As his former boss was standing before a Washington, D.C. judge pleading “not guilty” to four criminal counts of conspiracy, Mike Pence was pleading his case to New Hampshire GOP primary voters.
Pence’s pitch: “President Trump demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution. I chose the Constitution, and I always will.”
In an interview with local radio host Jack Heath, Pence declined to pre-judge the president’s case.
“I can’t say whether the government can make a criminal case,” Pence said, adding that “like every American,” Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence. However, Pence also repeatedly said Trump was “wrong” about how the electoral votes should have been handled on January 6, 2021, and the vice president’s role in it.
“I had no right to overturn the election. I had no right to reject or return votes, and the president was wrong to ask me to do it,” Pence said. “Anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be president of the United States. And anyone who asks someone else to put them over their oath to the Constitution should never be president again.”
A day earlier, Pence’s take on Trump’s action was even harsher.
“The president specifically asked me — and his gaggle of crackpot lawyers asked me — to literally reject votes, which would have resulted in the issue being turned over to the House of Representatives. And literally, chaos would have ensued.”
Polls show Pence trailing badly among GOP primary voters in the Granite State. In a recent UNH Survey Center poll, Trump had 37 percent support, with DeSantis at 23 percent and most of the rest of the field between 5 and 8 percent.
Pence was at just one percent.
A national poll released by Reuters/Ipsos the same day as Trump’s latest indictment put the former president at 47 percent among Republicans, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at 13 percent and Pence in third place at 8 percent. Asked if they would still vote for Trump even if he were convicted of a felony and placed behind bars, 28 percent of Republicans said “yes.”
During the interview, Pence acknowledged that he hadn’t hit the donor threshold to get on the stage for the August 23 primary debate but predicted he would make it.
“I’m confident we’re going to make the debate stage, [but] we’re not there yet,” Pence said. “We’ve already qualified easily by the requirements in polling and by individual donors but got a little ways to go. But I have a feeling in the days ahead; we’ll have something to announce.”
Pence pounded away on the message that the vice president plays no role in deciding if the votes cast by presidential electors are legitimate.
“President Trump was wrong in saying that I had some right to overturn the election. That was completely false,” Pence said. “He continues to repeat it. His allies and the media continue to repeat it, and I’m not going to stand for it.”
On the issue of Trump’s treatment by the DOJ, on the other hand, Pence said he’d been a longtime critic of the “weaponization” of the justice system. And, he added, he’s had personal experience.
“When I was in the Trump-Pence administration, I was targeted, investigated during the phony Russia hoax. I spent $500,000 in legal fees for two and a half years. I stood loyally by the president every way,” Pence said.
“I fought against the Democrats in Congress when they impeached the president for a phone call. I called out that absurd indictment in New York. And a year ago, I denounced the raid on the president’s home in Mar-a-Lago.
“I take no issue with the fact that we’ve seen a weaponization of the Department of Justice. And when I’m president of the United States, I promise you we’re not just going to have a new attorney general and new FBI director. I’m going to clean house on the whole seventh floor of the Justice Department.”
Pence has received few endorsements in the key First in the Nation primary state. One of them is from former state Senate Majority Leader Bob Clegg.
“It’s time we had an adult in the White House, and Mike Pence has shown from his actions on January 6th that he is an adult and a man of honor,” Clegg said.
During the interview, Heath told Pence some people believe the former VP is “too decent to be president.” He was echoing part of the indictment in which Trump is quoted calling Pence “too honest” when he refused to go along with the president’s challenge of the election.
The Pence campaign’s response? They’re now selling hats and t-shirts that read, “Too Honest.”