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Pence recalls decision to stay inside Capitol on Jan. 6: ‘I just wasn’t going to leave my post’

Former Vice President Mike Pence sits for an interview with the Associated Press, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) John Minchillo/AP

Pence recalls decision to stay inside Capitol on Jan. 6: ‘I just wasn’t going to leave my post’

David M. Drucker

November 21, 05:39 PM November 21, 05:39 PM

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LAS VEGAS As rioters ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, seeking to overturn the 2020 election, Mike Pence made a strategic decision to remain in the building, concluding federal authorities were more likely to respond swiftly if the vice president was in danger.

“I stayed at the Capitol because, at a very deep level, I just wasn’t going to leave my post. And, also, because I sensed it would likely facilitate a quicker response if I remained in the Capitol building,” Pence told the Washington Examiner in an interview to discuss his new memoir, So Help Me God, and his thoughts on running for president in 2024, a campaign that could pit him against his old boss, former President Donald Trump, in the Republican primary.

“I’m not talking about myself,” the former vice president emphasized. “I’m talking about the office.” In other words, Pence figured that if the person first in line for the presidency was in a hot zone, the federal government would be compelled to mobilize quickly to quell the violence. That, in turn, would allow Congress to reconvene in a joint session of the House and Senate and finish the work of certifying Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over Trump.

Under the Constitution, the vice president is the president of the Senate, and in that capacity, Pence was presiding over the certification of the Electoral College results, as submitted by the states. Pence writes extensively in So Help Me God about his experience navigating what many Trump critics refer to as an “insurrection” by the former president’s grassroots supporters.

Trump had lobbied Pence aggressively, including the morning of Jan. 6, to claim the power to reject Electoral College votes legally certified by the states to enable the president, and his vice president, to seize another four years in office. Pence refused, repeatedly, prompting Trump to say on Twitter: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution.” The former vice president conceded the tweet angered him.

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“When my assistant walked up and handed me his cellphone in the parking garage of the Senate, where we’d been evacuated, as a riot was unfolding in the Capitol building, and handed me his phone, I was angry,” Pence told the Washington Examiner.

“I really had to put that emotion out of my mind because, as I wrote in So Help Me God, ’In that moment, the president decided to be a part of the problem. We had a riot raging. People were smashing windows and ransacking offices, vandalizing the Capitol, creating mayhem that would ultimately cause injury and loss of life. I was determined to be a part of the solution.’”

Pence traveled to Las Vegas over the weekend to address the Republican Jewish Coalition. The influential group of donors and party activists was holding an annual conference and vetting potential presidential contenders. The former vice president’s decision to accept an invitation to address a gathering referred to as the unofficial kickoff of the 2024 campaign for the GOP nomination was confirmation enough that he is eyeing a White House bid.

Some prominent Republicans interested in seeking the White House used their speeches to the coalition to take shots at Trump and urge the GOP to make a course correction, noting the party’s struggles under the former president’s leadership in the last three national elections. But not Pence. He stuck to common themes — touting the accomplishments of the “Trump-Pence administration” and vowing the next Republican president would fix the problems caused by Biden.

“It almost seems that we have an administration that’s intent on weakening America at home and abroad,” Pence said during his energetic, well-received speech to a packed ballroom of about 850 people. “My fellow Republicans, I think we need to recognize that our party may well be the last line of defense for the Constitution of the United States.”

Pence spoke to the Washington Examiner on Friday as part of a media blitz to promote his new book. This comes after the former vice president spent roughly 18 months on the road, hitting 35 states, to campaign for Republicans up and down the ticket who were running for office in midterm elections. Pence is using both experiences as an extended listening tour to determine if there is enough support from voters to field a viable presidential campaign.

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Pence’s quick answer to whether he will run is to emphasize that he will sit down with his wife, former second lady Karen Pence, and their adult children over the holidays and hold a family discussion about mounting a 2024 bid. But the former vice president, who is more of a political strategist than he readily admits, also conceded that believing he has a path to victory is an important factor he is examining.

The feedback from Pence’s travels suggests to him voters are interested in moving past Trump and the politics of pugilistic populism and that his mounting a White House bid may be a worthwhile exercise.

“I’ve been out with the American people; I will tell you, I’ve received a lot of encouragement from the American people who long to get back to the policies of the Trump-Pence administration,” Pence said.

“That being said,” he added, “while I’ve consistently heard people say how much they appreciate the record and want to get back to the policies, I also sense people are looking for leadership that could unite our country around our highest ideals, that could reflect the civility and respect that the American people show each other every day.”

And what about challenging Trump, who tapped him for the 2016 ticket back when he was governor of Indiana? The former president announced his 2024 bid on Nov. 15, on the heels of the GOP’s disappointing finish in the midterm elections that has sparked a reassessment of his leadership in various corners of the party. Pence is clearly among those engaged in the reassessment.

“I’m confident we’ll have better choices than my old running mate to be our standard bearer in 2024,” Pence said. “I trust Republican primary voters to choose wisely.”

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