Former Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday further distanced himself from former President Trump over the January 6 attack on the capitol, saying it would have been "un-American" for the vice president to try and reject electoral votes.
Pence made the comments at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, in a speech that mainly focused on the achievements of the Trump administration and his disagreements with the Biden agenda.
But Pence touched briefly on the January 6 attack and on Trump's insistence leading up to the attack that Pence could change the outcome. Trump said in a pre-January 6 tweet that if Pence "comes through for us, we will win the Presidency." The former president wanted Pence to reject electoral votes from certain states that went for Biden.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the vice president oversees the counting of electoral votes in a joint session of Congress.
Pence did not mention Trump by name during his Thursday speech. His speech took place one week after he was heckled and called a "traitor" at a Faith and Freedom Coalition event.
"In the years ahead," Pence said, "the American people must know that our Republican Party will always keep our oath to the Constitution – even when it would be politically expedient to do otherwise, that we are the party that as the Bible says, we'll keep our oath, even when it hurts."
"... There are those in our party who believe that in my position as presiding officer over the joint session that I possess the authority to reject or return electoral votes, certified by the states. But the Constitution provides the vice president with no such authority before the joint session of Congress. And the truth is, there's almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president. The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone."
January 6, he said, "was a dark day in the history of the United States."
"Thanks to the swift action of Capitol police and law enforcement, the violence was quelled, the capitol secured," Pence said. "And we reconvened the Congress the very same day to finish the work of counting electoral votes from every state of the Union."
The Republican Party, Pence said, must be devoted to the Constitution and not to the whims of politics.
"I will always be proud that we did our part on that tragic day to reconvene the Congress and fulfilled our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States," he said. "Now I understand the disappointment many feel about the last election. I can relate; I was on the ballot. But, you know, there's more at stake than our party and our political fortunes in this moment.
"If we lose faith in the Constitution, we won't just lose elections. We'll lose our country. So now more than ever, America needs the Republican Party to be the party of the Constitution of the United States."
The 12th Amendment says of the process: "The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted; The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President." The vice president is the president of the Senate.
Photo courtesy: ©Mike Pence/Getty Images/Scott Eisen/Stringer
Video courtesy: Reagan Foundation
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.