Mike Pence’s wife was forced to draw the curtains to conceal the then vice-president’s whereabouts after a mob came within 40ft of him in the Capitol riot last year, it emerged yesterday.
The vice-president, his wife Karen, and the couple’s daughter were hastily evacuated from the US Senate floor as rioters flooded the building chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.”
Images of them sheltering in the vice-president’s ceremonial office in the Capitol building have illustrated for the first time the danger Mr Pence faced during the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.
The vice-president had been in the Capitol to oversee the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, but the proceedings were halted when a throng of Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the seat of America’s government.
Mr Pence became a target for the rioters after he resisted Mr Trump’s demand to use his ceremonial role on January 6 to block the results certification and deliver them a second term.
The images, taken by Mr Pence’s photographer Myles Cullen, were released as the Congressional committee investigating the attack detailed the “great danger” to Mr Pence’s life.
The panel, made up of seven Democrat and two Republican congressmen, tried to link Mr Trump’s pressure campaign on Mr Pence to the violent threats unleashed on his vice-president during a televised hearing yesterday.
It played a video clip of one rioter saying on January 6: “I’m telling you, if Pence caved, we’re gonna drag motherf*****s through the streets.”
The panel’s chair, Democratic congressman Bennie Thompson, said: “The former president wanted Pence to reject the votes and either declare Trump the winner... Mike Pence said no. He resisted the pressure.
“He knew it was illegal. He knew it was wrong. We are fortunate for Mr Pence’s courage on January 6. Our democracy came dangerously close to catastrophe.”
The vice-president’s aides testified that Mr Pence had expressed “frustration” that Mr Trump had failed to get in touch after the “great danger” he was put in during the siege on January 6, 2021.
Other footage played by the committee showed huge throngs of Mr Trump’s supporters – many chanting, “Hang Mike Pence” – marching on the Capitol.
Some erected makeshift gallows they said were intended for Mr Pence.
Mr Pence was rushed off the Senate floor, but was at one point just 40ft from protesters, the committee said.
He spent the next hours in hiding with his staff and family, first in his office in the Capitol and then in an underground loading dock in the building’s complex.
At least twice, he rejected pleas from security staff to leave the building, insisting it was crucial that he remain in place, his aides told the committee.
Accompanying him were Mrs Pence and their daughter, his brother Greg, a Republican congressman for Indiana, and some of the vice-president’s aides.
According to one person in the vice-president’s ceremonial office at the time, Mrs Pence rushed to close the curtains when she spotted rioters outside the building, worried that the attackers would see her and her family.
Yesterday’s hearing also featured testimony from Michael Luttig, a former federal judge and informal adviser to Mr Pence, who told the committee Mr Trump’s accountability for the January 6 riot is “incidental to his responsibility and accountability for his attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election from the American people”.
Had Mr Pence obeyed Mr Trump’s demand, Mr Luttig said, the country would have been plunged into a “revolution within a [constitutional] crisis”.