Pence Blames Trump And His Cronies For The Coup Attempt
On Saturday night at the annual Gridiron Dinner in DC, Mike Pence went much further in attacking Trump for the attempted coup than he ever has before, at least publicly. It was a formal, carefully-worded speech, not some off-the-cuff remarks. Expect Trump to counter-attack. As you can see in the video above, Pence said “Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. And his words that day were reckless. And they endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol. The American people deserve to know the truth of that day. They have every right to hold the president and others around him accountable. No one’s above the law… [M]ake no mistake about it, what happened that day was a disgrace, and it mocks decency to portray it in any other way. And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
Yes, that’s Mike Pence calling for Trump and his fellow coup plotters to be indicted, tried and imprisoned. He’s extremely unpopular in the MAGA-verse so he might as well go in this direction. His chance to win the Republican nomination is about as strong as Bernie Sanders’ is.
That was preceded by Pence attempting to add some humor, a tradition at the Gridiron Dinner, where TV cameras are barred. “I once invited President Trump to Bible study,” he said. “He really liked the passages about the smiting and perishing of thine enemies. As he put it, ‘Ya know Mike, There’s some really good stuff in here.’”
Politico added more context to the reporting on Pence’s speech, as the former Trump suck-up went after Tucker Carlson: “Tourists don’t injure 140 police officers by simply sightseeing. Tourists don’t break down doors to get to the Speaker of the House. Tourists don’t threaten public officials.”
In the room, the serious turn of Pence’s remarks took attendees by surprise— attendees of the white-tie affair generally have come to expect light-hearted comedy, not serious statements about issues of national importance. And many found it refreshing.
Pence has long had a reputation for fawning over Trump and acting as his “yes” man. He even made a knowing crack about this last night, joking that at their weekly lunches together, the former president liked when Pence would sing him “Wind Beneath My Wings”— specifically the phrase, “Did you ever know that you’re my hero?”
But last night, Pence signaled something important about his possible 2024 bid: a willingness to challenge Trump in a way that no other Republican presidential hopeful has.
Where many other contenders fear the tremendous sway Trump has over a core portion of the GOP base and treat the former president as if he’s Voldemort— the Harry Potter dark lord referred to as “he who shall not be named”— Pence didn’t shy away from criticizing Trump directly, by name.
It had the room buzzing all evening, and dominated conversation at the afterparty. And it invariably led to two big questions:
1. Will Pence talk like this in front of Iowa Republicans? It’s one thing for him to slam Trump like this in a room full of D.C. journalists— and, importantly, to do so at an event that was not televised or filmed, which will limit the amount of play it gets on cable news. But will he show the courage to blast Trump in front of Republican primary voters?
2. If he feels this way about Jan. 6, why challenge Special Counsel Jack Smith’s subpoena? Pence has received criticism— including from well-respected conservative legal thinker and former Judge J. Michael Luttig— for suggesting the Constitution’s “Speech and Debate” clause protects him from testifying about what happened that day. Even some Republicans think he should cooperate with the probe.
On Face The Nation yesterday, Texas Republican Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, backed Pence up, saying he “exercised moral clarity and judgment that day by doing his constitutional responsibility, authenticating the votes and counting them. He avoided a major constitutional crisis that day. As you know, I voted for certification, that is our constitutional role not to overturn state certified ballots. So I agree. I mean, look, there was a dark-dark day. And I think history will judge everyone by what they did that day… I know Kevin McCarthy has turned all the videotape over to Fox News. He has given me assurance, he's going to turn it over to the entire media, I think. I believe in the fourth estate freedom of press, and I think the American people deserve to see all the footage from that day, and all the footage is not going to be, you know, tourism at the Capitol. It's going to show a very dark, tragic day that I witnessed firsthand, that included our Capitol Police being assaulted, 140 of them injured, two pipe bombs. One Capitol police officer killed, and a protester killed. That's not that's not a good day.”