Pence, Trump tensions rise, raising questions about a break
Mike Pence will be in the spotlight on Friday afternoon when the former vice president is expected to address ex-President Trump’s most recent attacks on his handling of the 2020 election.
It’s unclear exactly how far Pence will go, but tensions between Pence and Trump are on the rise as the 2024 campaign season edges closer and both men flirt with the possibility of running for the nation’s highest office.
A preview of the Federalist Society event in Florida says that Pence “will deliver remarks about constitutional principles and the rule of law,” but aides said Trump’s comments about overturning the election will likely come up.
Pence was the consummate loyalist to Trump as vice president, but the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot has emerged as something of a breaking point as he charts his own path into 2024 and beyond.
Trump turned his fire on Pence in a pair of statements this week, first declaring the former vice president should have unilaterally overturned the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and later suggesting the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 riot should be probing why Pence did not reject the results.
In a statement Sunday evening, Trump hammered Pence’s handling of that process in January of last year, shortly after President Biden’s 2020 victory, lamenting that his former vice president “could have overturned the Election” but opted not to.
In a subsequent statement issued Tuesday, Trump complained that the House panel should instead focus its efforts, in part, on “why Mike Pence did not send back the votes for recertification or approval, in that it has now been shown that he clearly had the right to do so!” he added.”
Pence has previously acknowledged he and Trump may “never see eye-to-eye” on the events of that day, and he has expressed pride in Congress finishing the certification process after the riot.
The former president’s ire comes at a time when Pence and his team are moving farther away from Trump and positioning themselves for a possible 2024 run.
Multiple former Pence aides have cooperated with the House committee investigating Jan. 6, a point that certainly isn’t lost on the former president, who puts out statements on a near-daily basis hammering the select committee.
Those contacts have almost certainly contributed to animosity and tensions between those in the Pence and Trump camps.
Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff, sat down with the committee late last month for an interview. Greg Jacob, who served as general counsel to Pence, spoke with the committee days later.
Both were top aides for Pence during his time in the White House and could provide critical information about what was happening in the vice president’s orbit in the days leading up to Jan. 6, 2021.
“Trump should be worried. Out of any of these people from the Mike Pence team, Greg Jacob’s integrity is unwavering,” tweeted Olivia Troye, a former Pence homeland security aide who has since become an outspoken Trump critic. “He was never one to do Trump’s bidding & he’s always known what’s at stake for our country.”
Trump has gone after Pence before, including the day of the Jan. 6 riot as the then-vice president was being escorted to safety and a mob was running through the building. In an interview with ABC’s Jon Karl last year, he downplayed rioters calling for Pence to be hanged.
His attention returned to Pence this week as the Jan. 6 panel continues its probe and as a group of senators discuss reforms that would prevent a vice president from single-handedly rejecting electoral results in the future.
The tensions between team Trump and team Pence over Jan. 6 underscore the degree to which the Capitol riot has turned into a defining issue for Republicans, including those who might be seeking the 2024 presidential nomination.
Pence is widely seen as positioning himself for a potential run, holding events in early primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina since leaving office. He has sought to blend the accomplishments of the Trump administration with his own spin on conservatism, suggesting Republicans should be putting forward a positive agenda for voters to get behind.
But strategists widely agree his actions on Jan. 6, which Trump and many of his supporters view as a betrayal, will follow him to the campaign trail should he run and could be his undoing in the long run.
“He has to appeal to the Trump wing of the party because they’re rabid and without them he can’t proceed forward, but they won’t think he’s loyal,” a former Trump administration official said. “But he also has to appeal to another larger segment of the Republican Party that kind of wants to move beyond Trump and move to a different phase. Trying to bridge both sides of that divide can end up tanking a person’s chances.”
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.