Dec 4, 2022

Pence on his Jan. 6 experience, confronting Trump and how his 2024 bid would be different Transcript

Pence on his Jan. 6 experience, confronting Trump and how his 2024 bid would be different Transcript
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Pence sat down with Judy Woodruff to talk about the book, his last conversation with former President Trump, and why he supported legal challenges to the 2020 election. Read the transcript here.

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Judy (00:00):

Former Vice President Mike Pence has said he is considering running for president in 2024, but he’s been notably quiet about the events of January 6th, saving his take for his newly released book, which I spoke with him about earlier today. It’s called, So Help Me God.

Vice President Mike Pence, thank you for joining us. The book is So Help Me God and it opens with January 6th. You write about being in the Capitol. Your life was threatened, you had to hide in the basement, and you also write that a few days later you met with former President Trump and he expressed what you said was a hint of regret. Did he apologize?

Mike Pence (00:40):

Well, Judy, first, thanks for having me on News Hour and let me add my voice to all of those congratulating you on five decades of extraordinary journalism.

Judy (00:49):

Thank you.

Mike Pence (00:49):

It’s an honor to be with you. January 6th was a tragic day, but it would be some five days after those tragic events that the President asked for an opportunity to speak with me. I walked down to the Oval Office, I went into the back room where we’d spent so many hours together and really forged a close working relationship, but obviously it had not ended well. But when I walked into that back room, the President looked up at me and first expressed concern about my wife and daughter who he said he had just learned were with me throughout the day and night. January 6th and 7th. I answered to him sternly that we were fine. He asked me if I was afraid, and I told him, “No, Mr. President,” I was angry. I was angry about our differences. And I was also infuriated, Judy, at what I’d seen that day. People ran sacking the capital, and breaking glass and assaulting law enforcement officers. But in that moment, I did sense a deep remorse. I think the President was deeply regretful about what had occurred.

Judy (02:02):

You say you sensed it, but he didn’t apologize. He didn’t say, “I apologize, I’m sorry.”

Mike Pence (02:07):

Not in so many words in the-

Judy (02:09):

Should he have?

Mike Pence (02:09):

In the 90 minutes that we spent together, I sensed his regret, both in his tone and in his demeanor. We parted amicably, but in the days it followed when he returned, and the months later to the rhetoric he was using before January 6th, 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.

Judy (02:34):

To this day you argue that it was right to challenge, legally, the results of the 2020 election? Even though just to what, four days after the highly respected and cautious Associated Press called the election for Joe Biden? These challenges went through court, after court after court. But you continued to say that that challenges should happen as late as late December you were in Augusta, Georgia, you cheered a Texas lawsuit that would have thrown out four states’ results. How do you explain that?

Mike Pence (03:10):

Well, I explain that because my commitment is to the Constitution of the United States and the laws of this country, Judy. And after every election we have a process and that, is any campaign has the right to go to the courts with any allegations of irregularities or fraud. And I fully supported our campaign’s efforts in that regard and fully exhaust the legal remedies that might exist in the court-

Judy (03:33):

But even beyond the point?

Mike Pence (03:36):

No, I take your point, and I did support the objections that were filed in the Congress because the Electoral Count Act allows for that, that objections that are filed by a member of the House and a member of the Senate are to be considered before the Congress of the United States under the Electoral Count Act.

Judy (03:53):

But they have to be based on something that’s real?

Mike Pence (03:57):

The fact is that there were irregularities that took place in the election in the aftermath of the Wisconsin election, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin found that state law had been violated in two separate instances, not in a way that would change the outcome of the election-

Judy (04:12):

That law, what the Supreme-

Mike Pence (04:12):

But the state law was set aside. The same in Pennsylvania. There were irregularities. And the possibility that there would emerge evidence of fraud was always there. And remember, Judy Democrats filed objections in the last three presidential elections where Republican prevailed, including in 2016 when Donald Trump and I were elected to-

Judy (04:35):

But on those were on a very different scale. And in Pennsylvania those votes, there was a COVID related delay in getting some ballots counted, they were set aside. In Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court ruled prospectively, didn’t have anything to do with 2020. So I’m trying to understand where was the real evidence of irregularity that amounted to a serious challenge?

Mike Pence (04:59):

Well, I want to say respectfully, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court said that that unsupervised ballot boxes and early voting was against Wisconsin law. Now, there wasn’t evidence that there was fraud or abuse, but there were regularities-

Judy (05:14):

That didn’t [inaudible 00:05:14] point.

