Former Vice President Mike Pence spoke about his role during the Capitol riot, backed election reforms, and argued on behalf of Ukraine in a sometimes contentious interview Friday with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
The former vice president, Indiana governor, and congressman sat down with Carlson in Des Moines, Iowa, during the Family Leadership Summit, where he and other Republican presidential candidates gathered Friday. The event has a strong Christian and religious focus on traditional values.
Pence, 64, announced in June that he is running for the Republican presidential nomination in the primary elections.
Carlson asked Pence what he thought of the events that took place at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as the vice president presided over certification of the Electoral College results, and whether he thought it was an “insurrection.”
“All I know for sure, having lived through it at the Capitol, is that it was a tragic day,” Pence said. “I’ve never used the word insurrection, Tucker, over the last two years. It was a riot that took place at the Capitol that day.”
‘Endangered’ on Jan. 6
Pence said he believes that then-President Donald Trump’s words during a rally earlier in the day were “reckless.”
“Whatever his intentions were in the moment, they endangered me, my family, and everyone in the Capitol that day,” Pence told Carlson.
After saying he was against the violence that took place Jan. 6, 2021, Carlson pressed Pence on why concerns that led to protests following Joe Biden’s election victory over Trump the previous Nov. 3 haven’t been addressed.
Carlson pointed specifically to the integrity of the election process.
“Why is nobody trying to reassure the public that the mechanics of voting are legit?” Carlson asked.
Pence answered that “there were irregularities in the 2020 election, there’s no question.”
The former vice president said there were “about a half dozen states that changed the rules in their elections, in the name of COVID, and that undermined public confidence in the outcome of our elections.”
Ultimately, the situation brought on a series of lawsuits and recounts in some states, Pence said, but “didn’t change the outcome of the election in any way.”
Pence concluded that “my duty was clear that day,” referring to his decision during a joint session of Congress to affirm that Biden won the election in both the Electoral College and the popular vote.
“I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone,” Pence said. “And [Vice President] Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.”
Pence said again that the House select committee that investigated the events of Jan. 6, 2021, was a “partisan committee.” He said that its seven Democrats and two Republicans spent so much time trying to blame Trump for the riot that they mostly skipped “focusing on the law enforcement failures that happened that day and the intelligence failures that happened that day.”
Carlson probed for specifics about what Pence would do to improve the integrity of America’s elections.
He asked whether a country that uses electronic voting machines can hold trustworthy elections, given concerns that votes potentially could be manipulated.
“I believe we can, but I welcome the fact that since 2020, Republican-led states around the country have enacted election integrity reforms,” Pence said. “I’m someone that believes, and Indiana was the first state to do this … that you ought to have a picture ID when you go into vote. We ought to have voter ID in every state.”
In the past, Pence also has voiced support for other election reforms.
Carlson later asked if the nation should just get rid of electronic voting machines.
“I would certainly be open to that,” Pence responded.
Religious Liberty and Russia-Ukraine War
Carlson later turned to foreign policy, specifically the Russia-Ukraine war, which has seen serious U.S. involvement in providing weapons, equipment, and other aid.
Pence recently traveled to Ukraine, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other leaders.
Carlson began by asking Pence about the Ukrainian government’s treatment of Christians:
I’m wondering if during that meeting, as a prominent Christian leader, which you are, in addition to your political views, you broached the question of his treatment, of [Zelenskyy’s] treatment of Christians in Ukraine.
The Zelenskyy government has raided convents, arrested priests, has effectively banned a denomination, a Christian denomination—the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—within Ukraine, has persecuted Christians. And I’m wondering if you raised that with him.
Pence replied that he did raise the issue with Zelenskyy as well as the leader of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
The latter, the former vice president said, assured him that Zelenskyy was respecting religious liberty, “even while recognizing that there were very small elements of the Russian Orthodox Church that were being utilized for the purpose of advancing the Russian cause in Ukraine and that they were taking steps to hold them to account.”
Carlson noted that some Orthodox clergy have been arrested in Ukraine.
“You can’t arrest clergy for having different views, period,” Carlson said. “Because if you do, you violate religious liberty.”
Pence replied that he wouldn’t “stand for it” if Ukrainians are being persecuted for their religious beliefs.
American Interest in Ukraine
Carlson and Pence finished their conversation with a discussion about U.S. interests in Ukraine and the justification for American support after Russia invaded in February 2022.
Pence said that the U.S. has an interest in the war because if the Russian military overruns Ukraine, it will soon invade the borders of nearby NATO countries that American armed forces will have to defend.
He mentioned that his son is a fighter pilot.
“I’ll tell you what, I never want to see American armed forces in Ukraine,” Pence said. “I want to give the Ukrainian military what they need to fight and repel the Russian invasion.”
Pence followed up by saying that he doesn’t believe the Biden administration has done a good job in supporting Ukraine in its war effort. While Pence was making these remarks, Carlson interjected.
“You are distressed that the Ukrainians don’t have enough American tanks?” he asked. “Every city in the United States has become much worse over the past three years … and yet your concern is that the Ukrainians, a country that most people can’t find on a map, don’t have enough tanks. I think it’s a fair question to ask: Where’s the concern for the United States in that?”
“That’s not my concern,” Pence answered. “I’m running for president of the United States because I think this country is in a lot of trouble.”
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