By David Breitkopf
O to have been a presidential pen in the Oval Office taking notes when Mike Pence met with Donald Trump for the last time, nearly a week after the insurrection of the Capitol. What has become timeline clear from the impeachment proceedings of Mr. Trump is that the former president ordered his own vice president to be executed by the mob he sicced on the Capitol.
Apparently Trump had given Pence the silent treatment for a few days following their “spat” as a Yahoo headline defined their differences, as if this was nothing more than a disagreement over washing dishes. Finally a detente was reached and Pence met with Trump. According to a White House statement, Trump and Pence euphemistically had a “good conversation discussing the week ahead and reflecting on the last four years of the administration’s work and accomplishments.”
I’m sure it was all very convivial and comfy, with self-deprecating humor on both sides. I imagine Trump reminded his vice president with a laugh that he had chosen to go down in history as a “pussy” instead of a “patriot,” causing Pence to double over in laughter, until he straightened up into his rigid Mike Pence manner and reminded Trump with a wink that if he tried another putsch before Jan. 20th, he would invoke the 25th Amendment. Ah, how they laughed and laughed.
But I do wonder if Pence broached the breach? Did Pence question Trump’s meaning in that 2:24 p.m., tweet during the insurrection that read, ”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.” This tweet was read and interpreted by Trump’s “Patriots” already inside the Capitol, as a call to execute his own vice president, and to my mind is the needle and thread that ties Trump most closely to the violence of the insurrection. It was around the time of that tweet that the shouts of “Hang Mike Pence” rang out in the halls of the Capitol.
How is it possible that Mike Pence—the most loyal, most sycophantic member of Trump’s inner circle—could be targeted by the Trump mob? Only one person could have turned them against Pence. Trump. Even as Trump learned that Pence was in physical danger, he did nothing to stop the mob from ransacking the Capitol in search of Pence. Sure they also wanted to put a bullet into Nancy Pelosi’s head, and would have torn asunder any sketchy elected official they could have gotten their hands on, but they had been told, promised, exhorted that Mike Pence alone had the power to overturn the will of the people and decertify the electoral votes of the contested states and for any reason.
There is of course no language in the Constitution that gives the vice president any such power. His presence in the counting of the electoral votes is wholly ceremonial, but just to make sure and hopefully to take the bellow out of Trump’s sails, Pence enlisted a number of scholars including John Yoo, who infamously authorized the torture memos during the Bush Administration, to ascertain what power a vice president actually had and didn’t have. Surely if anyone could find a loophole regarding vice presidents overthrowing Democracy, it would have been John Yoo. But Yoo found nada. Still that didn’t satisfy Trump, as we now know.
It is unlikely that there will be enough Republicans in the Senate brave enough to vote to convict Trump in this impeachment. Many of these GOP senators remain helplessly loyal to Donald Trump, just as Mike Pence was loyal for nearly 4 years. Do they not see the irony of loyalty to a man who has no problem calling for the killing of his own VP if you so much as act within the law?
Moreover, some of these senators will be running for president in 2024. They will likely be courting the enormous and feral MAGA base. But if Trump decides to run again as he has threatened, how will these tepid senators handle the insurrection? Will they finally call Trump a traitor? How will they explain their vote? Trump will crack them open and eat them like pistachio nuts.
David Breitkopf teaches English in Sullivan Country, NY. He was writer and journalist who worked for a number of newspapers over the years, including The American Banker.
His writer’s Web page is DavidBreitkopf.com