Mike Pence pretends not to notice the elephant in the room

On Monday night, Marc Short, who served as Mike Pence’s chief of staff during his vice presidency, talked to ABC News about the seriousness of the Jan. 6 threat. “If the mob had gotten closer to the vice president,” Short said, “I do think there would have been a massacre in the Capitol that day.”

It was a dramatic quote, rooted in fact. Investigators on the Jan. 6 committee proved that when the then-vice president was evacuated from his ceremonial office and directed to a secure location, Pence and the insurrectionist rioters were only separated by 40 feet. A Proud Boys informant later told the FBI that members of the right-wing group “would have killed Mike Pence if given a chance.”

And yet, the morning after Short reflected on how close his former boss came to being assassinated, Pence returned to the nation’s capital — and avoided the subject. As HuffPost noted:

Just 1,500 feet from the spot where Donald Trump incited his coup attempt, and barely a mile from where the former president’s mob wanted to hang him, Mike Pence chose not to mention any of that during a half-hour speech Tuesday to a gathering of conservative college students.

Part way through his remarks, the Republican Hoosier briefly alluded to the Jan. 6 attack as “a tragic day in our nation’s capital” — the seven words were part of a larger sentence — and that was it. He had nothing else to say on the subject.

Pence added that he considers it a mistake to “focus on the past.”

Perhaps, but the revelations about Pence’s experiences didn’t come to the fore in some long-ago era; they’re unfolding now — and they’re extraordinary.

After Donald Trump lost his re-election bid, the outgoing president lobbied Pence to participate in an illegal scheme to overturn the election. When his vice president came to the conclusion that he had no choice but to follow the law, Trump deliberately put Pence in harm’s way, adding unscripted lies to his pre-riot speech that characterized the then-vice president as a villain.

Once the riot was underway, Trump made matters worse by publishing a tweet attacking Pence again.

At the White House, according to a West Wing aide, Trump told his team that Pence “deserved” to be hunted by rioters, and once the Capitol was cleared, the outgoing president made no effort reach out to his vice president to check on his wellbeing.

As Jan. 6 came to an end, Trump reflected on the day’s events with a White House employee. Unconcerned with the violence that had unfolded in his own country’s seat of government, the Republican simply concluded, “Mike Pence let me down.”

It’s against this backdrop that top members of Pence’s team haven’t just cooperated with congressional investigators, they’re also reportedly testifying to a federal grand jury as part of an ongoing investigation.

But there was the former vice president yesterday, pretending not to notice the elephant in the room.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but Pence’s former boss put his life in danger on purpose because he wouldn’t participate in an illegal plot. If the former vice president thinks he can just avoid this as a topic of conversation indefinitely, he’s mistaken.