Editor’s note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM Radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” Follow him @DeanObeidallah@masto.ai. The views expressed in this comment are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
Former Vice President Mike Pence’s speech Saturday night at the annual Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, D.C., produced a few laughs, a few kernels of truth and a huge helping of hypocrisy.
That last part came up when Pence told the audience of reporters and politicians, “The American people have a right to know what happened on Capitol Hill on January 6.”
Notably, these comments came from a person who refused to testify before the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 riot, and who recently filed a motion to block a federal grand jury subpoena seeking his testimony in the investigation into it. the attack.
But first Pence delivered what this dinner is known for, namely comedic bars aimed at political figures. For example, he repeatedly poked fun at former President Donald Trump with jokes like, “I read that some of those classified documents they found at Mar-a-Lago were taped to the president’s Bible.” Pence then quipped: “Which proves he had absolutely no idea it was there.”
This was followed by the truth segment of the speech when Pence – dead serious – told the audience that Trump was “wrong” in that “I had no right to overturn the election.” Pence even made it personal, saying that Trump’s reckless words put my family and everyone on Capitol Hill at risk that day. He added: “I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
The former vice president too rightly condemned attempts by some to rewrite the January 6 attack as a visit by “tourists”, stating: “Make no mistake, what happened that day was a disgrace and it makes a mockery of decency to portray it in any other way.”
That’s when Pence brought up the hypocrisy — so ridiculous that it went best with the comedy part of his speech. After saying the public has a right to know what happened that day, he praised the media’s reporting of the riot, saying, “The American people know what happened that day because you never stopped reporting.” He then forcefully added that this petition served to “preserve and strengthen this great democracy.”
Pence is right on both counts. So why did he block efforts to provide the American people — and the Justice Department investigating January 6 — with a full record of all the events surrounding that day? And how can history hold the former President accountable, as Pence hopes, if he does not share the details of his interactions with Trump before the 2020 election and the day of the attack on the US Capitol.
Pence is in a unique position to provide the American public—and special counsel Jack Smith—with the facts surrounding both Trump’s actions and the January 6 attack itself. The bipartisan House committee report backs that up. For example, the report notes: “Despite knowing that such action would be illegal … Donald Trump corruptly pressured Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count the electoral votes during a joint session of Congress on January 6.” . We need to know exactly what Trump did and who better than Pence to tell us?
While Pence declined to speak to the Jan. 6 committee when asked last fall, the report details that Pence “publicly said he told President Trump there was no basis to claim the election was stolen.” The report also points out that “(c) when a reporter recently asked, “Have you ever told President [that] did we lose this election?” Pence responded that “I did. … Many times.’ “We need to know what Trump said in response to fully understand the lead up to January 6.
Then there was Pence’s phone call with Trump on the morning of January 6. According to the report, witnesses in the Oval Office — including Ivanka Trump — testified under oath that during that call, “Trump was very heated.” Some witnesses said Trump called Pence a “scumbag” and used the “p-word,” warning him he would be “a political career killer” to certify the legal electoral votes that elect the President (Joe Biden).
Again, only Pence knows the details of this and all other conversations with Trump — information the public deserves to know. But when the Jan. 6 panel asked Pence to testify in November 2022, he told CBS News, “I’m closing the door on that, but I have to say again, the partisan nature of the Jan. 6 panel was a disappointment to me.” .
I disagree that the January 6 panel was “partisan,” but why is Pence resisting speaking to a federal grand jury about what he knows? There is no trace of partisanship there. But Pence filed a motion this month to block the subpoena, arguing it was “unconstitutional and unprecedented.”
Pence can’t have it both ways. Either he shares with the American people a full account of what Trump did and said prior to January 6 or he should be considered complicit.
The former vice president is right when he says that reporting what happened on January 6th strengthens our democracy. Instead, by withholding the details of Trump’s actions in relation to January 6th from the American people – as well as from federal investigators – Pence is doing the exact opposite.