Pence, Diverging From Trump, Says He Was ‘Proud’ to Certify Election

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Former Vice President Mike Pence made his most vigorous attempt to part with his former boss Donald J. Trump on the issue of certifying the 2020 election results on Thursday evening.

Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, Mr. Pence defended the constitutional role he played in confirming the January 6 vote when a violent crowd of Trump loyalists – some shouted, “Hang Mike Pence ”- stormed the Capitol while the President did nothing to stop them for hours.

“I will always be proud that on this tragic day we did our part in convening Congress and performed our duty under the Constitution and United States law,” said Pence, noting that as Vice President he had no constitutional authority to reject or return votes submitted by the states to Congress. “The truth is, there is almost no idea more un-American than the idea that anyone could vote for the American president.”

It was the furthest thing Mr Pence, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024, has done on that day in defending his role or in distancing himself from Mr Trump, whom he ingratiated himself on during their four years in office together.

In the speeches Mr Pence has given since leaving the White House, he has gone out of his way to praise Mr Trump and his agenda and even reiterated some of the former president’s complaint-fueled messages related to the culture wars of the Connect to the country.

On Thursday evening, Mr. Pence argued that “critical racial theory,” a framework for graduate schools that has found its way into the K-12 public education, is effectively “state-sanctioned racism.”

And he spent much of his speech reciting Mr Trump’s accomplishments on many issues, including free trade, border security and relations with China. “President Trump changed the national consensus on China,” he said.

Mr. Pence also compared Mr. Trump to former President Ronald Reagan.

“He also disrupted the status quo,” said Pence. “He challenged the establishment. He enlivened our movement and set a bold new course for America. “

But so far, Mr. Pence has only been tiptoeing around how to remain the loyal soldier as he distances himself from the events of January 6th.

Speaking at the Lincoln-Reagan dinner in Manchester, NH, earlier this month, Mr. Pence admitted that he and Mr. Trump may never speak “eye to eye” about the Capitol uprising and were close to expressing an opinion on it criticize others.

On Thursday evening, he declined to say resolutely that he and Mr Trump had lost the 2020 election, a reality the former president continues to deny.

“I understand the disappointment many feel about the last election,” said Pence. “I can empathize. I was on the ballot. But at this moment more is at stake than our party or our political assets. If we lose confidence in the Constitution, we don’t just lose elections – we lose our country. “

Whether Mr Pence will manage to achieve both – to be seen as an ally and a critic of Mr Trump – remains to be seen. Polls show that a majority of Republican voters believe Mr Trump won the 2020 election and accept his unsubstantiated claims about election fraud.

Mr. Pence also tests the patience of a man who still towers above the political landscape and the Republican Party. While Mr Trump and Mr Pence have spoken to each other several times since leaving office, Mr Trump has flashed frustrated at his former loyal number 2.

In private and at a fundraising event for the Republican National Committee in Mar-a-Lago, Mr Trump’s Florida resort, shortly after a book deal was announced for Mr Pence, the former President mocked Mr Pence for serving on President Biden’s electoral college Sieg had certified, according to the people familiar with the discussions, as well as a detailed description of the statements made in the evening.