House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added her voice Tuesday to a growing number of lawmakers who have questioned the actions of the US Secret Service as the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on the US Capitol unfolded and in the days leading up to it.
In an interview Tuesday with MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell, Pelosi recounted the phone conversation she had with former Vice President Mike Pence as the riot spun out of control, a portion of which was played during last week’s House select committee hearing.
“We were taken to an undisclosed location,” Pelosi said of congressional leadership.” [Pence] was still at the Capitol. I was very concerned because the Capitol was being overridden, and the then-president was not doing anything to stop the horror of it all. I was concerned — he [Pence] said, ‘If I leave it will cause, attract more attention when my entourage, the caravan with the vice president leaving.’ I myself wondered if he could even trust the Secret Service to take him to a safe place. I don’t know.”
Incensed by Pence’s refusal to summarily reject the Electoral College votes showing that Joe Biden had won, the mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol amid chants of “Hang Mike Pence!”
As the violence raged, Secret Service agents assigned to protect Pence escorted him to his ceremonial office and tried to convince him to allow them to drive him away from the Capitol.
“I’m not leaving the Capitol,” Pence told them, according to testimony delivered to the select committee, apparently fearing for his safety should his car be spotted by the rioters.
Pence’s Secret Service detail again tried to prevail upon the vice president to evacuate the Capitol.
“I trust you, Tim, but you’re not driving the car,” Pence told his lead security agent, Tim Giebels. “If I get in that vehicle, you guys are taking off. I’m not getting in the car.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who sits on the select committee, called Pence’s final sentence on the matter “the six most chilling words of this entire thing I’ve seen so far: ‘I’m not getting in that car.’ “
Throughout the select committee hearings, the Secret Service has played a central role. The committee subpoenaed the agency for all of its communications on Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, but was initially given just a single text message.
Joseph Cuffari, inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Secret Service, informed Congress in mid-July that text messages sought by the committee had been erased. That led the heads of the select committee and the House Oversight Committee to call for the appointment of a new inspector general. At issue is whether the Secret Service discounted the intelligence it had gathered about the potential for Trump’s supporters to turn violent on Jan. 6, and whether some of its agents might be covering for the former president.
In June, Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig, author of “Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service” and co-author of “I Alone Can Fix It,” a book about Trump, noted that some Secret Service agents had expressed a “problematic” level of loyalty to the former president.
“There was a very large contingent of Donald Trump’s detail who were personally cheering for Biden to fail, and some of them even took to their personal media accounts to cheer on the insurrection and the individuals riding up to the Capitol as patriots,” Leonnig said . “That is problematic.”
In August, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington obtained Secret Service emails detailing threats issued on social media against Pelosi, Pence and Biden in the days prior to the riot at the Capitol. The agency apparently did not share these messages with Capitol Police until after the attack.
On Monday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., one of two Republicans on the select committee, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the committee was seeking further testimony from Secret Service agents.
“There is something going on at the Secret Service, either pure incompetence, all the way on the scale to potentially very criminal activity or — or just having a preference for one side or the other,” Kinzinger said.
“And so we know that these text messages were deleted after these requests to preserve those documents came forward. And there’s a lot of answers we simply don’t have. They have made it clear through anonymous sources that they’re willing to come in and testify. We want to hear them again. We want to talk to them, and it’s going to be under oath.”