WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday sharply criticized former President Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, deepening a rift between the two men as they prepare to battle for the Republican nomination in next year’s election.
“President Trump was wrong,” Pence said at the annual white-tie dinner attended by politicians and journalists. “I had no right to cancel the elections. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone in the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable.
Pence’s remarks were the sharpest condemnation yet from the once-loyal lieutenant, who has often shied away from confronting his former boss. Trump has already announced his candidacy. Pence isn’t, but he’s laying the groundwork to run.
In the days leading up to January 6, 2021, Trump pressured Pence to overturn President Joe Biden’s election victory while he presided over the ceremonial certification of the results. Pence refused, and as rioters stormed the Capitol, some chanted that they wanted to “hang Mike Pence.”
The House committee that investigated the attack said in its final report that “the president of the United States had angered a mob that was persecuting his own vice president.”
With his remarks, Pence cemented his place in a broader debate in the Republican Party about how to view the attack. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, for example, recently provided Tucker Carlson with an archive of security camera footage from January 6, which the Fox News host used to downplay the day’s events and promote conspiracy theories.
“Make no mistake about it, what happened the other day was a disgrace,” Pence said in his remarks at the Gridiron Dinner. “And it is a mockery of decency to represent it otherwise.”
Meanwhile, Trump continued to spread lies about his election loss. He even spoke out in support of the rebels and said he would consider pardoning them if re-elected.
Gridiron Dinner speeches are usually humorous when politicians poke fun at each other, and Pence did a lot of that, too.
He joked that Trump’s ego is so fragile that he wants his vice president to sing “Wind Beneath My Wings” — one of the lines being “did you ever realize you’re my hero?” — during their weekly lunches.
He took another swipe at Trump over classified documents.
“I read that some of those classified documents that they found at Mar-a-Lago were actually stuck in the president’s Bible,” Pence said. “Which proves he has absolutely no idea they’re there.”
Even before the dinner was over, Pence faced criticism for his jokes about Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, the first openly gay cabinet member in US history.
Pence mentioned that despite travel issues plaguing Americans, Buttigieg took “maternity leave” after he and his husband adopted newborn twins.
“Pete is the only person in human history who has a child and everyone else gets postpartum depression,” Pence said. ___
Megerian reported from Wilmington, Delaware.