Former Vice President Mike Pence made his most blistering comments yet about former President Donald Trump’s role in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol during remarks Saturday evening at the annual Gridiron Club Dinner in Washington, DC.
Pence began his remarks at the dinner, which traditionally features politicians making jokes about notable Washington figures, with lighthearted comments about Trump, President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and several Republicans expected to run for president in 2024, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
He then took a serious tone, noting the attack on the Capitol was “one thing I haven’t joked about” and calling January 6 “a tragic day.”
Pence rebuked Trump for his role in the January 6, 2021 attack, saying he was “wrong” for claiming Pence had the authority to overturn the results of the 2020 election in his role presiding over Congress that day, saying “history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
“President Trump was wrong. 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 said.
Pence scolded those who have downplayed the people who entered the Capitol on January 6 as tourists.
“Tourists don’t injure 140 police officers by sightseeing,” Pence said. “Tourists don’t break down doors to get to the Speaker of the House or voice threats against public officials.”
Pence chastised Republicans who minimized the insurrection, days after Fox News host Tucker Carlson aired new security footage from inside the Capitol on January 6 in an attempt to defend the mob.
“Make no mistake about it, what happened that day was a disgrace, and it mocks decency to portray it in any other way,” Pence said at the dinner.
Pence also said people “have a right to know what took place” during the insurrection, days after he asked a judge to block a subpoena for his testimony to the special counsel investigating the insurrection.
“The American people have a right to know what took place at the Capitol on January 6, and I expect members of the fourth estate to continue to do their job,” Pence said at the dinner.
The comments come after attorneys for Pence filed a motion last week asking a judge to block a federal grand jury subpoena for his testimony related to January 6. Pence had publicly signaled that he planned to resist the subpoena, arguing it was “unconstitutional and unprecedented.”
Former Trump chief economic adviser Gary Cohn said Sunday he agreed with Pence’s comments about the January 6 attack.
“Look, that was a shocking day in the history of this country. We continue to be reminded about January 6, and I think we will all live with it and all live with the memories of what happened on January 6. I agree – I agree with him,” Cohn said in an interview with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on “State of the Union.”
Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas similarly told CBS News Sunday that Pence “exercised moral clarity and judgment that day by doing his constitutional responsibility” and helped avoid “a major constitutional crisis that day.”
“History will judge everyone by what they did that day,” McCaul said, noting that he voted to certify the 2020 election results.
During his remarks Saturday evening, Pence repeatedly praised the media’s coverage of the January 6 attack at the dinner, which traditionally includes members of the Washington press corps among its attendees, and said he was able to carry out his role in certifying the election “in part” because of the media’s real-time coverage of the insurrection.
“We were able to stay at our post, in part, because you stayed at your post. The American people know what happened that day because you never stopped reporting,” Pence said.
“For what you do to preserve and strengthen this great democracy, you have my heartfelt thanks and I know the thanks of a grateful nation. Thanks for what you do to preserve freedom,” Pence continued.
The former Vice President also pledged to “never, ever” downplay the violence that law enforcement officers suffered at the hands of rioters at the Capitol.
“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,” Pence said.
Pence also made jokes at the expense of the former President at the dinner, which traditionally features politicians taking the opportunity to make light of Washington figures from both parties. Pence said during one of his jokes, “I think (Trump) and I are on very good terms.”
“I mean, he’s never called me a low-energy moron. Not yet,” he continued.
He also poked fun at Trump’s various legal troubles, saying “Honestly, I learned a lot working beside Donald Trump, like about subpoenas for instance.”
This story has been updated with additional information Sunday.