Pence recounts his tense conversation with Trump after the Capitol insurrection

While former Vice President Mike Pence has affirmed his belief in the legitimacy of the 2020 election results, he stopped short on Thursday of saying he had a responsibility to publicly tamp down false claims of election fraud in the days and weeks before the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

READ MORE: Pence details Jan. 6, falling out with Trump in new memoir

Pence told PBS Newshour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff in an interview that soon after the 2020 election was called for Joe Biden, he approached former President Donald Trump to suggest that “he ought to be prepared to accept the outcome of the election and move forward.” But Pence said he saw his role then as supporting the president by sharing thoughts with him in private.

Trump’s team and his supporters filed more than 60 cases alleging voter fraud in the 2020 election, and all but one were dismissed or found to be without merit by judges. Pence defended those legal challenges, as well as what he said he had envisioned for the Jan. 6 rally. “I actually thought there might be some use in having people come and draw attention to the legal process that would take place in the Congress, that we’d have an opportunity to vent concerns about irregularities that did occur and and look at any fraud evidence that ultimately did not come,” he said.

“But it never occurred to me, any more than I think almost anyone else, that the violence of that day would ensue,” Pence said.

In discussing his new memoir, “So Help Me God,” Pence recounted his experience during the attack on the Capitol, and said he was “determined not to leave [his] post” as the riots unfolded, even though his life was threatened.

“But I was also angry,” Pence said. Woodruff asked if he meant he was angry at Trump, and Pence confirmed, adding that he “was angry at what I saw and the way it dishonored the millions of people who had supported our cause around the country.”

According to Pence, he and Trump made no effort to reach out to each other during the insurrection or in its immediate aftermath, but the former president did ask to speak with him about five days later.

During that 90-minute conversation, Trump asked about his wife, Karen Pence, and daughter, who’d both been at the Capitol on Jan. 6, Pence said. Pence said he told Trump “sternly” that his family was fine, then conveyed his anger over how the day had unfolded. He also said he sensed that Trump felt “deep remorse,” but at no time during their conversation did Trump apologize to Pence, despite the fact that some Jan. 6 rioters called Pence a traitor, brought a gallows to the Capitol and wrongfully believed, at Trump’s suggestion, that Pence had the ability to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Pence said he and Trump “parted amicably,” explaining that when Trump “returned in the months later to the rhetoric he was using before Jan. 6, once again arguing that I had the right to overturn the election, I just decided it’d be best that we went our separate ways, and we have.”

Other highlights from the interview:

  • On the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response: When asked about former COVID-19 administrator Dr. Deborah Birx’s June testimony that the administration’s pandemic response cost over 100,000 lives, Pence said he was proud of “what the American people accomplished” in the early days of the pandemic. “One life lost was too many,” Pence said, but the administration had no headstart when it came to testing, therapeutics and eventually vaccines, which ultimately were completed on a dramatically shortened timeline.
  • On Trump’s dinner with white supremacist Nick Fuentes: The question of whether Trump is morally qualified to be president after meeting with neo-Nazi Nick Fuentes is “a question for the American people,” Pence said. He added: “President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist Holocaust-denier a seat at the table, and he should apologize for having done so, and he should denounce those views.”
  • On the 2024 election: Should the former vice president run for and win the 2024 presidential election, how would his leadership differ from Trump’s? Pence said he agreed with Trump on many issues that dominated his presidency, such as immigration and China’s relationship with the U.S. However, he saw putting “our fiscal house in order” as a key difference. The Trump administration didn’t do enough to limit spending, Pence said, though he acknowledged that spending was necessary to keep the economy afloat during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.