Mike Pence (05:14):

I thought Judy, quite honestly, that channeling the great concern of millions of Americans about the 2020 election into the legal processes, not just to the courts, but in the Congress of the United States, would be very useful to hear of the irregularities. And if there was any evidence of fraud, which would never come, the people would learn that as well in the Congress.

Judy (05:42):

But the concerns that you’re describing in the part of the American people had been stoked by former President Trump. Every day he was saying there were massive irregularities, there was fraud, that the election was stolen. There was no actual evidence that was the case and you didn’t speak out publicly, in the book, you write about privately saying to the president that you didn’t see evidence, but you didn’t publicly say anything. And so, do you feel you have responsibility for not doing what you might have done, frankly, to downscale this massive following that former President Trump had, leading right up to January 6th?

Mike Pence (06:20):

No, not at all. I mean, the fact is that I think the role of the vice president is to support the President, to share thoughts with the President in private. And it would be shortly after the election, maybe a week later, that I had first told the President that he ought to be prepared to accept the outcome of the election and move forward.

Judy (06:48):

But you weren’t saying that publicly.

Mike Pence (06:49):

Well, but Judy, you presume that we knew for certain that there was no fraud, there were 60 legal cases-

Judy (06:55):

There was no evidence.

Mike Pence (06:57):

Underway. Well, there was no evidence up to that point. And just as there was no evidence of fraud the three different times that Democrats brought objections before the Congress, but they had every legal right to do it, and members of Congress had every legal right, as well as the campaign to go to the courts, to the go of the Congress. And my judgment was that the way we move forward as a country is we stand on that Constitution, we stand on the laws of the country and we let the legal structures that exist to evaluate concerns about elections to go forward.

Judy (07:31):

So even as you saw the building anger on the part of hundreds of thousands, millions of President Trump’s supporters, you didn’t feel that you had a responsibility to say, “Wait a minute, there’s no there, there. That is no evidence to this point.” Whereas on the other hand, he was every day saying that there was, and I just want to say, and it was what? December 19th when he tweeted, “Come to Washington on January 6th. It will be wild.” I noticed in the book you said you thought that might not be a bad idea that people could watch the debate right on the floor of Congress, but how does, “Will be wild” square with a debate on the floor of Congress?

Mike Pence (08:18):

Well, I literally had been to dozens of Trump rallies since the campaign in 2016, and in our four years, and 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 look at any fraud evidence that ultimately did not come. But it never occurred to me, anymore than I think almost anyone else, that the violence of that day would ensue. And the tragedy that unfolded that day was something that I frankly, never imagined. It’s one of the things-

Judy (09:03):

But you had-

Mike Pence (09:04):

It’s one of the things I thought that day, as I was witnessing what was unfolding in the Capitol building, I was determined not to leave my post. But I was also angry, Judy. I mean, I had spoken in front of-

Judy (09:18):

At former President Trump?

Mike Pence (09:21):

Well, yes, but also I was angry at what I saw and the way it dishonored the millions of people who had supported our cause around the country, who I know in my heart of hearts would never have done anything like that there or anywhere else.

Judy (09:37):

And millions of them also still believe the election was stolen, thanks to what former President Trump continues to say. I want to ask you about 2024, former President Trump is-

Mike Pence (09:47):

If I may though, this question of the issue of challenging the legitimacy of elections was deeply unfortunate. The election was not stolen. The election was conducted under the Constitution, it was reviewed in the courts. But it’s important, Judy, to note, it wasn’t the first time that people were saying that the election was stolen. I mean, Hillary Clinton for essentially three years in a row after the 2016 election repeatedly said the election was stolen. We all endured two and a half years-

Judy (10:20):

She was referring to outside interference.

Mike Pence (10:22):

We endured two and a half years of an investigation accusing our campaign of colluding with a foreign power to win the election. Hakeem Jeffries, who was just elected the Democrat leader of the Congress said as recently as 2020, that history would never recognize Donald Trump as a legitimate president. So I believe it would be important on both sides of the aisle for people to recognize that our elections are conducted under the law, they’re conducted at the state level, and that we ought to be prepared, after all, appropriate legal review is done to accept the outcome of elections and move forward.

Judy (10:59):

2024, former President Trump says he’s running again. I heard that you are giving it serious consideration. How would a Pence administration, would there be substantive differences between your presidency and another Trump presidency?

