Jim Crawford: The choice before Pence

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 24, 2023

No one was more loyal to Donald Trump than Mike Pence — no one.

Pence traveled the country speaking as vice president, beginning each speech by telling the audience he was there to speak on behalf of Trump and he was there to share the presidents’ accomplishments.

Yet, on Jan. 6, 2021, Mike Pence told the president that he (Pence) could not obey Trump’s directive to refuse to certify the election, thereby opening a pathway for Trump to remain in office for four more years or even longer. Trump’s supporters, to this day, are unforgiving of Pence for that refusal and  think he is responsible for Trump surrendering the White House and his presidency.

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Trump turned against Pence that day, telling his followers that Pence let him down, and when the rioters angrily denounced Pence with shouts of “hang him,” Trump later reportedly said, “He deserves it.” As Pence and his wife and daughter and his brother hid within the U.S. Capitol with his Secret Service detail, the danger became very real. Members of his detail began calling their families to say goodbye, fearing for the loss of their lives, along with those of the Pence family.

Five people died from the events of that day as a result of the Trump-inspired attack upon the Capitol. 138 police officers were injured and four others later committed suicide. Over 900 rioters have been arrested, the leaders convicted of seditious conspiracy and the followers punished with prison sentences.

Republicans, Pence included, have attempted to move forward by declining to discuss the events of that day. But their efforts to “un-remember” have made it impossible to move forward until all of those who planned the coup and the related efforts to undermine the election are brought to justice. And that is where the special prosecutor, Jack Smith, and Mike Pence have collided.

Smith needs testimony from Pence about the attempts of Trump to overthrow the government of the United States on Jan. 6. Pence, contemplating a run for the presidency, is afraid of losing Republican voters by sharing his knowledge of the events leading up to Jan. 6, specifically the actions of Trump.

The problem for Pence is that, as a result of Trump’s false claims that the election was flawed and he was cheated, more than half of Republican voters believe that Trump won the election. It follows, for these voters, that cooperating with the special prosecutor will hurt Trump. That concern would undermine Pence as a candidate for the Republican nomination.

Pence was an honorable man on Jan. 6. He did the right thing; he followed the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution. And now, he will be called upon to act with character once again by accepting the subpoena and providing the special prosecutor with his knowledge about the coup and Trump’s role in the events leading up to that day.

This will likely cost Pence his ambition to serve the nation in higher office and will doom his current quest for the presidency. But such is the price for preserving and protecting the nation from any attempt to overthrow our fragile form of government. 

History may be kinder to Pence than his fellow Republicans, should he honor the subpoena and simply tell the truth. It is the only choice for an honorable man.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.