'The people were very angry': Why Donald Trump defending threats to hang Mike Pence matters

'The people were very angry': Why Donald Trump defending threats to hang Mike Pence matters
Donald Trump and Mike Pence at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona on August 31, 2016 (Gage Skidmore).

On learning that Vice President Mike Pence had been rescued from a mob chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” President Donald Trump allegedly remarked that Pence should have been hanged after all.

At least two witnesses told the J6 committee about this exchange, according to the Times. We don’t know how Trump delivered that line, but even in jest, such it bespeaks intense anger toward Pence.

This remark also bolsters the assumption that Trump intended for the J6 mob to coerce Pence. As we shall see, the mob was just the most dramatic part of an extended campaign by Trump and his allies to pressure Pence into doing something they all knew was illegal.

Earlier that day, Trump had sicced the mob on the Capitol with a fiery speech in which he exhorted Pence to steal the election. He then retreated to the White House to “gleefully” watch the chaos play out on television.

As the insurgents rampaged through the building, Trump tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

While Trump was indifferent to Pence’s safety, there’s no evidence that the president literally intended for the mob to kill him.

All the intricate plots that Trump hatched with his lawyer John Eastman depended on Pence remaining alive and cooperative.

But Pence had defied Trump in writing, releasing a statement repudiating the Eastman’s crackpot legal excuses and pledging to count the votes “in a manner consistent with our Constitution, laws and history.”

In the weeks before the insurrection, Trump, Eastman and their allies waged a bitter public and private pressure campaign to convince Pence to steal the election during the joint session of Congress.

At first, they urged Pence to refuse to count electoral votes for Biden. Pence rejected that idea out of hand on grounds that it was illegal.

Eastman then switched gears, urging Pence to delay the certification for 10 days. Pence’s lawyer rejected the delay strategy as illegal, and Eastman conceded the point.

In an email exchange obtained by the J6 committee, Eastman accused Pence’s lawyer of being “small-minded” and “sticking to minor procedural statutes when the Constitution is being shredded.”

Eastman explicitly urged Pence to break the law, arguing that it would be the statesmanlike thing to do.

The pause Eastman was angling for was ostensibly to allow legislators to continue “investigating” Trump’s bogus allegations of voter fraud, but this was a fig leaf for his fake electors scam.

Eastman spent weeks courting Republican state legislators with an outrageous pseudo-legal theory: That state legislatures have absolute power to retroactively override any presidential election result they don’t like and handpick their own electors.

That’s what all those fake GOP electors were for.

On January 5, Eastman breathlessly informed Pence’s lawyer of a “huge” new development, claiming that the GOP-controlled state legislature would probably “recertify” its electors if Pence stopped the certification.

Trump apologists will try to play off the former president’s outrageous wish that Pence had been hanged as a mere joke, but we all know Trump too well to believe that.

Trump emotes and insinuates, but he doesn’t joke.

Turncoat Trump aide Michael Cohen once said that his boss lacks a sense of humor. "He doesn't laugh, he doesn't tell jokes, he doesn't have a sense of humor. He means it when he says it," he explained.

Trump disguises cryptic suggestions as jokes so that he doesn’t have to take responsibility for giving an order.

“Jokes” are the equivalent of disappearing ink for him.

He telegraphs his wishes and his underlings figure out how to execute his desires. Trump openly solicited Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election with his notorious “Russia, if you’re listening…” plea to hack Clinton’s emails.

It’s unlikely that Trump was being literal when he said he wished Pence had been hanged, but his bitterness over Pence thwarting the coup was deadly serious.

This comment sheds light on Trump’s hopes for the January 6 insurrection and could potentially even bolster criminal allegations against him.

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