Mike Pence (11:17):

As I write in So Help Me God, I became a Republican because of Ronald Reagan. I started out my young career in politics as a Democrat. But Ronald Reagan’s commitment to a strong defense, to limited government under the Constitution, to traditional values inspired me to join the Republican Revolution and I never looked back. My years in Congress and as governor and as vice president, I was about that cause and about that movement. I think Donald Trump added to that, I think he added an understanding that border security is part of national security, that China represents the greatest economic and strategic threat to the United States in the 21st century. And all of those ideas I hardily embrace. And if Karen and I feel called to step in to the national debate once again and enter the presidential race will carry all those values. But it isn’t just about the four years of the Trump-Pence administration, Judy, it’s about a conservative movement that I’ve been part of, and I write about it, for my entire adult life.

Judy (12:22):

But are you saying there would be substantive differences between what you would do as President if you were elected and what he would do?

Mike Pence (12:30):

I think there would be, and chief among them would be is we have to put our fiscal housing order. I don’t think the Trump-Pence administration did enough to reign in big government spending. Now in the midst of COVID, we spent what we needed to spend to get American families and American businesses through that worst pandemic in 100 years. But I do believe whoever is the next president, it’ll be important that we bring about the kind of reforms, and we make the kind of choices necessary to lift the burden of more than 30 trillion of debt on our children and grandchildren.

Judy (13:07):

You mention COVID, you were the head of the president’s Coronavirus Taskforce.

Mike Pence (13:11):

I was.

Judy (13:11):

The former doctor, [inaudible 00:13:14] was advising the president, Dr. Deborah Burkes testified before Congress a few months ago under oath that the White House response was chaotic, it was delayed beyond what it should have been. And in her words, and she was under oath, she said, “The administration’s response and that well over 100,000 American lives were lost because of the former President Trump. Following the advice of deeply unqualified people like Scott Atlas, rather than the experts.” You were there at the center. Is that what you saw?

Mike Pence (13:48):

I’ll always be proud of what the American people accomplished, particularly in those early difficult days of the COVID pandemic. When I was tapped to lead the White House Coronavirus Taskforce at the end of February, we literally had to reinvent testing from a standing start. We had to generate billions of medical supplies, we had to work on therapeutics, and we had the Herculean task of enlisting companies around the country to develop a safe and effective vaccine in a fraction of the time that vaccines ordinarily take. I want to say Dr. Deborah Burkes was at the very center of all of those decisions and helped to facilitate us to meet that moment, particularly in those early uncertain days.

Judy (14:35):

But it’s a very serious charge that over a 100,000 lives were lost. And masking; President Trump dismissed masking. We hardly ever saw him wearing a mask.

Mike Pence (14:46):

Let me say, I think one life loss was too many. I grieve for every family that lost a loved one in the midst of the COVID pandemic. I also grieve for the fact that the Biden administration lost more Americans with all of the tools that we did not have in their first year than we lost in our first year with COVID.

Judy (15:04):

Several other quick questions. One is a former President Trump’s meeting last weekend, Mar-a-Lago with Nick Fuentes, who’s a known to be a neo-Nazi white nationalist. You’ve said the president shouldn’t have had that meeting, that he should apologize for it. He has not apologized. If he doesn’t, is he morally qualified to be president again?

Mike Pence (15:26):

I think that’ll be a question for the American people. But President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, a holocaust denier a seat at the table, and he should apologize for having done so and he should denounce those views.

Judy (15:42):

Any president is who runs, someone who aspires to the presidency is going to be connected to his own party, and what that party is doing in Congress. Right now, the new Republicans coming into the majority in the House are talking about investigating January 6th. They’re talking about Hunter Biden, the president’s son, investigating him, would these be your priorities?

Mike Pence (16:07):

Oversight is an important role of the Congress. We have a separation of powers and Congress has every right to conduct oversight on a broad range of issues. But for my part, I’ll be encouraging Republicans, as I did last year when we published what we called a Freedom Agenda from a foundation that I created. I’m going to be encouraging Republicans to offer a program that addresses the real issues the American people are facing; inflation at a 40 year high, a crisis at our southern border, energy prices through the roof, crime in the streets. I’m someone that really believes that old proverb that, “Without a vision the people perish.” I think the Republicans in the House of Representatives and in the minority in the Senate ought to work together to articulate a vision for how we would lead this country back to the security and prosperity that we experienced in those first three years of the Trump-Pence administration. So as they do their oversight, I hope they’re leading with real solutions for the challenges facing everyday Americans.

Judy (17:08):

But do you think it’s a mistake for them to be focusing on investigations?

Mike Pence (17:12):

I think it’s all about priorities. I think they can do both, but I have every confidence that the new Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, will lead the House majority to advance policies that’ll address the real challenges that Americans are facing.

Judy (17:28):

Former Vice President Mike Pence, the book is So Help Me God, thank you very much for joining us.

Mike Pence (17:33):

Thank you, Judy. Good to be with you.

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