INDIANAPOLIS — Former vice president and former Indiana Governor Mike Pence didn’t mince words Wednesday when asked about the recent four-count indictment against former president Donald Trump.
Right now, both Trump and Pence are running for the Republican Party’s nomination for president.
Looking through the 45-page indictment, “vice president” or more directly “Mike Pence” is mentioned more than 100 times.
Laura Wilson, a political science professor at UIndy, discussed what the indictment and Pence’s testimony mean for Pence’s political future.
Wilson says how Pence defines his relationship or lack thereof with Trump will be key in determining if Pence has any chance of winning the republication nomination.
“On that day, President Trump asked me to put him over the constitution. But I chose the constitution, and I always will,” said Pence from the fairgrounds Wednesday. “I really do believe that anyone who puts themself over the constitution should never be president of the United States. Anyone who asks someone else to put themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States again. I’ve been very forthright about this issue, and I’ll continue to be.”
The former president is accused of pressuring Pence to “reject electoral votes” numerous times before the insurrection.
“And the first time I heard in early December somebody suggest that as vice-president, I might be able to decide which votes to reject and which to accept, I knew that it was false,” said Pence.
The indictment also states when Pence refused to overturn the results, Trump berated him and called Pence “too honest.”
Wednesday, Pence repeatedly defended his actions while citing the Constitution.
“But sadly, the president was surrounded by a group of crackpot lawyers that kept telling him what his itching ears wanted to hear. And while I made my case to him of what I understood my oath to the Constitution to require the president, ultimately, continued to demand that I choose him over the Constitution,” said Pence. “For my part, I want the people to know that I had no right to overturn the election and what the president maintained that day and frankly has said over and over again over the last two and half years, is completely false,” said Pence.
Wilson says Pence’s outspoken tone is a defining moment when it comes to Pence clearly distancing himself from Trump.
“I think it’s tricky. The strategy here you have to be balancing, of course, he was tied to Donald Trump. But he probably distanced himself from supporters on January 6th for what he did. So you wouldn’t necessarily expect to get their support now if you’re Mike Pence. And at the same time, recognizing Mike Pence certainly serves especially that conservative Christian coalition group of voters, ” said Wilson.
“They’re not going to be enough to win the primary or even the general. So he has to be able to think what’s going to be most successful for him to get the nomination,” she added. “He’s going to have to still court some of those Trump supporters which are a majority of the Republican party right now.”
Wilson said how Pence aligns or chooses not to align himself with Trump could make all the difference with voters.
“I think for Mike Pence it’s a real struggle of soul in a way to be able to decide how do you feel about Donald Trump and how do you portray that and explain that to voters when on one hand he’s a very divisive and controversial candidate,” said Wilson. “And at the other hand, he’s someone you served with and served under and supported at different points. But maybe distanced yourself from the most key moment of his presidency. That’s a balance and I’m not sure how Pence will handle it or if he’s able to fully address it.”
And with Trump leading in the polls, Wilson says what Pence does next will be key in determining if he has a shot at the nomination.
“This was by far the strongest language we’ve heard from Mike Pence. He talked about the crackpot lawyers. Which isn’t typical framing or phrasing that they would typically use,” said Wilson. “I think it does reveal his attitude toward this… I’m not sure how it plays out for Mike Pence at this point. I think that is really where we have to test the strategy and see if this works, if this resonates with voters.”