I saw Trump as a big bully. Then rioters called for my boss, Mike Pence, to be hanged.

The former president's shocking efforts to topple American democracy have met their match in the bipartisan Jan. 6 committee. Now we must strengthen our defenses against would-be tyrants.

Olivia Troye
Opinion contributor

The wave of anger and grief that overwhelmed me on Jan. 6, 2021, came rushing back as I absorbed the carnage played anew during two hearings of the House committee investigating the attack on our Capitol, with video after video showing police officers struggling to defend our American institutions. 

But I also felt something else during the hearings: an invigorated faith in our shared American values of accountability and justice.

The committee's chair and vice chair, a Democrat and a Republican, a Black man and a white woman, described the events that led up to the day our democracy came under attack. Together they highlighted the path forward to repair and strengthen our nation. And I saw hope for our future, for our nation to reject lies and political violence, for both justice and renewal.

I served as a homeland security and national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, a man who faced down threats to his life to do what he knew to be right for our country. I knew President Donald Trump, my boss' boss, could be a relentless bully. But I never could have imagined him signaling approval for our vice president's execution.

The former president’s refusal to honor the will of the voters and of our nation's Founders, who fought a brutal tyrant to ensure that the people would rule, has bullied most of his own political party into dishonoring their oaths and their commitment to country over party.

But the former president’s attempt to overturn a fair election has met its match in the bipartisan Jan. 6 committee.

Anti-democracy threats have not gone away

While Americans are worried about gas prices and inflation, about polarization and fear, we risk making these even worse if we refuse to honor the rule of law and the will of the voters.

The American voters have the wisdom to elect their leaders and make choices for their future. It's time to reset ourselves around these shared values. If we lose our democracy, we won't be able to solve any of our kitchen table issues. We will lose our voice and our vote, and all that our Founders fought to secure. We will give in to fear and violence.

Is that what 2022 voters want?:Republicans want to investigate Biden or even impeach him

The threat of violence against our republic remains. Trump's lies about the last election continue to be used to fuel anger and collect money from our fellow Americans. Candidates around the country are mistaking their fealty to Trump’s lies for patriotism. And our enemies around the world are cheering for a repeat of Jan. 6.

The whole world has now seen the facts that even when Trump was presented with clear evidence that he lost the election, he continued to push lies about the 2020 election to raise money and to whip up his supporters. It’s obvious that he pursued this path even though it created further divisions within the country and even within his own family.

Jan. 6 committee hearings must help thwart future tyrants

The Jan. 6 committee's work could not be more critical. It is central to providing the American public a full, transparent accounting of the events that led up to and on Jan. 6, 2021, when the peaceful transfer of presidential power was interrupted for the first time in our nation’s history.

The committee's work is critical for ensuring that those who planned or participated in the plot against American voters are held to account. And this is how we as a nation identify ways to strengthen our laws to ensure that no would-be tyrant can ever subvert the rule of law, reject the voters and hold onto power.

A noose on makeshift gallows as supporters of then-President Donald Trump gatherat the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The image of the gallows on the Capitol grounds looms large for me. The chants of "hang Mike Pence" echo in my memory. No matter our disagreements, violence has no place in our politics. I am horrified by what happened, and remain concerned about what nearly came to pass for our nation.

Jan. 6 was awful:But conservatives have good reasons to question these hearings.

Our nation faces enemies foreign and domestic, and we have no choice but to come together as a country to confront those who seek to topple the miracle that is American democracy.

Olivia Troye served as a homeland security and counterterrorism adviser for Vice President Mike Pence.

As more details emerge about this appalling attack on our democracy, those in thrall to Trump need to come to their senses, begin honoring their oaths and put country back over party.

The Jan. 6 committee is slated to hold more hearings this month, and its work will continue over the summer. This work is vital, it is necessary – and it is making this patriot proud of her country.

Olivia Troye served as a homeland security and counterterrorism adviser for Vice President Mike Pence. She is serving now as chief strategy officer for the Renew America Movement.