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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

‘You can blame him’: Trump shifts responsibility for January 6 on Pence

Donald Trump on Monday responded to Mike Pence’s contention that history will hold him accountable for the January 6 attack on Congress, saying the deadly attack was his former vice-president’s fault.

“Had he sent the votes back to the legislatures, they wouldn’t have had a problem with January 6, so in many ways you can blame him for January 6,” Trump told reporters on a flight to Iowa for a campaign appearance.

He was referring to his attempt to have Pence, in his role as Senate president, refuse to certify election results in battleground states, on grounds of supposed electoral fraud, thereby overturning Trump’s conclusive defeat by Joe Biden.

Trump added: “Had he sent them back to Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona … I believe, number one, you would have had a different outcome. But I also believe you wouldn’t have had ‘January 6’ as we call it.”

Nine deaths have been linked to the attack on Congress, including law enforcement suicides. The riot happened after Trump told supporters to “fight like hell”. More than a thousand rioters have been arrested, hundreds charged and many convicted, some with seditious conspiracy. Others remain wanted.

Trump was impeached for inciting an insurrection but acquitted when enough Senate Republicans remained loyal. Last year, the House January 6 committee made four criminal referrals of Trump to the Department of Justice. Its investigation continues.

The January 6 committee outlined how Pence refused to go along with Trump’s plan to block certification, after advisers told him he did not have the authority to do so.

On the plane to Iowa on Monday, Trump falsely claimed again Pence “had the right” to refuse to certify results.

Pence was otherwise a doggedly loyal vice-president but he is now preparing his own presidential bid. He addressed Trump’s culpability for the riot on Saturday, in remarks to the Gridiron dinner in Washington.

“President Trump was wrong,” he said. “I had no right to overturn the election, and his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”

On January 6, some rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence” while a makeshift gallows was erected outside. Pence was spirited to safety by his Secret Service detail, whose fears amid the chaos were highlighted by the January 6 committee.

“What happened that day was a disgrace,” Pence said on Saturday, adding: “For as long as I live, I will never, ever diminish the injuries sustained, the lives lost, or the heroism of law enforcement on that tragic day.”

Pence has however resisted a subpoena for testimony in the justice department investigation.

On Monday, Norm Eisen, a former White House ethics chief, said: “Pence says he thinks history will hold Trump accountable. But Pence himself is not willing to do so. If he were, he’d quit making the baseless argument that the constitution grants him absolute immunity from testifying.”

Trump dominates polling regarding the Republican nomination. His strongest rival is the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, who has not yet declared a campaign.

Pence and the former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley are in the next tier, far behind but with the potential to split the vote, giving Trump the nomination without a majority.

On his way to Iowa, Trump told reporters: “I guess [Pence] figured that being nice is not working. But, you know, he’s out there campaigning. And he’s trying very hard. And he’s a nice man, I’ve known him, I had a very good relationship until the end.”

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