Pence breaks with Trump: ‘I had no right to overturn the election’
Former Vice President Mike Pence on Friday sharply rebuked former President Trump for suggesting he had the ability to overturn the results of the 2020 election, calling the idea “un-American.”
“There are those in our party who believe that as the presiding officer over the joint session of Congress, I possessed unilateral authority to reject Electoral College votes. And I heard this week that President Trump said I had the right to ‘overturn the election,'” Pence said at a Federalist Society event in Florida.
“President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election,” Pence continued. “The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone. Frankly, there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”
“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 said to applause.
Pence’s remarks were his clearest break yet with his former boss, who has for more than a year claimed without evidence that the 2020 election was fraudulent. Several judges threw out allegations of voter fraud alleged by Trump-aligned attorneys.
Trump has periodically attacked Pence for certifying the Electoral College results on Jan. 6, 2021, after a mob of Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol in a bid to stop the process.
Earlier this week, Trump explicitly said Pence should have unilaterally overturned the results that declared Joe Biden president on that day. Trump later suggested a House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot should probe why Pence did not reject the election results.
The events of Jan. 6, 2021, have spurred talks among some lawmakers about strengthening the Electoral Count Act, which governs the way votes are counted and certified by Congress.
Pence’s comments on Friday came as part of a broader speech about the need for conservatives to remain true to the Constitution and reject efforts to consolidate power at the federal level.
“I understand the disappointment so many feel about the last election. I was on the ballot. But whatever the future holds, I know we did our duty that day,” Pence said.
“The truth is, there’s more at stake than our party or our political fortunes. If we lose faith in the Constitution, we won’t just lose elections — we’ll lose our country,” Pence added.
Pence repeated his criticism that the media and Democrats should not use the events of Jan. 6 to distract from the issues facing the country and the Biden administration.
Pence’s commentary about Jan. 6 and conservative principles was particularly striking given it came hours after the Republican National Committee formally censured Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) for their participation in the House committee investigating the riot and the broader attempts among some Republican leaders to downplay the events of that day.
The former vice president urged conservatives to focus on the future, citing immigration, inflation, crime and foreign policy as areas where Republicans can offer an alternative agenda to the Biden administration.
Pence is widely considered a potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate, and he has stoked speculation of a possible campaign with visits to early voting states like Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire.
But his actions to certify the election, and Friday’s criticism of Trump, are likely to complicate his path to the nomination, should he run, given the fervent support of the former president among GOP voters.
Trump late Friday responded to Pence’s comments in a lengthy statement that largely avoided direct criticism of the former vice president. Instead, Trump claimed his position was correct and Pence did have the power to reject the election outcome because of “irregularities” in the results.
“That’s why the Democrats and RINOs are working feverishly together to change the very law that Mike Pence and his unwitting advisors used on January 6 to say he had no choice,” Trump said in a statement.
“If there is fraud or large scale irregularities, it would have been appropriate to send those votes back to the legislatures to figure it out,” the former president added. “The Dems and RINOs want to take that right away. A great opportunity lost, but not forever, in the meantime our Country is going to hell!”
Updated at 10:16 p.m.