It’s been nearly two years since the Jan. 6 riot, and Mike Pence has been pretty quiet about it. When he’s spoken about it, he’s been clear not to drag the man who helped start it: Donald Trump. He’s even defended him, despite Trump suggesting he deserved what he almost got. It’s all been a bit odd; after all, he was nearly killed by Trump’s amped-up supporters. On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed in which Pence opened up about that fateful day. And who did he appear to blame? The Lincoln Project, of course.
The former vice president spent part of his piece detailing the events leading up to the Capitol riot, and he singled out December 5, a month after the 2020 election, as a turning point. For one thing, that was when he first heard Trump vow to challenge the results. For another, it’s when the band of anti-Trump Republicans put out another of their attacks:
An irresponsible TV ad by a group calling itself the Lincoln Project suggested that when I presided over the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes, it would prove that I knew “it’s over,” and that by doing my constitutional duty, I would be “putting the final nail in the coffin” of the president’s re-election. To my knowledge, it was the first time anyone implied I might be able to change the outcome. It was designed to annoy the president. It worked. During a December cabinet meeting, President Trump told me the ad “looked bad for you.” I replied that it wasn’t true: I had fully supported the legal challenges to the election and would continue to do so.
Is Pence suggesting that Trump wouldn’t have happened upon the (erroneous) idea that Pence could simply overturn an election had it not been for Trump critics? Sure seems like it. His entire op-ed goes out of its way to blame everyone but Trump for what happened. Elsewhere, he lays into John Eastman, architect of the byzantine plot that Pence refused to carry out (thanks, improbably, in part to Dan Quayle). On January 5, Pence recalls, the following happened;
The president’s lawyers, including Mr. Eastman, were now requesting that I simply reject the electors. I later learned that Mr. Eastman had conceded to my general counsel that rejecting electoral votes was a bad idea and any attempt to do so would be quickly overturned by a unanimous Supreme Court. This guy didn’t even believe what he was telling the president.
Pence also tries to explain away one of the more chilling unexplained episodes of the day: when he refused to get into a secret service car that would ferry him to safety:
I told my detail that I wasn’t leaving my post. Mr. Giebels pleaded for us to leave. The rioters had reached our floor. I pointed my finger at his chest and said, “You’re not hearing me, I’m not leaving! I’m not giving those people the sight of a 16-car motorcade speeding away from the Capitol.”
Pence met with Trump at least two more times after Jan. 6, and paints a picture of him as remorseful, speaking with “genuine sadness” about what had occurred. They even chatted in person on Jan. 14, the day after Trump was impeached for a second time. Pence claims he said a strange thing to him. As Pence stood to leave, Trump told him, “It’s been fun.”
And to think, none of this would have happened without a satirical anti-Trump ad.