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“‘You’ve got to call Pence off the f—ing ski slopes and get him back here today. This is a crisis,’” [Donald Trump political advisor Steve] Bannon said, referring to the vice president, who was vacationing in Vail, Colo.”
That’s an astounding excerpt from an article in Sunday’s Washington Post that also appears as a new foreword to the 50th anniversary edition of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s takedown of the Nixon administration, “All the President’s Men.” The article is entitled “Woodward and Bernstein thought Nixon defined corruption. Then came Trump”.
RealVail.com broke the story of former Vice President Mike Pence and his family vacationing in Vail during the 2020-21 Christmas and New Year’s holiday, a spendy retreat for taxpayers that came at a particularly fraught time politically – adding some historical context later in 2021 after the release of Woodward’s book “Peril”, which included juicy new details about what Pence may have being doing here besides skiing.
“At the end of December, Mr. Pence traveled to Vail, Colo., for a family vacation. While he was there, his aides received a request for him to meet with Sidney Powell, a lawyer who promoted some of the more far-fetched conspiracy theories about flaws in voting machines, and whom Mr. Trump wanted to bring into the White House, ostensibly to investigate his false claims of widespread voter fraud.”
That’s an excerpt from a June 3 New York Times article by Maggie Haberman on Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, telling the vice president’s lead Secret Service agent the day before the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection by Trump supporters — aimed at delaying or altogether blocking the certification of President Joe Biden — that “the president was going to turn publicly against the vice president, and there could be a security risk to Mr. Pence because of it.”
That seems like a massive understatement in hindsight, as the Trump mob erected gallows and a hangman’s noose and chanted “Hang Mike Pence” outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and then stormed the building, forcing Pence to flee underground.
At that point, Pence probably wished he had never left Vail, putting down local roots the way former Vice President and President Gerald R. Ford did after Nixon’s Watergate scandal.
“Shortly after hundreds of rioters at the Capitol started chanting ‘Hang Mike Pence!’ on Jan. 6, 2021, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, left the dining room off the Oval Office, walked into his own office and told colleagues that President Donald J. Trump was complaining that the vice president was being whisked to safety. Mr. Meadows, according to an account provided to the House committee investigating Jan. 6, then told the colleagues that Mr. Trump had said something to the effect of, maybe Mr. Pence should be hanged.”
Keep skiing Vail or Beaver Creek or risk being hanged by a violent mob whipped up by your boss? Tough choice. But then there was the pesky matter of Pence needing to fulfill his largely symbolic but constitutionally mandated duty to open the envelopes containing the Electoral College votes in order to officially certify Biden’s decisive 306-232 win over Trump.
Lauren Boebert, a Republican gun enthusiast who up until recent redistricting represented the majority of the Vail Valley, says she’s “proud” of her vote to block Biden’s presidency on Jan. 6 and voiced support for the domestic terrorists that day, calling them her constituents and tweeting “Today is 1776” – an echo of the Proud Boys indicted Monday for seditious conspiracy.
In 2020, Boebert told me the Second Amendment was for “protection against a tyrannical government” and later that year refused to comment when Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand by” during a debate with eventual President Joe Biden. Boebert’s anti-government agenda dovetailed with Trump attorney John Eastman writing the memo for the Jan. 6 coup plot while on the dime for the University of Colorado and then touting his widely rejected ideas here in Eagle County in 2020 in Ford’s former home of Beaver Creek at the Park Hyatt Hotel.
Sunday’s Woodward and Bernstein article gives us some more context on that critical time:
“‘JANUARY SIXTH, SEE YOU IN DC!’” [Trump] tweeted on Dec. 30, 2020, from Mar-a-Lago, where he was spending the holidays. Longtime chief strategist Steve Bannon, who had been in and out of Trump’s favor, picked up the thread in a phone conversation with Trump that same day.’
“‘You’ve got to return to Washington and make a dramatic return today,’” Bannon told [Trump], according to reporting in Woodward and Robert Costa’s book, ‘Peril’. ‘You’ve got to call Pence off the f—ing ski slopes and get him back here today. This is a crisis. We’re going to bury Biden on January 6th. We are going to kill … the Biden presidency in the crib.’”
Bannon, under indictment for contempt of Congress for refusing to testify to the committee, is widely credited with the birth of Trumpism, bringing together the anti-globalist, white nationalist, far-right, Christian coalition that put Trump in the White House for four tumultuous years and could return him to power in 2024.
He was also the classmate of my mom’s boss at a smalltown newspaper in Granby, Colo., who was nearly crushed by an anti-government domestic terrorist in a heavily armored and armed bulldozer. My mom was thankfully on vacation that day, but her boss, Granby Sky-Hi New editor and publisher Patrick Brower, just got away before their office was demolished. In 2018, Brower talked with me about that terrible day in 2004, Bannon and the connection to today’s seditionist Trump movement.
Ten years earlier, I had been at the Vail Daily a few years when I decided to try to land the first interview with President Ford – a Beaver Creek resident at the time – after the death of former President Richard Nixon, whom Ford pardoned in 1974.
“I was right when I made the decision in September of 1974, and I’m more convinced today that it was the right decision for the country as a whole,” Ford told me in May of 1994. “It would have been a long tortuous process – the indictment, the trial, probably a conviction on some counts, an appeal. That would have taken two, three, maybe four years. That would only have exacerbated the unrest and the domestic trouble here in the United States, and the only way to get that whole problem off my desk in the Oval Office, the only way for me to concentrate 100 percent of my time on the problems of 240 million Americans, was to grant the pardon.”
Ah, tamping down political unrest, wouldn’t that be nice? Too bad it’s not an option in 2022.
The big difference between Nixon and Trump, of course, is that Nixon resigned (still the only president to do so) and Trump continues to spread the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from him – a falsehood rejected by more than 60 judges, the U.S. Supreme Court and his own attorney general. And Trump still leads his party and is threatening to run again, while few fellow Republicans will repudiate his possibly criminal behavior.
So the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack this week will start holding a series of hearings on the insurrection and the U.S. Justice Department is ramping up its investigation of what many feel was a failed coup attempt.
Meanwhile, Ford, an avid Vail skier dating back to his days as a Michigan congressman who became both vice president and president due to the Nixon administration scandals and whose name is on everything from parks to post offices to ski trails (38) in Vail and Beaver Creek, remained confident to the end that pardoning Nixon for his likely Watergate crimes was the right thing to do, even if 37 never confessed.
More from Sunday’s Woodward and Bernstein article:
“Nixon accepted the full Watergate pardon from President Gerald Ford 30 days after his resignation. Whenever anyone asked Ford why he had not insisted on an explicit admission from Nixon that he had committed crimes, Ford confidently said he had the answer.
“‘I’ve got it in my wallet here,’” he would reply, pulling out a folded, dog-eared piece of paper summarizing the Supreme Court decision Burdick v. United States in 1915. The justices had ruled that a pardon ‘carries an imputation of guilt; acceptance a confession of it.’”
“‘Nixon confessed by accepting the pardon,’ Ford said. ‘That was always very reassuring to me.’”
Trump has yet to be charged with crimes that could range from “obstructing an official proceeding of Congress to conspiracy to defraud the American people,” according to The Times.
And don’t hold your breath for a pardon or a confession if Trump ever is charged. One last excerpt from Sunday’s Post: “After the 2020 election Trump would embrace, with shattering consequences, one of Nixon’s adages: ‘A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits.’”