The Capitol riot, one year on

The MAGA mob came for Mike Pence on January 6. Is he finally fighting back?

Supporters of Donald Trump erected a gallows for Mike Pence during the attack on the Capitol, but now he may be cooperating with the committee investigating the attack, writes Andrew Feinberg

Thursday 06 January 2022 10:06 GMT
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s been 364 days since a mob erected a gallows for then-vice president Mike Pence outside the US Capitol, and by all accounts, he has since made all efforts to fall in line with the Republican Party’s prevailing opinion on that day’s insurrection: Not a big deal.

In October, the former target of the mob continued what has been a yearlong public campaign to assuage the anger of his former supporters who still believe he should’ve acted to install former president Donald Trump in the White House for a second term, against the will of American voters.

Speaking on Fox News, Mr Pence described the continued focus on the worst attack on the Capitol since British troops under command of Major General Robert Ross set it ablaze in 1814 as a distraction “from the Biden administration’s failed agenda,” and the insurrection itself —a violent conflagration that left multiple people dead and scores of police officers injured — as just “one day in January”.

Yet the House of Representatives select committee charged with probing the causes of what happened that day has already revealed that the gallows meant for Mr Pence and the attendant violent riot were merely the culmination of a concerted campaign to push him to enact Mr Trump’s power grab.

That extended influence campaign — concocted by White House officials such as ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows and trade adviser Peter Navarro and a retinue of other Trumpworld figures, including Steve Bannon and law professor John Chapman — did not ultimately sway Mr Pence.

Instead, he reportedly relied on advice from his chief of staff, Marc Short, his counsel Greg Jacob, and fellow Hoosier Dan Quayle — the last former Vice President to preside over a joint session certifying his own reelection defeat — all of whom correctly counselled him against executing what Mr Navarro had dubbed the “Green Bay Sweep,” but would have amounted to a coup against American democracy.

So far, Mr Pence has kept a relatively low profile as he’s tried to avoid further incurring the wrath of his former boss and Trump acolytes who regard him as a traitor, but select committee chairman Bennie Thompson told CNN on Wednesday that the nine-member panel would not mind hearing from the ex-veep.

“There were people who had gallows directed upon the lawn of the Capitol, ostensibly to hang the vice president … his life was in danger. I would hope that he would do the right thing and come forward and voluntarily talk to the committee. You know, everybody there didn’t have a security detail, so we’d like to know what his security detail told him was going on,” he said.

A committee source told The Independent on Monday that the select committee has not been in contact with Mr Pence and would not say whether the former vice president would be receiving a subpoena or request for him to voluntarily give evidence anytime soon.

But according to sources familiar with both the select committee’s work and the workings of Mr Pence and his inner circle, the man who Trumpist rioters targeted with a hangman’s noose may already be on board with the investigation into whether his former boss knew what would happen at the Capitol one year ago.

Despite Pence’s years of loyalty, Trump turned on him during the storming of the Capitol (R
Despite Pence’s years of loyalty, Trump turned on him during the storming of the Capitol (R (Reuters)

Though the former vice president has not been asked to give evidence, voluntarily or otherwise, sources tell The Independent that the select committee has conducted more than one interview with Mr Short, who served as Mr Pence’s chief of staff from 2018 until he left office on 20 January last year.

The veteran GOP operative, who ran the White House office of legislative affairs under Mr Trump for the first 18 months of his presidency, has remained close with Mr Pence in the year since he returned to private life by serving as a co-chair of Mr Pence’s post-White House think tank, Advancing American Freedom. He also remains one of the former vice president’s primary gatekeepers and advisers, and even appeared alongside Mr Pence at the Free Iran Summit this past October.

According to a former Trump administration official who worked closely with both Mr Short and the then-vice president, Mr Short’s cooperation with the select committee is no accident, and is an indicator that both he and his boss see the investigation into what happened a year ago as a possible advantage in a 2024 presidential primary.

“Marc, I think, is looking towards the future … and asking ‘what does the future of the party look like?’ And his answer is that it's people like Mike Pence,” the former official said. “I think he’s looking to move away from Trump as fast as possible”.

Another ex-White House aide who spent years working with both the former vice president and his top aide suggested that Mr Short’s cooperation with the select committee is a reflection of his conservatism and devotion to institutions.

“He's just a good person. He's a person who has upstanding character and integrity. So I think he's going to, you know, cooperate, to the degree that he feels legally obligated and constitutionally obligated,” said the former aide, a top GOP operative who served in government for almost the entire run of the Trump administration.


Both agreed that Mr Short’s cooperation stems from his desire to look to a day when Mr Trump is no longer the predominant figure in the GOP, but each also suggested that his engagement with the committee under a “friendly” subpoena should be viewed as a stalking horse for the ex-veep’s cooperation.

“I absolutely think that Marc Short is sort of paving the way or laying the groundwork by laying out the facts of what happened,” they said. “He is basically … the de facto voice for Pence in this situation”.

“He’s going in … to do the right thing, and he’s basically speaking for Pence, and that is probably understood by Liz Cheney and others,” they continued.

Mr Pence, the aide explained, is likely taking a “measured and calculated” approach to the committee’s work, both because he has an eye on 2024 and because he “hates confrontation”.

And with the select committee set to begin a series of televised hearings this year, they predicted that Mr Pence could make an appearance with the caveat that he may not need to speak himself if the evidence that the panel has already collected proves sufficiently damaging to Mr Trump.

“I think he has made the calculated decision to let the truth come out and let them destroy themselves,” they said.

The Independent has requested a comment from Mr Pence’s office.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in