A day after the House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack illustrated the grave danger rioters posed to Mike Pence, former President Donald J. Trump unleashed another attack on the man who had served him as vice president. , criticizing him for refusing to interfere with the Electoral College’s certification of the 2020 presidential contest.
Speaking Friday afternoon to a faith-based group, Mr. Trump said “Mike did not have the courage to act” in an effort to unilaterally reject the electoral college votes cast for Joseph R. Biden Jr.
On Thursday, the House panel showed that Mr. Trump and his advisers were repeatedly told that Mr. Pence did not have the power to block the certification and that doing so would violate the law, but urged him to to try anyway.
The committee also used witnesses to disprove and disprove Trump’s false claims about widespread voter fraud — arguments he reiterated in his keynote speech Friday at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Nashville.
Mr Trump has grown angry as he watched the hearings, knowing he has no pulpit to respond, according to his advisers. He used much of his Friday speech to repeat his false election claims and denigrate Mr. Pence.
The themes of the 6 January committee hearings
Most notable was the context for the attack on Mr. Pence, whose presence on the 2016 presidential ticket was instrumental in reassuring evangelical voters that Mr. Trump, a three-time-married New York real estate developer whose first divorce was tabloid fodder for months. and those who had supported abortion rights had become sufficiently conservative on social issues.
Mr. Pence, who often talks about his religious beliefs, is a favorite among the kind of voters who attend the conference. But that didn’t stop Mr Trump from exposing him from the podium on Friday.
After repeated allegations of voter fraud that have been widely debunked, including by his former attorney general, William P. Barr, Mr. Trump set his sights on Mr. Pence.
First, he insisted that he had not called Mr. Pence a “wimp” in a telephone conversation with the vice president on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, even though Mr. Trump’s former aide, Nick Luna, had testified under penalty of perjury. about such a comment. “I don’t even know who these people are,” Mr. Trump told the crowd.
“I never called Mike Pence a wimp,” said Mr. Trump, whose daughter Ivanka was present on the call and later told her chief of staff that Mr. Trump had, in fact, called Mr. Pence a coward, using vulgarity. Mr Trump then described Mr Pence as weak.
“Mike Pence had a chance to be great. He had a chance to be, quite frankly, historic,” the former president said. “But like Bill Barr and the rest of these weak people,” he said, Mr. Pence did not have the courage to act.” The remark was greeted with applause.
Mr. Trump continued to make fun of Mr. Pence, whose aides testified that he repeatedly told Mr. Trump that he did not have the power to deny Mr Biden’s electoral college victory or a ten-day recess. in the congressional session to declare to vote back on states to be re-examined.
“Mike Pence had absolutely no choice but to be a human assembly line,” Trump said.
Mr. Trump also misrepresented the 1801 certification of Thomas Jefferson’s presidential victory — a process Jefferson, then vice president, oversaw — to claim that Mr. Pence should have used that model to help Mr. Trump. to keep in function.
“I said to Mike, ‘If you do this, you can be Thomas Jefferson,’” Mr Trump said. “And when it was all over, I looked at him one day and I said, ‘Mike, I hate to say this, but you’re not Thomas Jefferson.'”
Marc Short, Mr. Pence’s former chief of staff, said this conversation never took place. Mr. Short made no more general comment on Mr. Trump’s speech.
Mr. Trump also complained that the House committee had edited videos of his former aides’ testimony so that they were not played in full context. He seemed to indirectly refer to testimonies from his daughter Ivanka, whose comments have been used against her father in two hearings.
Speaking of the crowd that left his speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 and swarmed the Capitol, Mr. Trump remained defensive. “It was a simple protest,” he said. “It got out of hand.”