Donald Trump made his supporters angry, called them to Washington, D.C., on the day Mike Pence was presiding as Congress certified Trump’s election loss, whipped them up into a vicious mob, and sent them to the U.S. Capitol, enraged at Congress and at Pence. We’ve known that.
This week, thanks to the House impeachment managers, we’ve learned just how close the mob came to Pence—and thanks to Sen. Mike Lee’s bumbling outrage, we’ve learned that Trump knowingly targeted Pence with another tweet immediately after he was moved for his safety. The mob responded to Trump’s effort to aim it at Pence, with his tweet saying “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution” being read through a bullhorn by one of the insurrectionists.
Pence wasn’t rushed to safety alone, though. He was with his family, his security detail … and a military officer carrying the vice president's backup nuclear football. CNN reports that, according to an unnamed defense official, U.S. Strategic Command learned how close the football came to the mob when the impeachment managers played that new video showing Pence’s group rushing down a flight of stairs to a more secure location within the Capitol.
To be clear, the vice president’s nuclear football is a backup, and Trump’s football was secure at the White House, and the officer carrying Pence’s football never lost control of it, and there are a ton of safeguards built in to prevent an accidental nuclear strike. In the actual-nuclear-strike department, having it close to but not in the hands of the mob was not necessarily more dangerous than having it in the hands of Donald Trump for four years.
That said, there were other dangers, the Arms Control Association’s Kingston Reif told CNN: “The risk associated with the insurrectionists getting their hands on Pence's football wasn't that they could have initiated an unauthorized launch. But had they stolen the football and acquired its contents, which include pre-planned nuclear strike options, they could have shared the contents with the world.”
Trump’s malice was such that when he aimed that mob at Pence in his effort to overturn the election results and remain in the White House against the will of the voters, he not only tried to threaten the man who had obsequiously flattered him and done his bidding for four years, he threatened Pence’s family, his Secret Service detail, and both the nuclear football and the officer carrying it. Trump’s only thought was to try to stay in office or, failing that, radically undermine U.S. democracy and delegitimize the new president. He did not care who he put in danger to that end. It’s a lot for Republican senators to ignore. By doing so, they show us who they are.