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There’s no other American who should remember January 6 more vividly than Mike Pence, the former vice president.
Pence was there. When insurrectionists marched from then-President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally up to Capitol Hill and overran the US Capitol building, some were chanting “Hang Mike Pence!”
Secret Service had to whisk the vice president out of the Senate chamber and hide him with his family.
Pence had stood up to Trump. He had agonized in the days leading up to the ceremonial counting of the Electoral College votes about whether he, as the one presiding over the ceremony, could overrule the Electoral College and hand his boss the win in spite of the voters.
We know this because, according to one new account, he asked the advice of former Vice President Dan Quayle, another Indianan.
But Pence stood up to the pressure and smoldering anger heaped on him by Trump for not buying into the rigged election lie.
As CNN’s Chris Cillizza notes, however, that was then.
Now it’s just “one day in January.” This is perhaps not surprising, since Pence wants to be president some day. But it is certainly a bit jarring, since he was personally targeted by the rioters, to see him now claim that the threat of the insurrection is overblown.
Here’s what Pence said this week to Sean Hannity on Fox News.
“I know the media wants to distract from the Biden administration’s failed agenda by focusing on one day in January. They want to use that one day to try to demean the character and intentions of 74 million Americans who believed we could be strong again and prosperous again and supported our administration in 2016 and 2020.”
And does he have hard feelings toward Trump? Of course not!
“You can’t spend almost five years in a political fox hole with somebody without developing a strong relationship. And, you know, January 6 was a tragic day in the history of our Capitol building, but thanks to the efforts of Capitol Hill police, federal officials, the Capitol was secured. We finished our work, and the President and I sat down a few days later and talked through all of it. I can tell you that we parted amicably.”
Fast forward a year or two and you can imagine Pence on the campaign trail with Trump. Even if Pence isn’t angling to work with Trump again, he certainly does not want to turn off the Trump wing of the GOP – which seems to be most of the party at this point.
Choosing sides and choosing moments. While Pence stood up to Trump in that one moment when it counted to save the integrity of the election, he clearly is not going to be the top Republican to stand up and challenge Trump in a primary.
Trump remains the GOP alpha, and it is fascinating to watch the rest of the pack circle around him. Trump gave a not-so-subtle hint to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to stay out of the 2024 race.
“If I faced him, I’d beat him like I would beat everyone else,” Trump told Yahoo Finance late last week. “I think most people would drop out, I think he would drop out.”
Hear that, Ron? Mike? Anyone else?
Envisioning Trump 2.0
Trump, the twice-impeached election results denier, hasn’t announced a 2024 campaign. But his aides have suggested he’s “99, 100%” running again.
That frightens his former press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who quit in protest on January 6, and is now heavily promoting a tell-all book about the chaotic and abusive Trump White House she regrets being a part of.
“The fact he is the frontrunner right now … if he were to run for office, is scaring me,” she told CNN’s John Berman and Brianna Keilar.
What if he ran and won? “He’ll be able to do whatever he wants,” Grisham said. “And we all know there is going to be retribution, there is going to be revenge. I guarantee there will be draconian policies, and they’re not going to care because they don’t have to run for reelection again.”
She’s referring to the fact that the 22nd Amendment limits any one person to two terms as president of the US.
Bring on the loyalists. Grisham argues that if Trump were reelected, he’d bring only the most loyal people back to the White House.
“If you think, or if people think, that the people in that Trump White House were bad, perhaps, I have a feeling the 1/6 crowd might be working in 2024, or the Sidney Powells or the Rudy Giulianis. Or I think people left and right are going to get pardoned. I mean, the amount of things, knowing what I know that could happen, it scares me.”
Trump demands loyalty, but is not loyal. I can’t claim to know Trump as well as Grisham. However, while I’m sure there would be revenge and retribution in a second Trump term, I think she misreads his approach to loyalty. He demands blind loyalty from those around him. But he does not return the favor. He turns on everyone eventually, as we’ve documented repeatedly.
She also misreads the GOP, which – from leaders Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell down through the ranks – is fully adopting January 6 amnesia.
There’s also the small matter of convincing tens of millions of people he’s spent years convincing the election system is rigged to take part in the election system. We’re a long way from Trump 2.0, and that’s even assuming Republicans take control of the House and the Senate in 2022.
The election made the Facebook whistleblower come forward
It is more than a little discomfiting to see Pence rewrite the January 6 history, particularly as Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified Tuesday on Capitol Hill about the viral spread of misinformation and the threat it poses to democracy.
Misinformation is bigger than Facebook, but… The social platform is a place where fake news is doused in oil, set on fire and blown out of proportion.
It was after the 2020 election, when Facebook dissolved its Civic Integrity division, that Haugen said she decided to become a whistleblower.
“It really felt like a betrayal of the promises that Facebook had made to people who had sacrificed a great deal to keep the election safe, by basically dissolving our community and integrating in just other parts of the company,” Haugen told lawmakers at a Senate hearing.
It’s much more difficult to disprove misinformation than spread it. And it is full-on scary to realize, through Pence, that even without the megaphone of Trump’s social media accounts, the former President can continuously repeat falsehoods that become a believed alternate reality.
He’s not on social media, but his supporters and his SuperPac are.
Haugen’s testimony is much broader than the Trump story. She said there are national security concerns from Facebook’s lack of control over its platform, some of which could be solved by simple fixes like requiring users to click through to content before they re-share it.
Other issues, like being understaffed or the squishy problem of how and whether Facebook is responsible for Instagram’s role in fostering depression in teenage girls, are less simple.
Read more about what we know about Haugen.
See the highlights from her testimony.