Former Vice President Mike Pence will not be present when the House Jan. 6 holds a prime-time hearing on Thursday, but he will be a central figure as the panel makes its first presentation to the public of what unfolded before and during the riot at the Capitol.
Pence has not directly cooperated with the committee, but some of his former aides have. In recent months, a steady stream of new details has come out about Pence’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021, and he has publicly rebuked former President Trump for saying the election was stolen.
“I anticipate that we will hear about Mike Pence on Thursday night. You can’t tell the story without him,” said Norm Eisen, who served as special counsel to Democrats during Trump’s first impeachment.
Pence’s role in certifying the Electoral College results on Jan. 6, 2021, hours after hundreds of pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol, has only become more of a flashpoint in the investigation of the day’s events and in Republican politics more broadly.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the House investigating panel Jan. 6, has emphasized the significance of Pence refusing to leave the Capitol as rioters were inside the building, suggesting to do so 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 indicated to the committee that Trump reacted approvingly to chants calling for Pence to be hanged.
And the Times also reported in recent days that Pence’s former chief of staff Marc Short alerted Secret Service the day before the insurrection to warn of the potential security risks to Pence should Trump publicly turn on 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 public attention and lay out the gravity of the situation.
The Washington Post reported that Michael Luttig, a conservative lawyer who advised Pence on handling his duties on Jan. 6, plus former Pence aides Marc Short and Greg Jacob are among those expected to appear as witnesses during Thursday’s prime-time hearings.
Eisen said showing how Pence rejected some of the legal arguments concocted by Trump’s advisers would help rebuff GOP attempts to brush off the committee’s findings as partisan.
“So, the other way that Pence comes in is as a dose of reality in response to these lunatic legal theories that were circulating. So that’s an important part of the narrative,” Eisen said.
Pence himself has grown increasingly willing to break with Trump over the events of Jan. 6 in particular as he charts his own post-White House path.
The former vice president repeatedly referred to Jan. 6 as 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 a step further. In February, Pence explicitly said Trump was wrong to suggest he could overturn the result of the presidential election.
“Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election. And Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024,” Pence said at the time.
Still, Pence has personally kept the Jan. 6 committee at arm’s length in public.
In October, Pence suggested the media was focusing on the riot so extensively to distract from the Biden administration’s difficulties with the Afghanistan withdrawal and other domestic issues.
And while former aides like Short and Keith Kellogg have tested before the panel behind closed doors, Pence himself has yet to come before the committee.
A Pence spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment, including on whether there had been any communication between Pence and the committee.
“We have wanted to make sure that we get as much information as possible from as many material witnesses as possible,” Raskin said Monday during a Washington Post Live event when asked about the prospect of Pence testifying.
“We want to figure out exactly what happened. And Vice President Pence was obviously the object of this political onslaught on Jan. 6, so we need to fill in the details as much as possible about what happened there.”
Asked if Pence’s life was in danger on Jan. 6, Raskin urged the public to tune in on Thursday night.
“Watch the hearings,” Raskin said. “The hearings will tell a story about what took place on that day.”