Former Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that he was “proud” of his role in certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election on Jan. 6 after supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to prevent the Electoral College process from concluding.
Pence made the comments during an event at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, on Thursday night, giving some of his sharpest departures to date from the rhetoric of Trump, who has continued to reject the reality that he lost the popular count by more than 7 million votes and the Electoral College tally by 306 to 232.
“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 as part of a series of talks featuring prominent Republicans, according to the Los Angeles Times. “The truth is, there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”
His comment come amid the ongoing fallout of the Jan. 6 attack, which saw inflamed Trump supporters storm the halls of Congress, some of whom were heard chanting threats like “Hang Mike Pence.” Trump spent the weeks after his 2020 election defeat claiming, without evidence, that widespread voter fraud had cost him the election. The former president went so far as to suggest at the time of the Electoral College vote count by Congress that it would be a betrayal if Pence followed through on his duty to certify the results.
That message has continued to resonate with Trump voters, and the former vice president was heckled during an event earlier this month at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual conference as he took the stage, with some attendees calling him “traitor.”
Pence is seen as a likely contender for the Republican nomination in 2024 to challenge President Joe Biden, although Trump has strongly hinted that he’s still interested in the White House. The former president has maintained a firm hold over the GOP despite his defeat, and many of Pence’s talking points on Thursday were key features of the Trump administration.
However, Pence has distanced himself from Trump in recent weeks. Earlier this month, he said he wasn’t sure if they would ever see “eye to eye” on the events surrounding the insurrection, a rare break after the former vice president spent years as a staunch supporter of his boss.
“As I said that day, Jan. 6 was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol. But thanks to the swift action of the Capitol Police and federal law enforcement, violence was quelled,” Pence said at a Republican dinner at the time. “You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye on that day.”
On Thursday, Pence said he understood that Trump’s supporters were disappointed with the 2020 results, but he warned Republicans to stand by the nation’s institutions.
“I understand the disappointment many feel about the last election,” Pence said. “But 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.”
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