“Now, there are those in our party who believe that in my position as presiding officer over the joint session, that I possessed the authority to reject or return electoral votes certified by states,” Pence said. “But the Constitution provides the vice president with no such authority before the joint session of Congress. And the truth is, there’s almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”
Pence went on to say he “will always be proud that we did our part on that tragic day to reconvene the Congress and fulfill our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States,” while also sympathizing with “the disappointment many feel” about the election’s outcome.
“I can relate. I was on the ballot,” he said. “But, you know, there’s more at stake than our party and our political fortunes in this moment. If we lose faith in the Constitution, we won’t just lose elections. We’ll lose our country.”
Pence, who has slowly returned to political speaking engagements in recent weeks, previously broached the subject of Jan. 6 at a speech in New Hampshire earlier this month, where he similarly declined to attack Trump and asserted he was proud of the former administration’s accomplishments.
“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,” Pence said in New Hampshire. Shortly before the insurrection on Jan. 6, Trump told supporters at a fiery rally outside the White House that he hoped Pence would “do the right thing” when presiding over the joint session of Congress.
“I just spoke to Mike. I said: ‘Mike, that doesn’t take courage. What takes courage is to do nothing. That takes courage,’” Trump said at the Jan. 6 rally. “And then we’re stuck with a president who lost the election by a lot, and we have to live with that for four more years. We’re just not going to let that happen.”
As the assault on the Capitol was actively unfolding, Trump tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”
Security video of the Capitol riot released in February showed the then-vice president being whisked out of the Senate chamber, revealing just how close he came to the mob of Trump supporters — some of whom chanted “Hang Mike Pence!”
On Thursday, Pence, widely viewed as a potential 2024 Republican candidate for president, was careful to show no animosity toward Trump, even eliciting applause as he compared the former president favorably to Ronald Reagan.
“President Donald Trump is also one of a kind. He, too, disrupted the status quo. He challenged the establishment. He invigorated our movement. And he set a bold new course for America in the 21st century,” Pence said at the Reagan Library. “And now, as then, there is no going back.”