Pence Staff Feared for His Safety Amid Trump’s Pressure Campaign Before Jan. 6

The day before a mob of President Donald J. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff called his lead Secret Service agent. Pence went to his West Wing office.

The chief of staff, Marc Short, had a message for his agent, Tim Giebels: The President will openly oppose the vice president, and there could be a security risk to Mr. Pence because of that.

The stark warning – the only time Mr Short has flagged a security concern during Mr. Pence’s tenure as a top aide – was discovered recently during this reporter’s research for an upcoming book. eyes, “The Confident Man: The Founding of Donald Trump and the Fall of America,” will be published in October.

Short did not know what form such a security risk could take, according to people familiar with the event. But after days of mounting pressure from Mr Trump on Mr Pence to take the unusual step of interfering with electoral college certification to stave off Mr Trump’s defeat, Mr Short appeared to have good reason to worry. settle. The vice president’s refusal to come along has exploded into an open and acrimonious conflict between the two men at a time when the president is stoking the ire of his supporters who are flooding into Washington.

Mr Short’s previously unreported warning reflects a remarkably tense situation in the West Wing as Mr Trump and a group of allies, as the clock ticks up, desperately search for a means of turning the tide of the war. vote. Mr. Trump became agitated as his options closed and it was clear he had failed in his last attempt to get his previously compliant vice president to unilaterally reject the outcome of the vote. important states.

The warning also underscores concern at the highest levels of government about the danger that Trump’s anticipated actions and words could lead to violence on January 6.

It is unclear, if anything, what Mr Giebels did with the warning. But when Mr. Trump attacks his second-in-command – and democratic norms – in an attempt to cling to power, it will prove prophetic.

The day after Mr Short’s warning, more than 2,000 people – some chanting “Mike Pence Cave” – ​​stormed the Capitol as the vice president oversaw the confirmation of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. Outside, angry Trump supporters erected a fake gallows. After Mr. Pence was taken to safety, Mark Meadows, White House Chief of Staff, reported to have told colleagues which Mr. Trump said maybe Mr. Pence should be hanged.

New details from the weeks leading up to January 6 help clarify how Mr. Trump and his allies sought to intimidate Mr. Pence into accepting their baseless theory that the vice president has the authority to block his certification. congress on the Electoral College results – and how Mr Pence’s refusal to do so exposes him to danger.

A Secret Service spokesman did not respond to an email seeking comment. A spokesman for Pence declined to comment.

Mr. Pence said about five months after the Capitol attack, “There is hardly a more un-American idea than the notion that anyone can choose the president of the United States.”

Weeks after Election Day on November 3, 2020, Pence’s aides learned that some of Trump’s loose network of advisers were discussing the possibility of January 6, 2021. – designated as the day of the Electoral College certification – as a potentially important date in Mr. Trump’s bid to take office. Soon after, Mr. Pence asked his general counsel, Greg Jacob, to write a memo explaining his authority over the certification process.

The memo did not offer a clear position, but Mr. Pence’s advisers continued to study the matter, eventually concluding that the vice president had no authority to determine the outcome.

But Mr. Pence and his team face frequent pressure from a group of Trump supporters to think he really has such power.

In late December, Mr. Pence went to Vail, Colo., for a family vacation. While he was there, his assistants received requests for him to meet Sidney Powella lawyer who has promoted some of the more far-fetched conspiracy theories about flaws in voting machines and who Mr. Trump wants to put in the White House; ostensibly to investigate his false claims about fraud. popular voters.

The request to meet with Ms. Powell was forwarded to Kelli Ward, the chair of the Arizona Republican Party, according to a person familiar with the exchange. Ms. Ward joined a lawsuit filed by Representative Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas, asking the court to say that Mr. Pence could decide to accept or reject groups of electors from states within Electoral College certification period.

The lawsuit confirms exactly what Pence’s aides say he is not qualified to do. Some of Pence’s advisers suspect that Ms. Powell wants to serve the vice president with the legal papers related to the case.

Mr Short objected to Mrs. Ward’s support of the suit. She told him they wouldn’t pursue it if Mr. Trump wasn’t happy with it. (The proposed meeting with Ms. Powell never took place.) Ms. Powell and a spokeswoman for Ms. Ward did not respond to emails seeking comment.

There are other points of friction that have the Pence team on high alert about the pressure campaign. Mr. Meadows told Mr. Short that the president was refusing to approve a transitional grant for Mr. Pence to set up a post-White House office.

Amid rising tensions, Mr Short linked Christmas and New Year’s Day with Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, to ask how he might defuse what was becoming into an irreparable clash between Camp Pence and Trump. Mr. Kushner deflected the approach, saying he was getting caught up in negotiations in the Middle East.

At one point, John McEntee, the president’s head of personnel, wrote a handwritten letter that circulated in the West Wing seemingly acknowledging that Mr. Pence did not think he could influence the outcome of the meeting. vote.

However, with Mr. Trump failing in other efforts to reverse the results, Mr. Pence continued to receive unsolicited memos arguing that he had the power to block the certification – including a copy of Mr. McEntee looked back at American history for precedent: “JEFFERSON HAS USED MY POSITION AS VP TO WIN.”

Mr. Trump also persisted, soon to try more direct measures to pressure Mr. Pence. On January 4, 2021, he summoned the vice president to meet with John Eastman, an attorney who was particularly influential in advancing the case in which the vice president could intervene. During the meeting, Mr. Eastman acknowledged that Mr. Pence had no right to arbitrarily arrange the election. However, he still insists that the vice president can send the results back to the states to reassess the results after the 10-day break.

In early January, Mr. Pence made it clear to Mr. Trump that he did not believe he had the right to do what the president wanted, but he also indicated that he would continue to study the issue.

Mr. Trump tweeted on the morning of January 5 that Mr. Pence could turn down the electors. He tried to persuade some of his unofficial advisers outside the White House to come to the Naval Observatory, the official residence of the vice president, to find an object to pressure Mr. Pence. That day, Mr. Trump spoke to Mr. Pence again, forcing him to do what the vice president said he couldn’t.

That day Mr. Short called Mr. Giebels to his office.

The next day, January 6, Mr. Trump and Mr. Eastman addressed a crowd of thousands of Trump supporters at a demonstration in Ellipse near the White House, before starting Electoral College certification at 1 p.m., Mr. Trump and Mr. Eastman both publicly pressured Mr. Pence to do what they wanted.

“You will never take back our country with weakness,” Mr. Trump told his supporters. At another point, he said: “Mike Pence, I hope you will stand up for the sake of the Constitution and for the good of our country. And if you don’t, I will be very disappointed in you. I will tell you now. I don’t get to hear good stories.”

Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly told aides he wants to march to the Capitol when the certification begins, told the crowd he would do so. But the Secret Service told him they couldn’t protect him, and he went back to the White House.

At around 1 p.m., Mr. Pence released a memo making it clear that he disagreed with the president about his power to interfere with certification. The memo was not shared in advance with the White House adviser; at that time trust between offices was broken.

Soon after, Trump supporters flooded the Capitol, breaking through doors and windows and disrupting the vote count.

Mr. Giebels rushed Mr. Pence out of the Senate chamber and took him to a subway station. The vice president refused to board a waiting car, despite Giebels’ constant urgings, believing it would help the rioters and others win over a core democratic process. said his aide.

Mr. Pence remained there for hours, until it was safe to return to the Senate chamber, where he insisted on completing the certification process.

His post-White House transition funding was approved shortly after January 6.

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