Congressman and January 6 committee member Jamie Raskin called it “six of the most chilling words in US history.” When, on January 6, 2021, Mike Pence was being whisked to “safety” by his Secret Service detail, he was taken to a limousine. Pence said, “I’m not getting in the car.” Those six words, harmless on their face, were the words Raskin believes are profuse with sinister portent.
It was a moment when Pence knew, or believed he knew, that the agent-driver of his limo and some of the agents in his detail were working for Donald Trump and the insurrectionists. Their job was to remove the Vice President from the Capitol and keep him removed, against his will if necessary, so Pence could not return and certify the 2020 presidential election.
But Pence was there to do a job and he was going to do it. Certainly he wasn’t happy about the outcome of the presidential election — that is the right of every politician who loses any such contest — but he knew what every rational American knows: the election was free and fair, and that Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was the legitimate President-elect. Pence’s job was clear. It wasn’t just a good idea. The Constitution demanded it.
It is a portent of just how wide and how deep the plot to overthrow the United States federal government actually was. It wasn’t composed of a mere handful of enthusiastic “tourists” overzealously smashing some windows at the Capitol. The January 6 insurrection had been planned and executed by elements deep inside the federal government, including the then president. Many people understood and approved of the true purpose of that awful day: seize power against the popular will of the American people and never give it back.
Not only was the insurrection planned, it was far from spontaneous. It’s important to understand that the insurrection mob began at the President’s Park South, also known as the Ellipse, and walked to the Capitol some two miles away, a journey requiring on average about 30 minutes. They had plenty of time to walk off their anger and let cooler heads prevail.
But there was nothing to walk off. The January 6 mob intended to stop the certification of the election and install Donald Trump for another four year term of office. They were even prepared to kill people in the name of that intention if that’s what it took.
The hard part is proving it. Intent is at best a tricky thing to prove in a court of law or in front of a Congressional committee, let alone in the minds of the American people. It doesn’t help that a large minority of Americans approve of the crime and are still willing to stop at nothing in order to carry it out.
So the committee has its work cut out for it. But the thousands of texts, the many videos and the clear-eyed testimony of witnesses may yet carry the day. It may be what Mr. Raskin means when he says that the televised hearings will metaphorically “blow the roof off” of the Capitol, something the insurrectionists tried to do in reality.
Those six words, uttered by Mike Pence, could become the catchphrase of the real life horror movie America now faces. As with the words from the movie “When a Stranger Calls,” the words “the call is coming from inside the house” still send chills up our collective spines, especially since, in the case of the January 6th insurrection, it’s not fiction but the literal truth. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.