House impeachment managers on Wednesday applauded former Vice President Mike Pence’s leadership during the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory and Capitol insurrection, championing his “courage to stand against the president” and for upholding his constitutional duty to certify the 2020 electoral vote.
“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,” Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) said on the floor of the Senate.
The House managers also unveiled new footage from the Capitol assault on Wednesday that revealed Pence being evacuated as pro-Trump rioters swarmed into the building, with some yelling “hang Mike Pence” for refusing to reject the electoral vote, which was former President Donald Trump’s demand. The video highlights just how close the protesters came to several lawmakers, including Pence and his family, as well as coming “just feet” from the upper chamber, according to Plaskett.
“The mob was looking for Vice President Pence because of his patriotism, because the Vice President had refused to do what the president demanded and overturn the election results,” Plaskett said.
On the second day of the impeachment trial, House managers argued that Trump’s public pressure on Pence to overturn the election results based on false claims of voter fraud put the former vice president in churning danger on Jan. 6.
“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,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) 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.”
But as Pence’s name filled the chatter on the Senate floor, the former vice president has remained radio-silent.
“Defeated presidents and vice presidents generally are publicly silent for a period after leaving office although January 6 was, of course, an unprecedented day,” Joel Goldstein, a vice presidential expert and professor of law emeritus at Saint Louis University School of Law, said. “Pence has been presidentially ambitious and presidentially ambitious Republicans have refrained from denouncing Trump for fear of alienating his supporters.”
Pence is one of the leading contenders on the shortlist of rumored GOP presidential candidates in 2024, though he hasn’t explicitly said he plans on running. In the meantime, after attending Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, Pence and his wife, Karen, travelled to the U.S. Virgin Islands for a post-administration vacation. Since then, the pair have been living in Northern Virginia.
“I think he is quiet because he must be very conflicted: On the one hand, Trump literally threw him to the wolves on January 6th, endangering him and his family’s lives, and showing no loyalty to or concern for this most loyal of lieutenants. At some level, he must be furious with Trump,” Thomas De Luca, political science professor at Fordham University, said. “On the other [hand], Pence was fully complicit in Trump’s four years of incitement politics and, until the last minute, false claims about the election. And Pence—the man who would be president—still fears alienating Trump’s base.”
Ever since Trump left office, GOP lawmakers who’ve sided with Democrats in voting to impeach the former president or voted in support of the constitutionality of the process have experienced swirling backlash from grass-roots Republican activists and state party leaders. For example, the Louisiana Republican Party condemned Sen. Bill Cassidy (R) when he voted to back the constitutionality of Trump’s impeachment trial—a threat that didn’t worry the senator. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) faces a censure resolution from his state’s Republican Party for blasting efforts to overturn the election results. And Washington Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beutler faced disapproval from the state’s Republican Central Committee when it passed a resolution blasting the duo for voting to impeach Trump and expressed “particular disappointment” in them.
Pence could fear getting this type of partisan punishment.
But Timothy M. Hagle, an associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa, noted that if Pence wants to ultimately vote to acquit Trump for his involvement in the Capitol insurrection, the former vice president may be hushed in order to avoid criticism from Democrats.
“On the other hand, if he comes to Trump’s defense, it would make it easier for his opponents to paint him as nothing but a Trump supporter,” Hagle said, referring to Pence. “It’s hard to say what the political landscape will be in 2024, but Democrats have worked hard to demonize Trump and anyone associated with him and that will likely still be a factor over the next few election cycles.”
Hagle also added, “It’s interesting that we haven’t heard much about or from Pence during these proceedings. To some extent, one would think that the media would be camped out on his doorstep asking him questions related to the events. That might be particularly so when the Democrats mention him in their presentations. That said, it might be that they (media or Democrats) might be concerned that Pence would not support the case for conviction on impeachment.”
Trump and Pence reportedly “discussed everything” that occurred on the day of the insurrection, sources told CNN, but their relationship remains stained after the turn of events.
“Pence showed little public inclination to distance himself from Trump prior to January 6, notwithstanding their differences in style and temperament,” Goldstein said. “On January 6 he followed the clear law in rejecting Trump’s demands that he not faithfully perform his legal duty but he hasn’t demonstrated broader courage in publicly denouncing Trump’s outrageous conduct before and on January 6.”
Last week, Pence announced that he’ll be joining the Heritage Foundation as a distinguished visiting fellow and will also write a regular column for its news outlet, the Daily Signal. The former vice president will also launch a podcast in the upcoming months and is considering a potential book deal.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.