“I can’t wait to go to heaven and meet the framers, and tell them the work that you did in putting together our Constitution is a work of genius.”
So said Vice President Mike Pence to his counsel, Greg Jacob, during what will surely become one of the great “profiles of courage” in American history.
On the morning of that fateful day, Jan. 6 2021, the Vice President and Jacob prayed together at the U.S. Naval Observatory (the residence of the Vice President since Walter Mondale).
They prayed for courage and resolve. The Vice President would preside over the ceremony of the official certification of votes from the electoral college for the 2020 presidential election.
Against the outrageous demands for him to do otherwise, Pence honored his oath, his patriotism and his evangelical Christian faith and did what every other Vice President had done in the history of the United States since the adoption of the Constitution in 1789:
Pursuant to the Electoral Count Act of 1887, Mr Pence fulfilled his ceremonial function. Just like Vice President Al Gore in 2000, which had been a much closer election, Vice President Pence formally announced the election of the opposing ticket.
But there was a horrifying interruption in the middle of the ceremony – a ceremony that should have been a solemn commemoration of democracy and the as-yet-uninterrupted tradition of the peaceful transfer of power that had made America, in President Reagan’s words, “a shining city on a hill.”
That interruption had been ginned up since November by many from Mr. Pence’s own party, including U.S. Representatives and even two particular Senators.
An enormous crowd had been listening to speakers at a rally at the Ellipse earlier that morning. Two lawyers told the crowd, wrongly, that the Vice President had the power, in his own right, to reject the electoral slates of various states and that he had the individual plenary authority to dismiss the certification assembly for ten days. They said this despite admitting to their colleagues the day before that what they were suggesting was indeed illegal.
And the crowd erupted when Mr. Pence’s own boss – to whom he had been so devoted, to whom Pence, as an evangelical Christian, offered his unswerving commitment according to the principle of New Testament servanthood – his own boss denounced him five times by name and unleashed the crowd toward the Capitol with the incendiary words, “Fight like hell!”
Minutes after the crowd stormed into the Capitol Rotunda, and moments before the Vice President was whisked away by his own Secret Service detail, this tweet was broadcast to the invaders, and to Mr. Pence, sent by his own boss at 2:24 pm:
“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. USA demands the truth!”
Unsurprisingly, chants began to ring out in the Capitol, repeating, like a ghoulish incantation: “Hang Mike Pence!” A makeshift gallows was obscenely paraded on the Capitol grounds.
One of the Proud Boys gang reported that they “would have killed” the Vice President “if given a chance.”
That unthinkable horror nearly happened. The rioters had managed to get within 40 feet of their target.
Mr. Pence, his family (second lady Karen Pence, his brother, U.S. Rep Greg Pence, and his daughter Charlotte), his staff (including Greg Jacob and others), and his Secret Service detail – after wending down stairs and through narrow hallways – finally made it to a safe location.
The Secret Service understandably wanted to drive the Vice President and his family out of the Capitol to safety, as the danger continued.
Tim Giebels, the lead special agent in charge of the Vice President's protective detail, asked Mr. Pence to get in the car and evacuate. “I promise you,” Giebels said, “that we won’t leave the Capitol unless you want to.”
Pence refused. “I trust you, Tim, but you won’t be the one behind the wheel. I’m not leaving the Capitol.”
He was concerned that his 20-car motorcade leaving would "vindicate their insurrection."
Had he left at that moment, the election would not have been certified according to the dictates of the Electoral Count Act of 1887. That in itself would have set into motion a constitutional crisis – something which the mob, and the boss, were counting on.
But Mr. Pence and his faith and courage prevailed.
There are photos of him in what looks like a shipping dock. In one photo, he is making numerous calls, doing what his boss should have done, calling the Secretary of Defense and the National Guard, setting into action measures that would secure the safety of Congress people (even the ones who had endangered him) and the many staff-persons of the Capitol.
There is another photo of him and the Second Lady, looking on with dismay at the tweets of his boss that he had served so well. They realized – if they hadn’t already – that for all his loyalty and Christian service, Mike Pence’s honorable dedication was met with nothing but betrayal and contempt.
During that time in the shipping dock, Greg Jacob, also a devout Evangelical Christian, took out his Bible and read the sixth chapter of the Book of Daniel. This is the story of the Prophet Daniel being thrown in the lions’ den. Jacob explained that this story was about a man who was second in authority in the state who served a godless king, and was subjected to persecution because of his faith and service.
The lesson was clear. Mr. Pence’s Chief of Staff Mark Short texted the Vice President these majestic words that apply only to noble and pious dedication, and faithful courage in the face of great obstacles:
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4.7).
After four hours of anxious waiting, Vice President Pence was able to return to the chamber and complete the certification of the 2020 Election. And a constitutional crisis, and a bloody revolution, was averted – at least, for a while.
The Rev. David Wilkerson, late author of “The Cross and the Switchblade,” preached frequently that in the last days, true Christians would be persecuted for their witness and their faith.
On Jan. 6, 2020 (and in how many months before and since), Vice President Mike Pence certainly was. But would he have ever suspected that such persecution would come from where it did?
Jonathan Tobias is a resident of Edenton.