A Day After a Portrait of Pence in Danger, Trump Attacks Him Again


A day after the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault illustrated the serious danger that rioters posed to Mike Pence, former President Donald J. Trump unleashed a new attack on the man who had served him as vice president, criticizing him for refusing to interfere with the Electoral College certification of the 2020 presidential contest.

Speaking on Friday afternoon before a faith-based group, Mr. Trump said that “Mike did not have the courage to act” in trying to unilaterally reject the Electoral College votes that were being cast for Joseph R. Biden Jr.

On Thursday, the House panel demonstrated that Mr. Trump and his advisers were told repeatedly that Mr. Pence had no power to block the certification and that doing so would violate the law, but pressed him to try anyway.

The committee also used witnesses to dismantle and debunk Mr. Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud — arguments that he repeated in his keynote speech on Friday at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Nashville.

Mr. Trump has grown angry watching the hearings, knowing that he lacks a bully pulpit from which to respond, according to his advisers. He used much of his Friday address to repeat his false election claims and to denigrate Mr. Pence.

Most striking was the context for the attack on Mr. Pence, whose presence on the presidential ticket in 2016 was critical to reassuring evangelical voters that Mr. Trump, a thrice-married New York real estate developer whose first divorce was tabloid fodder for months and who had supported abortion rights, had become sufficiently conservative on social issues.

Mr. Pence, who often talks about his religious faith, is a favorite among the kind of voters attending the conference. But that did not stop Mr. Trump from denouncing him from the stage on Friday.

After repeating claims about election fraud that have been widely debunked, including by his former attorney general, William P. Barr, Mr. Trump turned his sights on Mr. Pence.

First, he insisted that he had not called Mr. Pence a “wimp” in a phone call 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 for the call and later told her chief of staff that Mr. Trump had effectively called Mr. Pence a coward, using a vulgarity. Then, Mr. Trump went on to describe Mr. Pence as weak.

“Mike Pence had a chance to be great. He had a chance to be, frankly, historic,” the former president said. “But just like Bill Barr and the rest of these weak people,” he said, Mr. Pence “did not have the courage to act.” The comment was met with applause.

Mr. Trump continued to mock Mr. Pence, whose aides testified that he had told Mr. Trump repeatedly that he did not have the power to dismiss Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory or declare a 10-day recess in the congressional session to send the votes back to states to be re-examined.

“Mike Pence had absolutely no choice but to be a human conveyor belt,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump also mischaracterized the 1801 certification of Thomas Jefferson’s presidential victory — a process that Jefferson, then the vice president, oversaw — to argue that Mr. Pence should have used that model to keep Mr. Trump in office.

“I said to Mike, ‘If you do this, you can be Thomas Jefferson,’” Mr. Trump said. “And then after it all went down, 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 happened. Mr. Short did not comment more broadly 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 appeared to be referring indirectly to testimony by his daughter Ivanka, whose remarks have been used against her father in two hearings.

Speaking of the mob 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.”



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