Former Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday offered his most extensive comments to date on the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, calling it a “dark” and “tragic” day in history, but accused Democrats of using the events that day to divide the country.
Pence, in a speech in Hillsborough County, N.H., acknowledged he and former President Trump may never agree on what transpired that day, a nod to Trump’s defense of the rioters at the Capitol.
But Pence called for the nation to move on from the attack on the Capitol that left multiple people dead as protesters halted the certification of President Biden’s electoral victory.
“As I said that day, Jan. 6 is a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol,” Pence said. “But thanks to the swift action fo the Capitol Police and federal law enforcement, violence was quelled. The Capitol was secured. And that same day, we reconvened the Congress and did our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States,” Pence said.
“You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye on that day. But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years,” he said to applause.
“And I will not allow Democrats or their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans, or allow Democrats or their allies in the media to distract our attention from a new administration intent on dividing our country to advance their radical agenda,” Pence continued.
“My fellow, Republicans, for our country, for our future, for our children and our grandchildren, we must move forward, united.”
Pence had until Thursday mostly avoided discussing the events of Jan. 6, when he was whisked to safety as demonstrators called for him to be hanged. He and lawmakers returned to the congressional chambers to certify Biden’s victory once the Capitol had been cleared.
Trump initially defended the rioters, saying in a video: “We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace.”
The former president also continued to spread false claims about election fraud even after the riots. A Capitol Police officer died in the mayhem, and two others died in the days after.
Pence’s comments also marked a rare instance where he acknowledged differences with the former president, who he seldom broke with while in office and has avoided criticizing even as Trump has continued to attack Pence for refusing to reject Biden’s victory.
The House last month approved legislation to form a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Thirty-five GOP lawmakers joined with Democrats to pass the bill, which would have established a 10-member commission with the power to appoint members split between both parties, similar to the panel created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
But the bill failed to garner enough votes in the Senate to overcome the 60-vote legislative filibuster with a vote of 54-35. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Bill Cassidy (La.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Susan Collins (Maine) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) voted in favor of the bill.
The White House said in the aftermath of the vote that Biden remained committed to supporting an independent investigation into the attacks.