6 excerpts from former Vice President Mike Pence’s CNN town hall
Speaking a day after the release of his memoir, “So Help Me God,” Pence was mostly coy when discussing the Trump administration’s policy agenda and his own plans.
But Pence responded directly to a question about the unrest at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. The former vice president called this day “the most difficult day of my public life.”
Pence also spoke more about his personal feelings about that day and his views on the state of American politics after a presidency that he said did not end well.
Here are excerpts from City Hall:
Asked about Trump’s presidential campaign announcement on Tuesday, Pence said he believes there will be “good choices” on the ballot two years from now.
Pence has left it open that he could be one of those options.
“I’ll keep you posted,” Pence told CNN’s Jake Tapper, who moderated the event.
Earlier, while wrestling with Trump’s question, Pence said, “I think it’s time for new leadership in this country that will unite us around our high ideals.”
Pressed by Tapper about his future, Pence replied, “There’s probably someone else in this race that I’m watching more.”
Watch Pence’s answer to whether he’ll support Trump in 2024
It was, Pence said, “the most difficult day of my public life.”
“As vice president, I felt it was important to give the president my advice and counsel in confidence. And so we did,” Pence said later that day, as Trump and the then-president’s allies tried to convince him to launch an unconstitutional effort to block or overturn the election results.
Pence said his decision to ignore Trump’s pleas was based on something deeper than their relationship.
“I had high loyalty to God and the Constitution. “That’s why I swore an oath to the Constitution of the United States of America, and that’s what led to the conflict on January 6,” Pence said.
Breaking with the man who picked him as his running mate and elevated him to the whispers of the Oval Office before the 2016 election was “difficult,” Pence said.
“But I will always believe,” he added, “that we did our duty that day in upholding the Constitution of the United States and the laws of this country and the peaceful transfer of power.”
In the days that followed, Pence said he was upset with Trump over the then-president’s role in the deadly uprising.
“The president’s words and tweets that day were reckless,” Pence said. “They threatened my family and everyone in the Capitol.”
But Pence also suspended speculation on whether he would testify before the House Select Committee on Investigations on Jan. 6, saying “Congress has no right to my testimony.” He said it would set a “terrible precedent” for a congressional committee to subpoena the vice president to discuss discussions at the White House, arguing that it would violate the separation of powers and “break the dynamo” between the president and vice president.
Mike Pence responded to a video showing his family fleeing to safety
After CNN aired footage of rioters chanting “Hang Mike Pence” on Jan. 6, the former vice president said he was saddened to see the footage again, but in the moment, “it made me angry.”
Moved to safety as the Capitol was disrupted, Pence said he would not leave the Secret Service, insisting he stay put, in part because the crowd didn’t want to see his motorcade speed away.
“But frankly, when I saw these pictures and read President Trump’s tweets saying that he lacked courage in that moment, it made me very angry,” Pence said. But he added: “I didn’t have time for that.”
After standing by Trump through numerous scandals and crises and benefiting from the former president’s political rise, Pence said he decided they would be on opposite sides in this fight.
“The president decided at that moment to be part of the problem,” said Pence, who told Tapper he was “determined to be part of the solution.”
Pence then gathered the Republican and Democratic leadership of the House and Senate in a conference call to discuss reaching out to Pentagon and Justice Department officials “to increase additional resources” to help Capitol Hill police officers.
Congress eventually reconvened later that day and confirmed Biden as the next president after Republican criticism of the count.
“We have shown the American people and the world the strength of our institutions (and) the stability of our democracy,” Pence said. “But these memories, these images, will always be with me.”
Pence detailed his meetings with Trump in the days following the riots at the Capitol. When she first saw Trump at the White House after Jan. 6, she said the then-president immediately asked her about her family and how they were doing.
While that contradicted Trump’s public perception, Pence said he believed Trump was “very remorseful at the time.”
“I can tell he’s saddened by what happened,” Pence said. “I invited him to pray. He told me several times that he was a believer, and I told him to turn to Jesus, and hopefully he would find solace there – and I did at that moment.”
In the following days, Pence said he had seen Trump in another meeting and that the president was still “disappointed.” After they talked through the administration’s case, Pence said, “I reminded him that I prayed for him,” and Trump “was nonchalant about it.”
“When our meeting was about to end, I stood up,” Pence said. “I looked at him and said, ‘I think there are probably two things we’ll never agree on.’ He looked up and asked, “What?” – he asked.
“I announced my role on January 6,” Pence said. “Then I said, ‘I’ll never stop praying for you.'”
“He smiled weakly and said, “That’s right. Never change,’ he said. After those events, we parted as amicably as possible.”
Lamenting the Republicans’ stellar performance in the 2022 midterm elections, Pence noted that candidates who talked about the future were outperforming those who focused more on “repeating the past.”
“I hope the Republicans take it up,” Pence said.
Asked why he chose to campaign with detractors, including GOP Senate candidates Don Bolduc of New Hampshire and Blake Masters of Arizona, who lost last week, Pence said party loyalty trumped other concerns.
“I’ve often said, ‘I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican — in that order. But I’m a Republican, Pence said, and after the Republican primary voters chose their nominees, I went to 35 states over the last year and a half to see if we could elect a Republican majority in the House, the Senate. will elect Republican governors across the country.”
Pence added that his going toe-to-toe with the candidate “doesn’t mean that I agree with every statement or every position of the candidates that I support in the Republican Party, as I haven’t done in the past.”
He also tried to create a false equivalency between Trump’s lie about fraud in the 2020 election and Hillary Clinton’s post-2016 comments, noting that she said “Donald Trump has not been a legitimate president for years.”
“I think there was a lot of doubt about the election, not only in 2020, but also in 2016,” he said.
Pence has been very thorough in his explanation of the events leading up to the January 6th attack on the Capitol and in his subsequent conversations with Trump, and has not deviated from that explanation.
Since he disclosed these stories, Pence’s comments have been consistent in his book, at a CNN town hall and in interviews with other news networks in recent days.
He explained what he meant. Among the key issues: Trump heard from the wrong attorneys until Jan. 6; he was “angry” watching the attack on the Capitol; that he left Trump with a commitment to continue to pray for him; and the two no longer speak.
But it’s clear where Pence isn’t going: He says his faith dictates forgiveness and doesn’t show his simmering resentment toward Trump. He doesn’t blame Republicans for inciting the party base with misinformation about election fraud. It does not legitimize the work of the House Committee investigating the events of that day.
Pence’s slow, measured delivery of a coherent message is a hallmark of his self-styled “Rush Limbaugh,” a conservative radio host in Indiana.
It’s an attitude he’s held steady throughout his political career, including 12 years in the House and four years as governor of Indiana. Pence repeats virtually the same message over and over again – line after line, paragraph after paragraph – even when the message doesn’t directly answer the question at hand.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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