WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence sharply criticized former President Donald Trump on Saturday for his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, widening the rift between the two men as they prepare to battle for the Republican nomination in the next election of the year.
“President Trump was wrong,” Pence said during remarks at the annual white-tie Gridiron Dinner attended by politicians and journalists. “I had no right to overturn the election. 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 harshest condemnation yet of the once-loyal lieutenant who often shied away from confrontation with his former boss. Trump has already run for office. Pence doesn’t, but he laid the groundwork for a run.
In the days leading up to January 6, 2021, Trump pressured Pence to overturn President Joe Biden’s election victory while presiding over the ceremonial certification of the results. Pence refused, and when rioters stormed the Capitol, some chanted to “hang Mike Pence.”
The House committee investigating the attack said in its final report that “the President of the United States incited a mob hunting his own Vice President.”
With his remarks, Pence cemented his place in a broader debate within the Republican Party about how the attack should be viewed. 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, what happened that day was a disgrace,” Pence said in his Gridiron Dinner remarks. “And it’s a mockery of decency to portray it any other way.”
Trump, meanwhile, has continued to spread lies about his election loss. He has even spoken out in favor of the rioters, saying he would consider pardoning them if re-elected.
Speeches at the Gridiron Dinner are usually humorous affairs, with politicians making fun of each other, and Pence was full of that.
He joked that Trump’s ego was so fragile that he wanted his vice president to sing “Wind Beneath My Wings” – one of the lines being “did you ever know you’re my hero?” – during their weekly lunches.
He shot Trump again over classified documents.
“I read that some of those secret documents they found at Mar-a-Lago were actually in the President’s Bible,” Pence said. “Which proves he had absolutely no idea they were there.”
Even before dinner was over, Pence was criticized for his jokes about Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg, the first openly gay cabinet member in US history.
Pence said that despite the travel problems plaguing Americans, Buttigieg took “maternity leave” after he and his husband adopted newborn twins.
“Pete is the only person in human history to have a child and everyone else will have postpartum depression,” Pence said. ___
Megerian reported from Wilmington, Delaware.