New book makes clear how close we came on Jan. 6: Mike Pence was "nearly lost" and plans were made to secure continuity of government

Vanity Fair has an excerpt from George Stephanopoulos' new book The Situation Room, which details historical moments in this White House nerve center. After looking at myriad crises from the Cold War to 9/11, the book arrives at the January 6 insurrection. And I'm sorry to report it's even scarier than you might think. 

In the six decades since the creation of the Situation Room, it has been the crisis center during America's catastrophes. The men and women of the Sit Room have dealt with nuclear scares, the assassination of a president and attempts on two others. They stayed at their posts on 9/11, when the White House itself was the target of terrorists. And they tracked and analyzed American wars that cost hundreds of thousands of lives and billions upon billions of dollars. But never before had they dealt with an insurrection against our own government, inspired by the president of the United States.

What are you supposed to do when the President is the cause of the crisis? That's a new one. This doesn't seem like something they (or anyone, really) has ever trained for. The bulk of the details in this excerpt come from an intelligence officer, Robert Stiegler, who was there in the Sit Room that day: 

With reports coming in from the Secret Service and other officials on Capitol Hill, the Situation Room scrambled into action. "Things got very chaotic," Stiegler told me. "We went into a continuity-of-government situation."

Stop there. Take that phrase in: "continuity-of-government situation." That bland bit of bureaucratic jargon masks a deadly serious set of policies and actions first ordered by President Eisenhower at the height of the Cold War. "COG" was designed to ensure the government would still function after a disaster such as nuclear war. It involves secret command centers—the Sit Room being a critical one—elaborate chains of command, the relocation of Congress and the replacement of executive branch officials killed in attacks. It had been activated only once before, in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Chilling, no? Here's one more pull from the book:

The most harrowing part?

"How close we came to losing the vice president," [Stiegler] told me. He paused, then looked up at the ceiling, struggling to compose himself. "The screams, the yelling. The different things that we heard that day." Stiegler is a young man with a cheerful disposition, but when he talked about January 6 he seemed to age before my eyes.

"It was horrific," he said quietly. "There's a group of us that were on duty that day, and we don't know how to process it still…We don't know how to talk about it. And we don't know who to talk about it with. There are a lot of things we witnessed that day that we can't talk about. 

And by the way, George W. Bush may have been a nincompoop, but nobody thought he had intentionally caused 9/11. Trump really is a monster, in a class all by himself. And anyone who votes for him, IMHO, is a monster, too. Or just too stupid to know better. There…I said it. As you were.