- President Donald Trump did not speak with Vice President Mike Pence for several days following the siege on the Capitol.
- Pence was in the building at the time of the insurrection and was targeted by the pro-Trump mob over his refusal to interfere with the certification of the presidential election results, a point Trump himself brought up to his followers several times.
- Trump actually targeted Pence during the siege and tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country” as his supporters stormed the building.
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On Wednesday, as a mob of Trump supporters staged a violent insurrection at the Capitol, President Donald Trump was tweeting — not in support of the hundreds of members of Congress trapped within the building, but against Vice President Mike Pence.
While hundreds of his followers violently made their way inside the Capitol, Trump took a few moments during the siege to attack the vice president, who had for the past month made it clear he didn’t support the president’s baseless claims of election fraud and would not challenge the certification of the election.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!” President Trump wrote at 2:24 p.m., as the pro-Trump mob was breaching the building.
Earlier in the day, he had discussed the vice president during a rally with supporters at the Ellipse, putting the success or failure of his plan to dispute the election on Pence’s shoulders.
“Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us,” Trump told the crowd. “And if it doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country.”
Trump’s words had the effect of turning Pence into the enemy. Several insurrectionists shared online that they hoped to kill or wound the vice president, and chants of “hang Mike Pence” could be heard throughout the Capitol building.
Pence was safely ferreted off the Senate floor by Secret Service and was hidden in a secure location for the duration of the attack, which left five people, including one police officer, dead.
“During the moment of the evacuation, he was adamant about staying in the building and not being taken away,” Pence chief of staff Marc Short told Insider on Friday. “He didn’t want to feel like we would allow that to happen in our country.”
Trump’s silent treatment of Pence is ‘unconscionable, even for the president’
The president and vice president had enjoyed a relatively good relationship up until recently — what Tim Phillips, the president of the libertarian group Americans for Prosperity, described to The Washington Post as “a durable, close relationship,” despite their clear stylistic differences and beliefs.
But as Trump slipped further and further into the baseless belief that there was widespread election fraud, the rift between Pence and Trump grew. Trump erroneously believed Pence had the ability to change the election, while Pence demurred in an 11-page letter sent to the president just before Wednesday’s rally and riot.
“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence wrote.
In the days following the siege, Trump, likely still fuming from what he perceived as Pence’s disloyalty, made no attempt to contact the vice president or check up on him, according to Reuters.
This did not sit well with aides, one of whom told the Wall Street Journal that avoiding the vice president was “unconscionable, even for the president.”
But while Trump gave Pence the silent treatment (in part, perhaps, because his Twitter account had been permanently suspended), House Democrats made overtures toward the VP and urged him to invoke the 25th Amendment. Those close to Pence played off the move as a non-starter, telling Business Insider that Pence was doing all he could to avoid a further rupture within the Republican party.
Joe Grogan, the former head of the Domestic Policy Council under Trump, told The Journal he believes Pence should get credit for shutting down the president’s election fraud claims.
“If he had been replaced by someone as nuts as the people who have been surrounding the president as the primary advice givers for the last few months, we could have had even more of a bloodbath,” Grogan said. “Imagine what would have happened if Pence was devious and vile and didn’t stand up for the Constitution.”
On Monday, five days after the Capitol siege, Trump and Pence finally met face to face. Despite Trump not reaching out in the days following the Capitol Building riots, Pence appeared to have taken up the mantle of loyal vice president once more. The pair had what was described as a “good conversation” by observers, who said the vice president and president looked back on their accomplishments over the course of their term.
As Trump stares down a second possible impeachment trial, he may realize how important it will be to have Pence on his side.