The mob of pro-Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was at one point 40 feet away from former Vice President Mike Pence, and some rioters wanted to kill him, according to details revealed Thursday in the latest hearing of the committee investigating the attack.
“Approximately 40 feet. That’s all there was,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), who led most of the hearing’s proceedings. “Forty feet between the vice president and the mob.”
The committee had just aired footage from Jan. 6, which featured hundreds of riled up rioters demanding that Pence carry out former President Donald Trump’s demand that he reject the results of the 2020 election, which Trump lost. The video featured people chanting, “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!” Outside the Capitol, footage showed that the insurrectionists had constructed an actual hangman’s gallows.
Greg Jacob, Pence’s former counsel and one of two witnesses testifying on Thursday, was with Pence on Jan. 6. as they fled the mob and hid in an undisclosed location for hours.
He learned in Thursday’s hearing, along with everyone else, just how close the rioters were to reaching the vice president.
“I could hear the din of the rioters in the building while we moved,” Jacob recalled. “But I don’t think I was aware that they were as close as that.”
Aguilar then dropped another stunning detail: A recent court filing from the Justice Department revealed that a confidential informant from the Proud Boys, the far-right neofascist group that took part in the Capitol attack, told the FBI that the Proud Boys “would have killed Mike Pence if given the chance.”
That same informant also told the FBI, “Anyone they got their hands on, they would have killed, including Nancy Pelosi,” said Aguilar, referring to the House speaker, a Democrat from California.
“Make no mistake about the fact that the vice president’s life was in danger,”Aguilar added.
During his testimony, Jacob provided some new details about what Pence was doing as the attack unfolded. There were discussions among Pence and his security as to whether the vice president should leave the building, something Pence insisted he would not do.
Asked if Trump had called the vice president at all to check on his safety during the hours-long attack, Jacob simply said, “He did not.” He said Pence and his wife reacted to that “with frustration.”
Trump had called Pence in the morning of Jan. 6, and after he failed to persuade Pence to reject the election results, the president apparently erupted with anger. He called Pence “a wimp,” one Trump aide told the committee in a previously recorded deposition. Ivanka Trump told the committee in her deposition that Trump called Pence “the p-word.”
Pence was “steely, determined, grim” after that call, recalled Jacob.
The other witness in Thursday’s hearing was former federal judge J. Michael Luttig, who previously advised Pence on the legal argument rejecting Trump’s attorney’s theory that Pence could thwart the election results.
Speaking slowly and solemnly, Luttig told the committee that if Pence had obeyed Trump’s orders and declared him the next president on Jan. 6, 2021, it “would have plunged America into what I believe would have been tantamount to a revolution within a constitutional crisis.”
The United States would have been facing “its first constitutional crisis since the founding of the Republic,” he said.