who were in Washington, D.C. on January 5 and 6, 2021.
Wheeler notes that on January 5, “In spite of Pence’s refusals, Trump released a false statement that the vice president would, in fact, do Trump’s dirty work…. This set the expectation with the already enraged mob that their efforts to keep Trump in office might just work. As the select committee revealed last night, the White House Counsel’s Office was objecting to all of this, and threatening to resign if Trump tried it.”
The mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol Building was so angry at Pence that some of them were chanting, “Hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence” and set up a hangman’s gallows outside the Capitol. They were clearly comfortable with the idea of lynching the vice president for, as they saw it, betraying Trump.
Wheeler wraps up her blog column by reiterating that Pence is where the DOJ’s January 6 investigation and the select committee’s January 6 investigation “converge.”
“DOJ is finalizing its understanding of the coordinated effort, using the mobs Alex Jones lured to the Capitol and to a second front, that resulted in multiple breaches of the building and vastly inflated risk to Pence and members of Congress,” Wheeler writes. “But on one point, both investigations have already converged: the motive of a vast many involved, from Trump to his scheming associates to organized militias to unwitting trespassers, was to pressure Mike Pence to violate his duty.”
Even former Attorney General Bill Barr seemed to see the events in similar terms. He told the AP "orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable" the day after the attack.
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