Pence Defends Accepting Votes for Biden Despite Trump Demand

Former Vice President Mike Pence gave a forceful defense of his decision to accept Electoral College votes for Joe Biden on Jan. 6, against then-President Donald Trump’s wishes, saying he didn’t have the authority under the U.S. Constitution and that he fulfilled his duty on that “tragic day.”

“The truth is, there’s almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” Pence said Thursday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California as part of a speaker series on the future of the Republican Party. “The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone.”

Trump had demanded in a fiery speech at a rally near the White House on Jan. 6 that Pence return legally certified votes for Biden back to several states to be reconsidered, based on false claims that the election had been stolen. Crowds of his supporters then marched on the U.S. Capitol, breaking into the building as both houses of Congress met for what should have been a routine validation of the Electoral College vote.

Pence presided over the completion of the certification early on Jan. 7 after his security detail had rushed him and his family to safety and improvised gallows bearing his name had been erected on Capitol Hill.

The former president has repeatedly lambasted Pence for failing to act on Jan. 6, and at the start of his June 14 speech at a Faith & Freedom Coalition event in Florida, hecklers shouted “traitor.”

Pence, a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, said in the speech at the Reagan Library that he “understands the disappointment many feel” about the 2020 election, pointing out that he lost as well.

“But you know, there’s more at stake than our party and our political fortunes in this moment,” Pence said. “If we lose faith in the Constitution, we won’t just lose elections -- we’ll lose our country.

“Now more than ever, America needs the Republican Party to be the party of the Constitution of the United States,” he added.

Pence, who was loyal to Trump during his time as vice president, has tried to find a balance between appealing to Trump supporters and defending his decision to reject the president’s demand on Jan. 6. Pence has emphasized the accomplishments of the “Trump-Pence administration” on trade, immigration and other issues.

In the speech at the Reagan Library, he criticized the agenda of Biden and Democrats as “so radical that it is taking us beyond just the designs of liberalism to an agenda of national decline, abandoning the founding principles and values that have made this country great.”

Former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan gave the first address in the series last month and called on the Republican Party to avoid getting caught up in culture wars and to move beyond Trump, saying the conservative movement won’t advance if it remains dominated by him and his acolytes.

Former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, another potential 2024 GOP candidate, is scheduled to speak on July 26. Other speakers later this year include Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, former United Nations Ambassador and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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