Mike Pence has lodged his harshest criticisms against Donald Trump yet, calling out the then-president for his “reckless” rhetoric on Jan. 6, 2021 as insurrectionists stormed the Capitol.
In clips of a new interview with David Muir for ABC’s World News Tonight airing in full on Monday, the former vice president spoke out about the events that led to the Capitol riots that day, including a tweet from Trump sent after Pence rejected his repeated pleas to overturn the results of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election.
“It angered me,” Pence recalled of the tweet, which was sent as members of Congress were barricaded inside the House chamber. “But I turned to my daughter who was standing nearby and said, ‘It doesn’t take courage to break the law, it takes courage to uphold the law.”
“I mean, the president’s words were reckless,” said Pence, in his first network TV interview since the insurrection. “It was clear he decided to be part of the problem.”
He went on to dodge questions about why Trump didn’t reach out during the riots. “I was at the Capitol, I wasn’t at the White House,” Pence told Muir, who asked why the president wasn’t making calls to the Pentagon Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Justice Department and the Capitol Police, as Pence had been. “I can’t account for what the president was doing that day. I was at a loading dock at the Capitol where the riot was taking place …. That’d be a good question for him.”
“The president’s words were reckless and his actions were reckless,” Pence later added. “The president’s words that day at the rally [before the riot] endangered me and my family and everyone at the Capitol building.”
Still, that didn’t stop Trump — who failed to obtain the necessary votes to win re-election — to publicly prod his former No. 2 to not certify Biden’s victory, citing baseless claims about widespread voter fraud.
Pence ultimately followed the law, saying in a letter to members of Congress, “It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”
He added that “vesting the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide presidential contests would be entirely antithetical to” American government at its core.
As he released his letter, Trump’s supporters — who had been in Washington, D.C. to see the former president speak at a “Stop the Steal” rally — breached the Capitol building, feeding on the anger and chanting about wanting to “hang” Pence. They forced the vice president and at least some of his entourage to be moved to an undisclosed location.
In the middle of it all, Trump took to his then-Twitter account to say Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”
Trump later said the chants about hanging Pence were “common sense” because “the people were very angry.”
Since leaving the White House in the shadow of the January insurrection, Pence has called Jan. 6 “a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol.”
He writes about the experience in his new memoir So Help Me God out Tuesday, explaining how the “seeds were sown” for the “tragic” day.
The former Indiana governor has made moves that suggest he might be planning a run for the presidency, saying in public appearances that he is “thinking about the future.”
Trump has also hinted that he’s planning to run for the Republican ticket in 2024, teasing an announcement on Tuesday.
The former Apprentice host still insists he won the election, criticizing his former running mate for failing to overturn the results. “Mike and I had a great relationship except for the very important factor that took place at the end,” Trump told the Examiner in his earlier interview. “I haven’t spoken to him in a long time.”