Former vice-president Mike Pence used a speech late on Thursday to go much further than he has before in public to rebuke Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the Republican defeat in the 2020 presidential election, while adding he will “always be proud” of playing his part to certify Joe Biden’s victory.
The US Congress, with Pence presiding in the Senate, confirmed the election result in the early hours of 7 January after the deadly insurrection the day before by extremist supporters of Trump, shortly after the then president had urged them “to fight like hell” to reverse his defeat and pressured Pence not to certify Biden’s win.
“I will always be proud that we did our part on that tragic day to reconvene the Congress and fulfilled our duty under the constitution and the laws of the United States,” Pence said in a speech in California.
He noted that the vice-president has no constitutional power to throw out a presidential result submitted to the US Congress by the states, or send the votes back to the states in rejection.
Pence contradicted “those in our party” who think that “any one person” could select the president, without mentioning Trump directly.
“The truth is, there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” he said.
He called the insurrection a “dark day in the history of the United States Capitol”, following which 500 people have been arrested in the biggest US crime investigation since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The Indiana Republican’s speech was made at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley. Pence showed he still hews to the Trump policies he loyally help craft and promote during the Trump-Pence administration. He also appeared to be laying out his path to a potential candidacy for president himself.
Trump persists in his claims that the election was “stolen” from his because of widespread fraud, despite the failure of more than 80 court challenges, and lately told an interviewer that he “never admitted defeat” and was “very disappointed that (Pence) didn’t send it back to the legislatures” in the states, effectively rejecting the result.
In his speech, Pence acknowledged his “disappointment” at November’s defeat, with Democrats Biden and Kamala Harris winning decisively.
“Now, I understand the disappointment many feel about the last election,” he said. “I can relate. I was on the ballot. But you know, there’s more at stake than our party and our political fortunes in this moment. If we lose faith in the constitution, we won’t just lose elections – we’ll lose our country,” he said.
He praised the “Trump-Pence administration’s” accomplishments in office and urged his party to take advantage of “traditional conservative priorities” as well as the “new pillars” of Trump’s populist politics. He called Trump a “one of a kind” disrupter who also “invigorated our movement” in the same way Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s.
Meanwhile, a further excerpt of the forthcoming book “Nightmare Scenario” by two Washington Post journalists claims that if Trump had become incapacitated or died of Covid-19 last fall that there were no plans in place at the White House to swear in Pence.
Under the Presidential Succession Act, Pence would have taken over as president if Trump had died.
The book has further details of how Trump was much sicker than was every officially acknowledged.
But adds: “Trump’s brush with severe illness and the prospect of death caught the White House so unprepared that they had not even briefed Mike Pence’s team on a plan to swear him in if Trump became incapacitated.”