Former Vice President Mike Pence in a CNN town hall on Wednesday refused to commit his support to former President Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign and left the door open to seeking the Republican nomination himself.
Speaking a day after the release of his memoir, “So Help Me God,” Pence was mostly coy when discussing his own plans while touting the Trump administration’s policy agenda.
But Pence was more direct when asked about the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol. The former vice president called it “the most difficult day of my public life.”
Pence also revealed more about his personal feelings about that day and his views on the state of American politics in the aftermath of a presidency that he said did not end well.
Here are takeaways from the town hall:
Asked about Trump’s new campaign for president, which he announced Tuesday, Pence said he believed that there would be “better choices” on the ballot in two years.
Pence left open the possibility that one of those preferable options, as he saw it, might be him.
“I’ll keep you posted,” Pence told CNN’s Jake Tapper, who moderated the event.
Moments earlier, as he grappled with the Trump question, Pence said, “I think it’s time for new leadership in this country that will bring us together around our highest ideals.”
Pressed by Tapper about his future, Pence replied, “There may be someone else in that contest I’d prefer more.”
It was, Pence said, the “most difficult day of my public life.”
“I thought it was important, as vice president, that I offer my advice and my counsel to the president confidentially. And we did,” Pence said of his role that day, when Trump and others allied with the then-president tried to convince him to launch an unconstitutional bid to block or overturn the election results.
Pence said his decision to ignore Trump’s entreaties was rooted in something deeper than their relationship.
“I had one higher loyalty, and that was to God and the Constitution. And that’s what set in motion the confrontation that would come to pass on January 6 because I had taken an oath to the Constitution of the United States,” Pence said.
Breaking with the man who selected him as a runningmate ahead of the 2016 election and elevated him to within a whisper of the Oval Office “was difficult,” Pence said.
“But I’ll always believe,” he added, “that we did our duty that day upholding the Constitution of the United States and the laws of this country and the peaceful transfer of power.”
In lamenting Republicans’ underwhelming performance in the 2022 midterms, Pence observed that candidates who talked about the future outshone those who focused more on “relitigating the past.”
“And I expect that’s going to be taken to heart by Republicans,” Pence said.
Asked why, then, he chose to campaign alongside election deniers – including GOP Senate nominees Don Bolduc in New Hampshire and Blake Masters in Arizona, both of whom lost last week – Pence said party loyalty trumped other concerns.
“I’ve often said, ‘I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican – in that order. But I am a Republican,” Pence said, “and once Republican primary voters had chosen their nominees I went out and traveled to 35 states over the last year and a half to see if we could elect a Republican majority in the House, Senate, elect Republican governors all across the country.”
Pence added that his appearance on the stump with a candidate “didn’t mean, as it hasn’t meant in the past, that I agreed with every statement or every position candidates that I’m supporting in the Republican Party have taken.”
He also tried to make a false equivalence between Trump’s lies about election fraud in 2020 and Hillary Clinton’s comments after 2016, noting that she said “Donald Trump was not a legitimate president, for years.”
“I think there’s been far too much questioning of elections, not just in 2020 but in 2016,” he said.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.