“Now there are those in our party who believe that in my position as chairman of the joint session, I have the authority to reject or return state-approved votes,” said Pence. “But the Constitution does not give the Vice President such power before the joint session of Congress. And the truth is, there is hardly an idea more un-American than the idea that anyone could vote for the American president. “
Pence said he would “always be proud that we did our part in calling Congress back on this tragic day,” while sympathizing with “the disappointment many feel” with the outcome of the election.
“I can have a say. I was on the ballot, ”he said. “But you know, at this moment there is more at stake than our party and our political assets. If we lose confidence in the Constitution, we won’t just lose elections. We will lose our country. “
Pence, who has been slowly returning to political speaking engagements in recent weeks, had raised the issue earlier this month during a speech in New Hampshire earlier this month, where he also disapproved of an attack on Trump and said he was proud of the accomplishments the former government.
“President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don’t know if we’ll ever agree that day, ”said Pence in New Hampshire. Shortly before the January 6 uprising, Trump told supporters at a fiery rally outside the White House that he hoped Pence would “do the right thing” in chairing the joint session of Congress.
“I just spoke to Mike. I said, ‘Mike, it doesn’t take courage. What takes courage is to do nothing. That takes courage, “said Trump at the rally.” And then we’re stuck with a president who has clearly lost the election, and we have to live with it for another four years. We just won’t let that happen. ”
As the attack on the Capitol actively unfolded, Trump tweeted, “Mike Pence did not have the courage to do what should be done to protect our country and our constitution.”
Security footage of the Capitol Riot, released in February, showed the then Vice President being dragged out of the Senate Chamber and how close he was to the mob of Trump supporters – some of whom chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!”
Widely seen as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024, Pence took care not to show hostility towards Trump on Thursday and even generated applause for comparing the former president favorably to Ronald Reagan.
“President Donald Trump is also unique. He too disrupted the status quo. He challenged the establishment. He enlivened our movement. And he’s got a bold new course for America in the 21st “And now, like then, there’s no going back.”
Since leaving office, Trump has been fixated on spreading his baseless claims that the election was stolen while House Republicans last month cleaned up their third-tier leader – Wyoming MP Liz Cheney – for cleaning up the rampant falsehoods of the former president had reprimanded.
Trump has repeatedly downplayed the deadly nature of the Capitol siege, saying in March that supporters rioting on his behalf were “zero threat” on Jan. 6. In fact, five people died in the wake of the violence, including a Capitol policeman. And the head of the Capitol Police Officers union has said that around 140 officers were injured in the riot.
Trump has also reportedly promoted conspiracy theory that he should be reinstated in the White House by August, and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn stepped up earlier this month to support the idea of a possible coup.
The Department of Homeland Security’s top counterterrorism official told lawmakers on Wednesday that the agency is following the discussion of reinstatement theory online among extremist communities, POLITICO reported, adding that the department’s officials are very concerned about the potential to spark a violent response.
On Thursday, House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-California, announced that she would set up a new committee to investigate pre-insurrection events at the Capitol after the Senate Republicans made a bipartisan effort to set up a bipartisan effort last month blocked by an independent commission of inquiry.