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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Is Rep. Greg Pence hanging his brother out to dry over Jan. 6?

As the brother of then Vice President Mike Pence, the new Indiana Congressman had a chance to serve America or a corrupt president Donald Trump. He chose Trump.
Rep. Greg Pence, R-Ind. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Greg Pence watched the Jan. 6 insurrection unfold from an extraordinary perch.

As chants of “Hang Mike Pence” echoed in the Capitol, the Republican congressman from Indiana and his better-known brother were whisked away from the Senate by the Secret Service shortly before a mob of Donald Trump supporters burst in, intent on stopping the vice president from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s win.

Their dramatic escape, caught on security cameras, came minutes after Trump excoriated Mike Pence on Twitter for lacking the “courage” to use his ceremonial post presiding over the certification of the 2020 election to overturn its outcome.

“My brother was being asked to do what we don’t do in this country,” Greg Pence recounted at a Republican fundraising dinner in his district last July, one of the rare instances he has spoken publicly about the attack. He later added, “I couldn’t be prouder.”

At the beating heart of the insurrection lies Trump’s attempt to pressure his vice president to take the unprecedented step of overturning the election. And few had a better vantage point on the day of the attack than Greg Pence, who hunkered down in a secure area with his younger brother while the vice president worked the phone, pleading for help to clear rioters from the building.

That makes Greg Pence a tantalizing prospective witness for the House Jan. 6 committee, which is investigating the origins of the insurrection that Trump fomented when he urged his supporters to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell.”

Pence has largely declined to discuss what transpired while he was with his brother that day, other than praising his brother as a hero for standing up to Trump.

His silence serves as powerful evidence of the grip that Trump still holds on his party, which has led many Republicans to dispute the seriousness of the attack and instead perpetuate the lie that Trump was wrongly denied a second term.

Pence declined last month to speak with The Associated Press at the Capitol. A spokesperson did not respond to multiple inquiries seeking comment.

First elected to Congress in 2018, 65-year-old Greg Pence represents a deeply Republican and largely rural district that his brother held for 12 years before he was elected Indiana governor and eventually selected by Trump to become vice president. Unlike his brother, who from a young age was fixated on a career in politics, Greg Pence was always an unlikely congressman.

After graduating from Loyola University in Chicago, he joined the Marines and later fell into a series of petroleum industry jobs. He eventually served as president of Kiel Bros., a Midwest gas station empire his father helped build, a post he resigned from in 2004 after the company filed for bankruptcy and saddled the state of Indiana with more than $21 million in unpaid environmental cleanup costs, a 2018 Associated Press investigation found.

Pence turned his focus in 2006 to operating antique malls he purchased with his wife, Denise, a business now worth between $5 million and $25 million, according to his congressional financial disclosure.

When Mike Pence’s former congressional seat opened up in 2018, his brother ran a stealthy campaign. Granting few interviews and ducking debates, he coasted to victory.

“I looked into the mirror and said, ‘If not me, who?’” Greg Pence told his hometown newspaper, The Columbus Republic, in a rare interview during the campaign.

But he also expressed deep ambivalence about the job, as well as a lack of conviction that would likely have doomed other candidates.

“What would be my positions, what would be my focus?” he said in a September 2017 interview with the Washington Examiner, a conservative publication, before formally launching his campaign. “I really haven’t dug into or formed positions on anything yet.”

Since then, Pence has had a muted presence in Congress, where he serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Yet during the Trump administration, he enjoyed rarefied privileges, riding with the president on Air Force One for campaign and administration events where the president name-checked him.

One area in which he has excelled is fundraising, raising far more money than the average first-term member of Congress.

Pence also has enjoyed the trappings of political life, spending over $49,000 at Trump-owned properties, while paying Trump’s pollster $137,000 during his 2018 race when there was little doubt he would win, campaign finance disclosures show.

Pence and his family also have collected money from his campaign account, including $18,000 in rent paid to the company he runs with his wife, and $35,000 paid to his daughter Nicole, a former TV reporter, who advised his 2018 campaign. He has also collected $57,000 in reimbursements for travel and meals, records show.

For months it was unclear whether the committee would even seek interviews with members of Congress connected to the insurrection, which was viewed as a provocative step. But in late December, the committee announced it wanted to interview Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a staunch Trump ally, as well as Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who leads the hard-line House Freedom Caucus.

So far, Democrats who serve on the committee have been tight-lipped about whether Greg Pence could be called for an interview or asked to submit documents.

“I’m not going to talk about any individual being called,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar, a California Democrat on the committee, when asked whether an interview with Pence would be sought.

Pence has repeatedly voted against attempts to shed light on the insurrection, or hold those who urged it on accountable. He voted twice against forming a committee to investigate the origins of the attack, calling it “bass-ackwards.” He also voted against impeaching Trump.

But perhaps the most significant vote was in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

Hours after emerging from a secure location, Mike Pence gaveled the joint session of Congress back in and presided over the certification of the election, despite Trump’s demands.

Greg Pence, meanwhile, joined scores of other Republicans who sided with Trump and cast a vote rejecting the outcome in Pennsylvania, the state that clinched the election for Biden.

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