At a Thursday evening event in Simi Valley, California, former Vice President Mike Pence appeared to use his strongest language yet on the deadly U.S. Capitol riot that endangered his life and the lives of fellow lawmakers and Hill staff.
“There’s almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American President. The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone,” Pence said, reasserting that he had no authority to reject any electoral votes certified by states, as insisted by former President Donald Trump.
“I understand the disappointment many feel about the last election — I can relate,” Pence said, to some chuckles in the room. “I was on the ballot. But you know, there’s more at stake than our party and our political fortunes in this moment.”
His words emerged as a slow, but sharp, move away from how Pence has previously talked about the Capitol riot.
At his first post-vice presidency public address in late April, Pence remained silent on the events of Jan. 6, when rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence” and “Bring out Pence.”
Pence South Carolina speech: Praise for Trump, attacks on Biden, silence on Jan. 6
He spoke about the insurrection again in early June, in front of a crowd in New Hampshire, this time chalking up the ensuing tension with Trump as something where they might just never “see eye to eye.” The former vice president did call it a “dark day” in American history, but he also blamed Democrats and news media for what he called an outsized scrutiny over the day.
Former VP Mike Pence: Trump and I may never ‘see eye to eye’ on Jan. 6 Capitol attack
In another June speech, though he was not speaking about the riot, some hecklers at the Faith & Freedom coalition in Florida booed him and shouted “traitor” as he introduced himself — as he often does — as a “Christian, conservative and a Republican, in that order.”
Though Pence is trying to reassert and justify his actions to certify the results of the 2020 election, as he was expected to do by the Constitution, the day remains the only signal of distance between him and Trump.
Other than not seeing “eye to eye” on Jan. 6, Pence has continued to praise Trump and his role in the administration throughout his recent public speeches. Thursday evening, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, Pence applauded the former president for being “one of a kind” and a “disruptor.”
“President Trump taught us what Republicans can accomplish when leaders stand firm on conservative principles and don’t back down,” Pence said, touting the administration’s record on unemployment, trade deals and border security.
With the building momentum of the conservative movement, Pence says “there is no going back.”
USA TODAY contributed to this report.
Contact IndyStar reporter Rashika Jaipuriar at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @rashikajpr.