Former US vice-president Mike Pence gestures as he speaks during a Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada on Nov18, 2022. (PHOTO / AFP)
WASHINGTON – Former US vice-president Mike Pence said on Saturday that "history will hold Donald Trump accountable" for his role in the Jan 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, one of the most forceful rebukes he has so far offered of his one-time boss.
Pence was in the Capitol when thousands of Trump supporters breached the building in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election, which Trump lost to Joe Biden.
As the vice-president has the constitutional role of Senate president, Pence was presiding over what had always been the ceremonial task of approving the votes of the Electoral College to select the president and vice-president
As the vice-president has the constitutional role of Senate president, Pence was presiding over what had always been the ceremonial task of approving the votes of the Electoral College to select the president and vice-president.
Throughout the siege, Trump sent several tweets, one calling on Republicans to "fight" and others making false claims of voter fraud. He also criticized Pence for certifying the results.
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"President Trump was wrong," Pence told assembled journalists and their guests at the Gridiron dinner, an annual white-tie event in Washington, DC.
"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 that history will hold Donald Trump accountable."
Pence, who is considering a run for the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential election, was whisked to safety by law enforcement during the attack.
He rarely addressed Jan 6 in the months following the incident, but has since upped his criticism of the rioters and the behavior of his former boss that day.
He has sharply criticized Trump's conduct in recent media interviews, and in a memoir released in November, he accused Trump of endangering his family.
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Still, Pence's comments on Saturday were his most pointed to date.
"What happened that day was a disgrace," he 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."
A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside business hours.
Pence's relationship with Trump has been complex since the two left office, but the former vice president's comments on Saturday indicate he is willing to more forcefully distance himself from Trump as the 2024 campaign heats up.
His remarks came just days after conservative television host Tucker Carlson aired security footage of the Capitol attack, claiming that many of the rioters were "orderly."
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Carlson's depiction of Jan 6 was sharply criticized by Democrats and several high-profile Republicans in the Senate, though many other Republicans – particularly in the House of Representatives – shrugged off the episode.