Former Vice President Mike Pence recalled his boiling anger on January 6, 2021, when then-President Trump accused him of lacking courage, calling his ex-boss’ demand that he refuse to certify 2020 election results “reckless” in a candid interview Sunday.
Pence spoke to ABC News World News Tonight anchor David Muir for an interview set to air Monday, on the eve of publication of his new book, “So Help Me God.” In the interview, excerpts of which were released early, Pence recounted his feelings on January 6, 2021 when he read a tweet from Trump saying Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”
“It angered me,” Pence said. “But I turned to my daughter, who was standing nearby, and I said, ‘It doesn’t take courage to break the law. It takes courage to uphold the law.’”
“I mean, the president’s words were reckless,” Pence continued. “It was clear he decided to be part of the problem.”
Excerpts from Pence’s book published in The Wall Street Journal include a description of Pence’s recollections of January 6. Pence related how he had lunch with Trump roughly two week after the 2020 election and told the former president that if legal challenges to the election results failed, he could launch a 2024 comeback by helping Republicans win the Senate runoffs in Georgia, the 2021 Virginia governor’s race, and the House and Senate in 2022.
“He seemed unmoved, even weary,” Pence wrote, recalling that Trump told him, “I don’t know, 2024 is so far off.”
Pence recalled an “irresponsible” ad by the Lincoln Project, a controversial group purports to be anti-Trump Republicans but now campaigns against all GOP candidates, that suggested when he presided over the joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes, he would be “putting the final nail in the coffin” of Trump’s re-election.
“It was designed to annoy the president. It worked,” Pence stated, adding that at a December cabinet meeting, “President Trump told me the ad ‘looked bad for you.’”
Pence answered that he had fully supported the legal challenges to the election and still would.
Pence said he welcomed Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley’s announcement he would co-sponsor election objections because he believed they deserved to be debated in Congress.
“On Saturday, Jan. 2, I instructed my chief of staff to issue a statement supporting the right of lawmakers to bring objections under the Electoral Count Act,” Pence noted, which he said prompted Trump to tell him, “You have gone from very unpopular to popular!” but urging him to reject electoral votes, saying, “You can be a historic figure, but if you wimp out, you’re just another somebody.”
Pence said Trump called him in late morning on January 6, and Pence told Trump he didn’t think he had the power to decide which electoral votes would count, adding that he would issue a statement to that effect to Congress.
“You’ll go down as a wimp,” Trump said, according to Pence. “If you do that, I made a big mistake five years ago! … You’re not protecting our country, you’re supposed to support and defend our country!”
“We both took an oath to support and defend the Constitution,” Pence said he reminded Trump.
Hours later, when rioters stormed the Capitol and were looking for him, Pence said he refused to leave the complex.
“You’re not hearing me, I’m not leaving!” he told his security detail. “I’m not giving those people the sight of a 16-car motorcade speeding away from the Capitol.”
On January 11, Pence wrote, he met with Trump, who asked Pence about his wife and daughter, then asked Pence, “Were you scared?”
“No,” Pence said he answered Trump. “I was angry. You and I had our differences that day, Mr. President, and seeing those people tearing up the Capitol infuriated me.”
On January 14, the men met again; Pence said Trump looked discouraged, so he told the president he would pray for him.
“Don’t bother,” Trump replied.
When Pence insisted that he would “never gonna stop praying for you,” Trump smiled, Pence recalled.
“That’s right—don’t ever change,” Trump told him.