On Jan. 6, 2021, then-President Donald Trump berated Vice President Mike Pence on a phone call shortly before he addressed his supporters at the Washington rally prior to the riot that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol, witnesses from his administration told the Jan. 6 select committee.
Videotaped testimony about the contentious phone call given to the committee was played at the public hearing on Thursday. The subject of the call, according to those who testified, was Pence’s refusal to go along with the president’s plan to simply turn the Electoral College results back to the states when Congress was scheduled to meet later in the day. Pence refused to do so, citing the overwhelming legal consensus that he lacked the legal authority to do so. Trump, according to witnesses, was furious.
White House lawyer Eric Herschmann was in the Oval Office during the call and testified that “at some point it started off as a calmer tone and then became heated.”
Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, agreed with that assessment and testified that she was taken aback when she overheard the tone her father was using with Pence.
“It was a different tone than I had heard him take with the vice president before,” she told the committee.
Herschmann noted that Ivanka Trump, who was also present in the Oval Office during the call, was affected by it.
“I think she was uncomfortable over the fact that there was obviously that type of interaction between the two of them,” he testified.
Former assistant to Trump Nicolas Luna also testified about the phone call.
“I remember hearing the word ‘wimp.’ Either he called him a wimp, I don’t remember if he said, ‘You are a wimp,’ ‘You’ll be a wimp.’ ‘Wimp’ was the word I remember,” he told the committee.
Trump, according to those who were in the room, told Pence that he had made the wrong decision by picking him to be his vice president.
Asked what Ivanka Trump later relayed that her father had called Pence on the phone, her chief of staff Julie Radford told the committee, “the P-word.”
Greg Jacob, former counsel to Pence, was also asked to describe the vice president's demeanor following the call.
“When he came back into the room, I’d say he was steely, determined, grim,” he testified.
At the Washington rally, Trump spoke to his supporters about Pence, though he did not let on that he had already learned that Pence had decided he had no legal authority to send the Electoral College results back to the states. Trump also did not relay that he had been repeatedly told by members of his own administration that the vice president lacked the legal authority to do so.
“I hope Mike is going to do the right thing,” Trump said at the rally. “I hope so. Because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.”