A day after the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault illustrated the intense danger that rioters posed to Mike Pence, former President Donald J. Trump unleashed a recent attack on the person who had served him as vp, criticizing him for refusing to interfere with the Electoral College certification of the 2020 presidential contest.
Speaking on Friday afternoon before a faith-based group, Mr. Trump said that “Mike didn’t have the courage to act” in attempting to unilaterally reject the Electoral College votes that were being forged for Joseph R. Biden Jr.
On Thursday, the House panel demonstrated that Mr. Trump and his advisers were told repeatedly that Mr. Pence had no power to dam the certification and that doing so would violate the law, but pressed him to try anyway.
The committee also used witnesses to dismantle and debunk Mr. Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud — arguments that he repeated in his keynote speech on Friday on the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Nashville.
Mr. Trump has grown indignant watching the hearings, knowing that he lacks a bully pulpit from which to reply, in keeping with his advisers. He used much of his Friday address to repeat his false election claims and to denigrate Mr. Pence.
The Themes of the Jan. 6 House Committee Hearings
Most striking was the context for the attack on Mr. Pence, whose presence on the presidential ticket in 2016 was critical to reassuring evangelical voters that Mr. Trump, a thrice-married Latest York real estate developer whose first divorce was tabloid fodder for months and who had supported abortion rights, had develop into sufficiently conservative on social issues.
Mr. Pence, who often talks about his religious faith, is a favourite among the many type of voters attending the conference. But that didn’t stop Mr. Trump from denouncing him from the stage on Friday.
After repeating claims about election fraud which were widely debunked, including by his former attorney general, William P. Barr, Mr. Trump turned his sights on Mr. Pence.
First, he insisted that he had not called Mr. Pence a “wimp” in a phone call with the vp on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, though Mr. Trump’s former aide Nick Luna had testified under penalty of perjury about such a comment. “I don’t even know who these individuals are,” Mr. Trump told the group.
“I never called Mike Pence a wimp,” said Mr. Trump, whose daughter Ivanka was present for the decision and later told her chief of staff that Mr. Trump had effectively called Mr. Pence a coward, using a vulgarity. Then, Mr. Trump went on to explain Mr. Pence as weak.
“Mike Pence had a likelihood to be great. He had a likelihood to be, frankly, historic,” the previous president said. “But similar to Bill Barr and the remaining of those weak people,” he said, Mr. Pence “didn’t have the courage to act.” The comment was met with applause.
Mr. Trump continued to mock Mr. Pence, whose aides testified that he had told Mr. Trump repeatedly that he didn’t have the facility to dismiss Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory or declare a 10-day recess within the congressional session to send the votes back to states to be re-examined.
“Mike Pence had absolutely no alternative but to be a human conveyor belt,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump also mischaracterized the 1801 certification of Thomas Jefferson’s presidential victory — a process that Jefferson, then the vp, oversaw — to argue that Mr. Pence must have used that model to maintain Mr. Trump in office.
“I said to Mike, ‘Should you do that, you’ll be able to be Thomas Jefferson,’” Mr. Trump said. “After which after all of it went down, I checked out him in the future and I said, ‘Mike, I hate to say this, but you’re not Thomas Jefferson.’”
Marc Short, Mr. Pence’s former chief of staff, said this conversation never happened. Mr. Short didn’t comment more broadly on Mr. Trump’s speech.
Mr. Trump also complained that the House committee had edited videos of his former aides’ testimony in order that they weren’t played in full context. He gave the impression to be referring not directly to testimony by his daughter Ivanka, whose remarks have been used against her father in two hearings.
Speaking of the mob that left his speech on the Ellipse on Jan. 6 and swarmed the Capitol, Mr. Trump remained defensive. “It was an easy protest,” he said. “It got out of hand.”