Former President Donald Trump expressed approval when a mob of his loyalists shouted “Hang Mike Pence” during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building, a former White House aide has said.
During testimony with the House select committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021, Cassidy Hutchinson, who served under Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said that Trump expressed positive feelings toward the mob calling for his then-vice president’s death. According to Hutchinson, this information was divulged to her by Meadows, who recounted Trump’s words shortly after he said them.
Hutchinson’s testimony corroborated a separate deposition from an unnamed witness, according to a New York Times report that cited sources familiar with the committee’s work.
Trump also allegedly expressed dismay when Pence was escorted to safety during the Capitol breach, Hutchinson added.
The day of the attack, Trump and his inner circle were relying on Pence to help execute a scheme to keep the former president in power, in spite of his 2020 electoral loss to now-President Joe Biden. The plan was to present a false slate of Electoral College votes from several states that Biden won, which would be counted as superior (or at least equal) to legitimate electors’ votes. In order for the plan to work, Pence had to refuse to count the legitimate votes or send the matter to the House of Representatives to decide upon.
Pence rightly refused to take part in the scheme, as doing so was not permitted by the U.S. Constitution — no clause in the document grants the vice president a role in the counting of Electoral College votes, save for a symbolic one.
Even though it would be unconstitutional for Pence to take part in the scheme, Trump pressured his vice president to do so at various points on January 6 — including in a speech that took place at the White House directly before the attack on Congress.
“If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election,” Trump said to the crowd of his loyalists. “All he has to do…is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people.”
Trump also criticized Pence on Twitter after the attack had started.
“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,” Trump wrote.
There is no evidence that widespread fraud affected the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, and most of the claims Trump and his allies have made suggesting otherwise have been thoroughly debunked.
A spokesperson for Trump has denied the allegations that he was joyful when his supporters called for Mike Pence to be hanged. However, Hutchinson’s testimony aligns with other former Trump aides’ descriptions of Trump’s feelings on the day of the attack.
Stephanie Grisham, who previously served as Trump’s White House press secretary, was in the White House during the Capitol attack. She testified to the January 6 committee earlier this year, and told media following her deposition that Trump was “gleefully watching on his TV” as the attack was unfolding.
When pressed to comment on the matter late last year, Trump told ABC News’s Jonathan Karl that it was “common sense” for his loyalists to chant for Pence’s hanging.