In a speech on Friday, former Vice President Mike Pence pushed back on his former running mate with a surprising degree of force, saying that Donald Trump was “wrong” when he said that Pence could have “overturned the election” during the electoral vote count.
“I had no right to overturn the election,” Pence said during the keynote address of a Federalist Society gathering near Orlando, Florida. “The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone, and frankly there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”
"President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election … there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president."
— Former Vice President Mike Pence in Florida today pic.twitter.com/MUbWFrduJa
— The Recount (@therecount) February 4, 2022
Pence has typically shied away from challenging Trump directly, saying only that he and Trump would never “see eye to eye” about January 6. However, tensions between the two began to spill into public earlier this week when Trump published a statement attacking a bipartisan effort to reform the Electoral Count Act, the vague law governing the the counting of electoral votes.
“Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome, and they now want to take that right away,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power, he could have overturned the Election!”
Pence had reportedly resisted as Trump and his allies attempted to pressure the vice president to throw out legitimate electoral votes during his largely ceremonial role presiding over the count on January 6, 2021. That day, Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol building—some chanting “hang Mike Pence.” Trump initially refused to tell the rioters to stand down and later suggested to an ABC News reporter that the threats to Pence were understandable because “people were very angry.”
Most of Pence’s speech Friday was devoted to criticism of the Biden administration; however, at certain points, he pushed back on the false narrative that he had the legal authority to hand the presidency to Trump and urged Republicans to “focus on the future.”
“The truth is there’s more at stake than our party or our political fortunes,” he said. “If we lose faith in the Constitution, we won’t just lose elections—we’ll lose our country.”
Pence’s remarks were even more striking given their context. Hours before he delivered his speech, the Republican National Committee overwhelmingly voted to censure Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) for participating in the select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. The resolution echoed some of Trump’s most extreme talking points on the insurrection, suggesting that those being investigated in connection with the riot or Trump’s attempts to overturn the election were “ordinary citizens” participating in “legitimate political discourse.”