Both of those traits are on display in an answer that the former president gave to ABC’s Jon Karl when asked about the January 6 riot and — in particular — the chants of “Hang Mike Pence!” from some in the crowd.
“Well, the people were very angry,” explained Trump, before adding that “I thought (Pence) was well protected and I had heard that he was in good shape.”
Which is easy for Trump to say! He spent the entire afternoon of January 6 — as rioters were overrunning the Capitol, constructing a gallows outside the building and ransacking various Congressional offices — ensconced in the White House watching the proceedings on TV.
(Trump also, not for nothing, resisted pleas to send a tweet telling the crowd to disperse. And, when he eventually did record a video with that message, he told the mob that “we had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it especially the other side.” He added that “we love you, you’re very special.”)
What Trump’s interview with Karl makes clear is that he had absolutely no problem with people chanting to murder his vice president. In Trump’s eyes, this was a reasonable response to the fact that people believe the 2020 election had been stolen from him. They, of course, only believed that because Trump and his allies lied about (nonexistent) voter fraud and ballot irregularities for months after the election.
In Trump’s world, whatever his supporters feel is justified. They felt angry. They chanted that they wanted to hang the vice president for not taking part in Trump’s lie. How can he possibly say that what they did was wrong? After all, as he said, “the people were very angry.” Might makes right!
No one who has paid attention to Trump since he burst onto the political scene in the summer of 2015 should be surprised by this. But, you should be appalled by it. Because this is the former president of the United States taking the side of rioters who were threatening the life of the vice president of the United States. And his only justification for choosing the rioters’ side is because they were “very angry.”
What’s perhaps the most brutal coda to all of this is that Pence has remained largely loyal to Trump.
Consider this scene — as told in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s “Peril” — from an Oval Office meeting between Trump and Pence on January 11 — the first time the two men had spoken since January 6:
“In the Oval office, Trump did not apologize to Pence. They kept their discussion limited, with curt and vague statements about how they would serve out their term together. Pence mostly listened. It lasted for about an hour.”
“‘I just want you to know, I’m still praying for you, Mr. President,’ Pence said.”
“‘We’ve all been through a lot, it’s been a trying time for all of us, but I haven’t stopped.'”
“‘Thanks, Mike,’ Trump said.”
Trump didn’t — and won’t — say sorry to Pence for a very simple reason: He thinks Pence should be the one apologizing. In Trump’s distorted view, Pence committed an act of disloyalty when he refused to block certification of the Electoral College votes on January 6. “It’s common sense that you’re supposed to protect,” Trump told Karl of Pence. “How can you — if you know a vote is fraudulent, right — how can you pass on a fraudulent vote?”
That Pence hasn’t disavowed Trump — even in the face of comments like the ones the former president made to Karl — speaks to the strength and power of the cult of personality that dominates the current version of the Republican party. If you can’t walk away from a man who takes the side of those chanting to murder you, who can you walk away from?