Mike Pence is fighting to avoid testifying before a grand jury investigating January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. He blew off the congressional committee that looked into the matter, too. But the former vice president was willing to talk about the attack Saturday night at a white-tie dinner for politicians and journalists in Washington.
“President Trump was wrong,” Pence said at the annual Gridiron Dinner. “I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
Trump invited backers to the Capitol on January 6 as part of a bid to pressure Pence to overturn the 2020 election by rejecting President Joe Biden’s electors and allowing alternatives who would back Trump. Trump’s afternoon tweet attacking Pence for not doing so incited the crowd to attack Congress to try to stop them from certifying Biden’s win.
Pence sided against Republicans, like Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who are downplaying the significance of the attack. “What happened that day was a disgrace,” Pence said. “And it mocks decency to portray it any other way. For as long as I live, I will never, ever diminish the injuries sustained, the lives lost, or the heroism of law enforcement on that tragic day.”
For two years, Pence—famous for toeing the president’s erratic line during the Trump administration—has tried to distance himself from the coup attempt that he correctly, if belatedly, resisted on the day, while also not making Trump fans too mad. The former vice president wants to be anti-coup, but not so much that he alienates the pro-coup crowd. Pence’s maybe impossible effort to thread that needle is obviously self-serving. He’s trying to find a lane for a 2024 presidential bid.
But if he really wanted to stand up against Trump’s actions on January 6, there are tons of people to talk to outside the Gridiron Club. Pence, remember, was personally pressured by Trump to refuse to certify the 2020 results. According to the January 6 committee and a federal judge, Trump’s effort to stop Congress from doing its job was a crime. Pence was the only witness to much of this. But he has refused to detail those interactions for the January 6 committee, claiming a legislative panel has “no right” to his testimony. Pence is fighting a subpoena from prosecutors working under working Special Counsel Jack Smith, by asserting the vice president’s limited role as senate president made him a legislator. “The executive branch cannot summon officials in the legislative branch into a court in any other place,” Pence says.
History will judge Trump. But if Pence really wants the guy who endangered his family to face accountability in the nearer term, he has an easy way to do that. Want to honor law enforcement? Go talk to them.