Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence delivered his strongest rebuke to his former boss Donald Trump yet on Saturday, saying history will hold him accountable for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the United States Capitol.
Pence was in the Capitol when thousands of Trump supporters stormed the building, attempting to prevent Congress from certifying the results of Trump’s 2020 presidential election loss to Joe Biden.
Pence was presiding over what had always been the ceremonial task of approving the votes of the Electoral College to select the president and vice president, as the vice president has the constitutional role of Senate president.
Throughout the siege, Trump issued several tweets, one of which urged Republicans to “fight” and others of which made false claims about voter fraud. He also chastised Pence for approving the results.
“President Trump was wrong,” Pence told journalists and their guests at the Gridiron dinner, a white-tie event held annually in Washington, D.C.
“I had no right to overturn the election, and his reckless words put my family and everyone else at the Capitol that day in danger, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
During the attack, Pence, who is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, was whisked to safety by law enforcement.
He rarely addressed Jan. 6 in the months following the incident but has since upped his criticism of the rioters and the behavior of his former boss that day.
He has sharply criticized Trump’s conduct in recent media interviews, and in a memoir released in November, he accused Trump of endangering his family.
Still, Pence’s comments on Saturday were his most pointed to date.
“What happened that day was a disgrace,” he said. “And it mocks decency to portray it any other way. For as long as I live, I will never, ever diminish the injuries sustained, the lives lost, or the heroism of law enforcement on that tragic day.”
A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside business hours.
Pence’s relationship with Trump has been complex since the two left office. He had criticized the former president’s behavior but refrained from the most stinging rebukes of Trump. He also declined to cooperate with the House of Representatives committee investigating the Capitol attack, describing the work done by the mainly Democratic body as partisan.
The former vice president’s comments on Saturday indicate he is willing to more forcefully distance himself from Trump as the 2024 campaign heats up – even if that means alienating the millions of Republican voters still loyal to the former president.
His remarks came just days after conservative television host Tucker Carlson aired security footage of the Capitol attack, claiming that many of the rioters were “orderly.”
Carlson’s depiction of Jan. 6 was sharply criticized by Democrats and several high-profile Republicans in the Senate, though many other Republicans – particularly in the House – shrugged off the episode.