Pence says history will hold Trump ‘accountable’ for Jan. 6, rebukes him for endangering his family

WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Mike Pence delivered his sharpest criticism yet of Donald Trump Saturday, saying the former president put Pence’s family in danger and that history will hold him “accountable” over the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.

“President Trump was wrong,” Pence said in a speech at the annual Gridiron dinner, a gathering of senior Washington journalists and dignitaries. “I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”

Pence’s words came as Trump is facing investigations  in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. over Jan. 6.

A Justice Department special counsel has subpoenaed Pence to talk about Trump’s Jan. 6 actions. The former vice president’s lawyers are seeking to quash the subpoena, saying prosecutors lack the legal authority to ask him about private conversations with a sitting president.

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Pence excoriated the former president while serving as the Republican speaker at the Gridiron, an organization of journalists that sponsors an annual white-tie dinner featuring jokes, skits, and parody about members of both parties.

The first half of Pence’s speech was lighthearted as he told jokes about himself, President Joe Biden, the Democrats – and Trump, citing the time he invited him to a Bible study.

“He really liked the passages about the smiting and perishing of thine enemies,” Pence said. “As he put it, ‘ya know Mike, There’s some really good stuff in here.’”

Former Vice President Mike Pence pauses while speaking at a Coolidge and the American Project luncheon in the Madison Building of the Library of Congress, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, in Washington.

Pence turned serious as he began to talk about the attack on the U.S. Capitol on the day of special session of Congress to formally count electoral votes from the 2020 presidential election. As vice president, Pence had a ceremonial role presiding over the session and his family members had joined him at the Capitol that day.

Trump sought to pressure Pence to help him overturn the election, asking the then-vice president to throw out electoral votes from states that Biden won. Pence refused, infuriating Trump, who criticized Pence at a rally on the Ellipse. Angry Trump supporters then stormed the Capitol, smashing their way into the building wielding flagpoles and other weapons as they chanted ‘hang Mike Pence.’

Pence said, then and now, that he had no authority to meddle in the election result.

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Citing recent attempts by Trump and some supporters to downplay the insurrection, Pence said: “Make no mistake about it, what happened that day was a disgrace. And it mocks decency to portray it any other way.”