During the second day of former President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, Democratic impeachment managers lavished praise on former Vice President Mike Pence for standing up to his then boss and certifying President Biden’s election victory.
“Vice President Mike Pence showed us what it means to be an American, what it means to show courage,” Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said Wednesday on the floor of the Senate. “He put his country, his oath, his values and his morals above the will of one man.”
Praising Pence’s patriotism, Rep. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., was similarly effusive.
“Even though the count resulted in the defeat of his party and his own candidacy, Vice President Pence had the courage to stand against the president, tell the American public the truth and uphold our Constitution,” Plaskett said.
Lieu’s presentation came after the impeachment managers had played video of Trump supporters laying siege on the U.S. Capitol, some calling out to “hang Mike Pence!” In Lieu’s portion devoted to the former vice president, he began by making the case that Trump targeted Pence after other avenues of overturning the election results had been closed off.
“President Trump’s actions, time and time again, made clear that he would do anything and pressure anyone if it meant overturning the election results,” Lieu said. “We watched President Trump use any means necessary to pursue this aim, feverishly grasping for straws and retaining his hold on the presidency, but all his efforts prior to Jan. 6 kept failing, and finally, in his desperation, he turned on his own vice president.”
Pence was slated to preside over the Jan. 6 certification of the Electoral College vote by both houses of Congress, and Trump, according to Lieu, set about trying to convince Pence to block it.
“He pressured Mike Pence to violate his constitutional oath and to refuse to certify the [vote]. President Trump had decided that Vice President Pence, who presided over the certification, could somehow stop it,” Lieu said. “As Pence would later confirm, ‘The vice president does not have that power under the Constitution.’ And President Trump never asked to explain why he thought the vice president could block the certification of election results, he just began relentlessly attacking the vice president.”
Armed with Trump’s own tweets and videos of his rallies, Lieu built his case that the president saw Pence as his last hope of remaining in power. Lieu played a video of Trump’s Jan. 4 rally in Georgia on behalf of two Republican senators who would go on to lose runoff elections.
“And I hope Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you,” Trump told his crowd at the rally. “I hope that our great vice president comes through for us. He’s a great guy. Of course, if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him quite as much.”
Lieu also relied on published media accounts of Trump’s private efforts to convince Pence to exercise powers the then vice president had concluded he did not have.
“Behind closed doors, President Trump applied significant pressure to his second in command. Multiple reports confirmed that Trump used his personal attorneys and other officials to pressure the vice president,” Lieu said. “Trump reportedly told almost anyone who called him to also call the vice president. According to reports, when Mike Pence was in the Oval Office, President Trump would call people to try to get them to convince the vice president to help him and President Trump kept repeating the myth that Pence could stop the certification to his base to anger them, hoping to intimidate Mike Pence.”
Lieu and Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., both highlighted Trump’s tweets that attacked Pence.
“On the morning of the rally of Jan. 6, President Trump tweeted, ‘All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the states,’ and in all caps he wrote, ‘AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!’” Lieu continued.
The argument from the impeachment managers was clear: Trump’s public pressure could easily have gotten Pence killed on Jan. 6. Dean played more of Trump’s remarks at the rally that preceded the riot.
“All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify, and we become president and you are the happiest people,” Trump told his crowd.
Dean said Trump made that remark despite knowing Pence “could not and would not” do it.
“He called out Vice President Pence nine times that day, and each time he got more forceful,” Dean said.
But Pence did not, of course, contest the certification of the Electoral College tally.
“Thankfully, Vice President Pence stood his ground like our other brave officials stood their ground. He refused the president and fulfilled his duty on Jan. 6,” Lieu said. “Even after the Capitol was attacked, even after he was personally targeted, even after his family was targeted, Vice President Mike Pence stood strong and certified the election.”
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