Former President Donald Trump’s defense attorney said that Mr. Trump only wanted his former vice president Mike Pence to pause the certification of votes during the 2020 election to allow the legal process to catch up to resolve the dispute.
“The ultimate ask of Vice President Pence was to pause the count and allow the states to weigh in,” said Trump attorney John Lauro on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program on Sunday.
When asked whether Mr. Lauro “feared” Mr. Pence being called to testify in the Jan. 6 indictment case, he replied, “The reason why Vice President Pence will be so important to the defense is the following: Number one, he agrees that John Eastman, who gave legal advice to President Trump, was an esteemed legal scholar.
“Number two, he agrees that there were election irregularities, fraud, unlawful actions at the state level, all of that will eviscerate any allegation of criminal intent on the part of President Trump. And finally, what Vice President Pence believes and believed is that these issues needed to be debated on January 6, he openly called for all of these issues to be debated and objected to in the January 6 proceeding.
“President Trump, on the other hand, believed, following the advice of John Eastman, who’s a legal scholar, that these issues needed to be debated at the state level, not the federal level. Now, of course, there was a constitutional disagreement between Vice President Pence and President Trump, but the bottom line is: never, never in our country’s history has those kinds of disagreements been prosecuted criminally. It’s unheard of.”
The rift between Mr. Trump and his former VP grows further apart as the competition for the 2024 presidential candidacy heats up, with contenders hurling stronger accusations against each other.
“WOW, it’s finally happened! Liddle’ Mike Pence, a man who was about to be ousted as [governor of] Indiana until I came along and made him [vice president], has gone to the Dark Side,” Mr. Trump said in an Aug. 6 post at Truth Social.
“I never told a newly emboldened (not based on his 2 percent poll numbers!) Pence to put me above the Constitution, or that Mike was ‘too honest.’ He’s delusional, and now he wants to show he’s a tough guy. I once read a major magazine article on Mike. It said he was not a very good person. I was surprised, but the article was right. Sad!”
In an Aug. 6 interview with CBS, Mr. Pence insisted that he did the right thing regarding the 2020 election results and claimed that the former president had asked him to override the Constitution.
“I know in my heart of hearts that on January 6, I did my duty. I kept my oath to the Constitution of the United States,” he said.
“President Trump was wrong. He was wrong, then. He’s wrong now. I had no right to overturn the election. And more and more, Americans are coming up to me every day and recognizing that.”
“For my part, I’m running for president in part because, frankly, President Trump asked me to put him over the Constitution that day. But I chose the Constitution, and I always will.”
Mr. Pence also admitted that he has “no plans to testify. But people can be confident we’ll obey the law. We’ll respond to the call of the law if it comes, and we’ll just tell the truth.”
After news of Mr. Trump’s indictment broke out, Mr. Pence suggested that Mr. Trump does not deserve to be the POTUS.
“Today’s indictment serves as an important reminder: anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be President of the United States,” Mr. Pence said in an Aug. 2 tweet.
“Our country is more important than one man. Our [C]onstitution is more important than any one man’s career.”
During a recent event in New Hampshire, Mr. Pence was criticized by a group of Trump supporters who accused him of being a “sellout” and failing to uphold the Constitution.
Pence and Trump Indictment
In the Aug. 1 indictment by Special Counsel Jack Smith, Mr. Trump is alleged to have engaged in a conspiracy to “impair, obstruct, and defeat” the federal government’s functions.
One of the accusations focuses on Mr. Trump’s attempt to enlist Mr. Pence to use his role as the Vice President to “fraudulently alter the election results” during the Jan. 6, 2021, certification proceedings.
Using “knowingly false claims of election fraud, the Defendant [Trump] and co-conspirators attempted to convince the Vice President to use the Defendant’s fraudulent electors, reject legitimate electoral votes, or send legitimate electoral votes to state legislatures for review rather than counting them,” the indictment alleges.
“When that failed, on the morning of January 6, the Defendant and co-conspirators repeated knowingly false claims of election fraud to gathered supporters, falsely told them that the Vice President had the authority to and might alter the election results, and directed them to the Capitol to obstruct the certification proceeding and exert pressure on the Vice President to take the fraudulent actions he had previously refused.”
According to the indictment, during a conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence on Jan. 1, 2021, Mr. Pence is said to have insisted there was no “constitutional basis” for him to reject the results of the 2020 elections and that it would be “improper.”
“In response, the Defendant (Trump) told the Vice President, ‘You’re too honest,” says the indictment.
The indictment uses Mr. Pence’s notes of his conversation with Mr. Trump as evidence against the former president.
On Dec. 29, 2020, “as reflected in the Vice President’s contemporaneous notes, the Defendant falsely told the Vice President that the ‘Justice Dept. [was] finding major infractions,’” claims the indictment.
Trump Versus Pence Presidential Campaign
In terms of public support for the 2024 presidential candidacy, Mr. Pence is nowhere near the former president. According to an Aug. 1 poll by Morning Consult, Mr. Trump had the support of 58 percent of potential GOP primary voters, which is more than eight times Mr. Pence’s 7 percent support.
Mr. Trump has also raised more funds from supporters. In the first six months of 2023, the Trump campaign raised more than $32 million. This is far higher than the $1.16 million raised by Mr. Pence’s campaign, which began in April.
The first Republican presidential debate is scheduled for later this month. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence have met the party’s polling requirements to take part in the debate.
However, Mr. Pence is yet to cross the 40,000 unique donor threshold condition. He had reached 30,000 individual donors as of early August.
Mr. Pence justified his shortfall by saying that other candidates had a head start, adding that he would meet the requisite criteria soon.
“We’re making incredible progress toward that goal. We’re not there yet,” Pence told CNN in a recent interview. “We will make it. I will see you at that debate stage.”
Mr. Trump has not yet clearly indicated whether he will attend the event.