Pence warned against conservatives who continue to insist the vice president can alter an election, and said that could be a problematic position for Republicans in the upcoming presidential contest.
“Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election, and (Vice President) Kamala Harris will not have the right to void the election when we beat them in 2024” , Pence said.
Pence’s remarks followed one of Trump’s latest attempts to blame the failed bid to void the 2020 election on his former vice president.
In a statement Sunday, Trump suggested that a recent bipartisan push to overhaul Congress’ Electoral College vote count was evidence that Pence had the power to alter the results.
“What they’re saying is that Mike Pence had the right to change the outcome, and now they want to take it right away,” Trump said in the statement. “Unfortunately he didn’t exercise that power, he could have overturned the election!”
The former president reiterated that claim in a statement Friday in response to Pence’s comments earlier in the day.
But Pence on Friday had argued that was not the case, and he said “now is the time to focus on the future.”
“Listen, I understand the disappointment many feel about the last election. I was on the ballot,” Pence said. “But whatever the future holds, I know we did our duty that day.”
Pence has repeatedly defended his role in certifying the Jan. 6, 2021, election results. Speaking to Republicans in New Hampshire in June, he acknowledged that he and Trump remain divided over the events surrounding the riot at the U.S. Capitol. .
He added that he “will always be proud” of having fulfilled his constitutional duty hours after a murderous mob of Trump supporters attacked the US Capitol.
Some of those supporters had called for Pence to be hanged during their congressional siege, which came just hours after Trump told the crowd that his vice president should “do the right thing” and reject the vote count.
Pence directly addressed the remark in December during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network.
“I know I did the right thing,” he said.
As he positions himself for a political comeback, Pence has tried to embrace his record in the Trump administration while distancing himself from his former boss’ relentless quest to undermine the last election. It’s a tightrope act that other former Trump administration officials with 2024 aspirations may also have to attempt, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley. .
But unlike those others, Pence is uniquely reviled by many Trump supporters for his refusal to follow the former president into a constitutional crisis. Pence received a chilly reception during a visit to the Orlando area last year to speak at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference, with some in the crowd booing his introduction. A man was escorted out for shouting “Traitor!”
Pence received a friendlier welcome Friday from members of the Federalist Society gathered at the Disney World resort, though dozens of seats went unfilled. A silence fell on the conference room as Pence described the events of January 6 and he received polite applause as he defended his actions.
“This week President Trump said I had the right to ‘cancel the election.’ But President Trump is wrong,” Pence said. “I had no right to cancel the election.”
The former vice president described the Jan. 6 uprising on the U.S. Capitol in terms very different from those Trump and other Republicans have used in recent days.
At a rally in Texas last week, Trump said if re-elected president in 2024 he would consider pardoning those who were prosecuted for their role in the insurgency.
And on Friday, hours before Pence was due to speak in Florida, the Republican National Committee approved a resolution formally censuring GOP Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois for serving on a special congressional committee investigating on the events of January 6. resolution called what happened that day “legitimate political speech”.
Pence, however, acknowledged that the insurrection as Congress prepared to count the votes of the States Electoral College marked “a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol.”
“Lives were lost and many were injured, but thanks to the courageous action of the Capitol police and federal law enforcement, the violence was put down, the Capitol was made safe and we convened again. Congress on the same day to complete our work under the Constitution of the United States and the laws of this country,” Pence said.
Pence’s split with Trump came at the end of a speech in which he had largely focused on criticizing President Joe Biden’s administration.
The former vice president claimed credit for the coronavirus vaccines that were developed while Trump was in office, saying the vaccine development and distribution effort was “a medical miracle.” He said he was vaccinated himself.
But he said Biden was wrong to try to force vaccinations, forcing healthcare workers who “took the beach without body armor for a year” to now “choose between vaccines and their job.”
Pence also criticized Biden for his plan – following a 2020 campaign pledge – to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court to fill the seat of incumbent liberal Justice Stephen Breyer. He said Biden chooses a court nominee “based primarily on the nominee’s race and gender.”
“If the radical left doesn’t end its obsession with identity politics, it will tear this country apart,” Pence said.