Former Vice President Mike Pence on Friday rejected former President Donald Trump’s claim that he could have “overturned” the results of the 2020 election, saying, “The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone.”
While Pence had previously resisted calling out his former boss by name, he did not hold back in a speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization, in Orlando, Florida.
“I heard this week that President Trump said I had the right to overturn the election. President Trump is wrong,” Pence said.
Trump had publicly and privately urged Pence to use his constitutionally mandated position overseeing the counting of the Electoral College votes in the Capitol on Jan. 6 to stop Joe Biden’s victory from being officially certified and either reject states’ votes or somehow send them back to be reconsidered. Pence refused, saying he did not believe he had the authority to do so.
The process was interrupted when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a bid to scuttle the certification, including some who were chanting for Pence to be killed.
Trump, meanwhile, continued attacking Pence during the riot, tweeting, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”
Pence said Friday, “There are those in our party who believe that as the presiding officer over the joint session of Congress that I possess unilateral authority to reject electoral college votes.” He said that belief was wrong.
“I had no right to change the outcome of our election. Kamala Harris will have no right to over turn the election when we beat them in 2024,” Pence said, garnering applause from the crowd.
Trump has repeatedly criticized Pence for not trying to block the certification of the presidential vote.
In a statement Sunday, Trump pointed to recent efforts in Congress to strengthen the Electoral Count Act as proof that Pence could have acted unilaterally on Jan. 6.
“Actually, what they are saying, is that Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome, and they now want to take that right away. Unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power, he could have overturned the Election!” Trump said.
In another statement Tuesday, Trump argued that the House committee probing the Jan. 6 riot “should be investigating” why Pence “did not send back the votes for recertification or approval.”
Pence’s remarks Friday were his most pointed to date.
During a speech last June at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Pence said that he was “proud” of what he did on Jan. 6 and that there’s “almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” but did not criticize Trump by name.
Pence has called Jan. 6 “a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol,” and said that while he’d spoken to Trump since, “I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye on that day.”
He repeated both the “dark day” and “un-American” comments in Friday’s remarks.
NBC News has reported that Pence has been trying to lay the groundwork for a possible 2024 bid for the White House, but has run into headwinds due to the criticism from his former boss and supporters.