(The Hill) – Former Vice President Mike Pence will not be present when the House Jan. 6 committee holds a prime-time hearing on Thursday, but he will be a central figure as the panel makes its first presentation to the public about what happened before and during the riot at the Capitol.
Pence did not cooperate directly with the committee, but some of his former aides did. Over the past few months, a steady stream of new details have come out about Pence’s actions on January 6, 2021, and he publicly chastised former President Trump for saying the election was stolen.
“I anticipate we’ll hear from Mike Pence on Thursday night. You can’t tell the story without him,” said Norm Eisen, who served as special adviser to the Democrats during Trump’s first impeachment.
Pence’s role in certifying the Electoral College results on January 6, 2021, hours after hundreds of pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol, has only become more of a flashpoint in the investigation into the events of the day and into Republican politics more broadly.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the House panel investigating Jan. 6, pointed to the significance of Pence’s refusal to leave the Capitol while rioters were inside the building, suggesting that that would have given an opening for Trump’s allies to follow through on their plan in Pence’s absence.
The New York Times reported late last month that at least one witness told the committee that Trump reacted with approval to chants calling for Pence’s hanging.
And The Times also reported in recent days that Pence’s former chief of staff, Marc Short, alerted the Secret Service the day before the insurgency to warn of potential security risks to Pence if Trump publicly turns against his vice-president.
The committee is likely to make the threat to Pence a central part of its presentation to the public, as it seeks to capture the public’s attention and expose the seriousness of the situation.
The Washington Post reported that Michael Luttig, a conservative attorney who advised Pence on carrying out his duties on Jan. 6, as well as former Pence aides Marc Short and Greg Jacob are among those expected to appear as witnesses at the Thursday’s prime-time hearings.
Eisen said showing how Pence dismissed some of the legal arguments concocted by Trump advisers would help rebuff GOP attempts to label the committee’s findings as partisan.
“So the other way Pence comes in is like a dose of reality in response to these crazy legal theories that were going around. So that’s an important part of the narrative,” Eisen said.
Pence himself is increasingly willing to break with Trump over the events of Jan. 6 especially as he charts his own course after the White House.
The former vice president has repeatedly called January 6 a “dark day” in history and spoke about upholding his constitutional duty in remarks to various conservative groups after leaving office.
As Trump continued to make debunked claims that the 2020 election was rigged, Pence went even further. In February, Pence explicitly said Trump was wrong to suggest he could overturn the presidential election result.
“Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election. And Kamala Harris will not have the right to void the election when we beat them in 2024,” Pence told the ‘era.
Yet Pence personally held the Jan. 6 committee at bay in public.
In October, Pence suggested the media was focusing so much on the riot to distract from the Biden administration’s struggles with the Afghan withdrawal and other national issues.
And while former aides like Short and Keith Kellogg have testified before the panel behind closed doors, Pence himself has yet to appear before the committee.
A spokesperson for Pence did not respond to a request for comment, including whether there had been any communication between Pence and the committee.
“We wanted to make sure we got as much information as possible from as many important witnesses as possible,” Raskin said Monday during a Washington Post live event when asked about the prospect of Pence testifying.
“We want to understand exactly what happened. And Vice President Pence was obviously the subject of this political assault on January 6, so we need to provide as many details as possible about what happened there.
When asked if Pence’s life was in danger on Jan. 6, Raskin urged the public to tune in Thursday night.
“Look at the hearings,” Raskin said. “Audiences will tell a story about what happened that day.”
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