(AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence on Friday directly rebutted Donald Trump’s false claims that Pence somehow could have overturned the results of the 2020 election, saying that the former president was simply “wrong.”
In a speech to the conservative Federalist Society in Florida, Pence addressed Trump’s intensifying efforts this week to advance the false narrative that he could have done something to prevent Joe Biden from taking office.
“President Trump is wrong,” Pence said. “I had no right to overturn the election.”
While Pence in the past has defended his actions on Jan. 6 and said that he and Trump will likely never see “eye to eye” on what happened that day, the remarks Friday marked his most forceful rebuttal of Trump to date. And they come as Pence has been laying the groundwork for a potential run for president in 2024, which could put him in direct competition with his former boss, who has also been teasing a comeback run.
In a statement Tuesday, Trump said the committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol should instead probe “why Mike Pence did not send back the votes for recertification or approval.” And on Sunday, he blasted Pence, falsely declaring that “he could have overturned the Election!”
Vice presidents play only a ceremonial role in the the counting of Electoral College votes, and any attempt to interfere in the count would have represented a profound break from precedent and democratic norms.
Pence, in his remarks Friday, described Jan. 6, 2021, as “a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol.”
Pence was inside the building, presiding over the joint session of Congress to certify the presidential election, when a mob of Trump’s supporters violently smashed inside, assaulting police officers and hunting down lawmakers. Pence, who had released a statement earlier that day to make clear he had no authority to overturn the will of the voters, was rushed to safety as some rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence!”
Pence framed his actions that day as in line with his duty as a constitutional conservative.
“The American people must know that we will always keep our oath to the Constitution, even when it would be politically expedient to do otherwise,” he told the group Friday. He noted that, under Article II Section One of the Constitution, “elections are conducted at the state level, not by Congress” and that “the only role of Congress with respect to the Electoral College is to open and count votes submitted and certified by the states. No more, no less.”
“Frankly there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” he added. “Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election. And Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.”
Pence also acknowledged the lingering anger among many in Trump’s base. But, he said: “The truth is, there’s more at stake than our party or political fortunes. Men and women, if we lose faith in the Constitution, we won’t just lose elections — we’ll lose our country.”