Karen Pence 'never felt afraid' on Jan. 6: ABC News exclusive
The former second lady said she felt "God's presence" despite the attack.
On Jan. 6, 2021, when then-second lady Karen Pence drew the curtains of the vice president's ceremonial office on Capitol Hill, shielding her family from the unfolding attack moments after their evacuation from the Senate chamber, she says she never feared for her life.
"Never," she told ABC News Live Prime Anchor Linsey Davis in a new interview, marking some of her first public comments on the day. "I just was discussing this with someone here in Iowa a few minutes ago, I never felt afraid."
"I really felt like we just had such a peace and God's presence," she said during the interview -- part one of which airs Monday on ABC News Live Prime at 7 p.m., 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET. "And just a sense of purpose and determination that I don't think any of us in the whole group – all the staff and everyone with us -- I don't think any of us felt fear. I think we felt like a sense of resolve."
Asked specifically by Davis about closing the curtains, a moment cemented in history by former Vice President Mike Pence's photographer, the former second lady pinned the move on "conditioning" from years in public life.
"I think once you become, you know, second lady, life changed a lot for us. In fact, during the transition, we rented a home near D.C. And I remember walking in that home the first day -- and Secret Service had put a butcher block paper, you know, all over the windows -- and you couldn't even see outside," she said.
"And every time we traveled, they would have bulletproof glass in every hotel room. So it's a conditioning thing that I just knew. Whenever you're in a situation where someone might be able to shoot through the window, just close the drapes," she continued. "That was my thinking at the time was like, 'Wait a minute. Things are starting to happen out there. Let's close the drapes.'"
"You say things were starting to happen," Davis followed up. "But at what point did you realize: My family could be in danger?"
"Well, the Secret Service are phenomenal men and women," Karen Pence replied. "And they made it clear to us right away that, you know, there might be a point where we would need to move to a different location.
“And so that was pretty clear to us from the very beginning because they had come and gotten us out of the Senate chambers and taken us back to Mike's office and in the Senate. So, it was clear pretty early on that we might need to vacate that room and go somewhere else,” she added.
In his memoir released last November, "So Help Me God," the former vice president similarly described feeling grounded by God when they were evacuated from the Senate chamber with their daughter Charlotte.
"We stood together in that cramped office and watched the mayhem unfolding inside and around the Capitol on a small television set. The scenes were alarming," Mike Pence wrote. "I have often told our three children that the safest place in the world is to be in the center of God's will. I knew in my heart that we were where we were supposed to be, doing what we were supposed to be doing. I felt resolve and at peace informed by my upbringing in Indiana, my faith, my family, a lifetime of service and lifelong love of the Constitution."
"Responding to a muffled roar in the distance, my wife closed the drapes over the large windows facing outside to the north, as our lead Secret Service agent returned to make one more urgent plea for us to leave," he continued. "I pointed my finger at his chest and said, 'You're not hearing me. I'm not leaving.'"
Not long after the photo was snapped, the Pences were rushed below the Capitol complex to a loading dock -- where the vice president then refused to get in the car with the Secret Service.
"It wasn't my first rodeo," Mike Pence wrote in his book. "I just knew that if I got into the car and that 200-pound door shut, somebody was going to tell the driver to get us out of the building."
Karen and Charlotte Pence stayed at the Capitol until the early morning hours of Jan. 7, 2021, when the gavel finally fell and incoming President Joe Biden's victory was affirmed. Noting this fact, Mike Pence has called himself "truly blessed."
Karen Pence doesn't let the disparaging comments about her husband phase her, telling Davis on ABC News Live Prime, "It comes with the territory, and we understand that."
"When our kids were small, and really through their teen years, when we would be somewhere and we would see protesters or people would yell things at us, Mike's standard line is, 'That's what freedom looks like, and in America, you are allowed to protest.' You are allowed to say, 'I don't like what you did on this day or explain to me this,'" she said. "And it's OKactually."
Asked if it's more frustrating when that criticism comes from someone who supposedly knew him, like Donald Trump, Karen Pence did not criticize the former president but suggested his attacks on her husband's character were unfounded.
"The president knows who Mike is," she said. "And I mean, they were -- worked very closely for four years, became friends and really accomplished so many great things. So I think the president knows who Mike really is."
When he launched his campaign for president in June, Mike Pence said it came after prayer and deep reflection with his family -- and two and half years after, he said, Trump "demanded" he choose him over the Constitution, which Trump denies doing.
"As I've said many times, on that fateful day, President Trump's words were reckless. They endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol," Mike Pence said on June 8 in Iowa. "But the American people deserve to know that on that day, President Trump also demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution. Now, voters will be faced with the same choice: I chose the Constitution, and I always will."
Mike Pence has since leaned into his criticism as Trump faces criminal charges around alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Pence's campaign says it received 7,400 donations the day after special counsel Jack Smith's latest indictment, which mentioned the former vice president's role more than 100 times, came down.
As Mike Pence lays out his differences with Trump, which he says extend beyond Jan. 6, Karen Pence is never far.
He fondly introduces her on the stump as "the highest-ranking official in the room: a Marine Corps mom, a lifelong schoolteacher, accomplished artist, bestselling author and the best second lady in the United States of America has ever had."
More than 38 years after meeting at church in Indiana, the Pence couple’s faith continues to guide their marriage and offered guidance on Jan. 6, like any other day.
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