Feb 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Pence defends RNC's "legitimate political discourse" language

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaking at Stanford University on Feb. 17.

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaking at Stanford University on Feb. 17. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday defended a resolution adopted by the Republican National Committee earlier this month that said those involved in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection were involved in "legitimate political discourse."

Why it matters: Pence's defense of the resolution during a speech at Stanford University exemplifies the divide within the Republican Party over how to define the riot carried out by a pro-Trump mob.

  • The resolution, which has been criticized by Democrats and Republicans, specifically censured Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) for serving on the House Jan. 6 select committee, which it called a "persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse."

What they're saying: Pence, who called Jan. 6 a "tragic day," said he didn't believe the resolution was "talking about people that engaged in violence against persons or property that day" but instead "a whole range of people that have been set upon" by the House committee investigating the riot.

  • "I just don’t know too many people around the country, including my friends at the RNC, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, who have any different view than it was tragic day, that the people that ransacked the Capitol were wrong and should be held to account in the law," Pence said.
  • "And I think they made a very clear statement, after the fact, that said, ‘We were talking about what’s happening in Washington today, with the January 6th committee,'" he added. "And I believe them. They’re good people, and I believe that’s what they meant."

The big picture: Pence, who two weeks earlier said former President Trump was "wrong" to claim that he could have overturned the results of the 2020 election during the election certification, did not reiterate his direct criticism of Trump during a Q&A session after his speech but instead said he had a constitutional duty to perform that day.

  • "The Constitution was quite clear on that tragic day in January," Pence said in response to a question. "I knew what my duty was. And I kept my oath even though it hurt. And we moved the nation forward. And I don’t know if the president and I will ever see eye to eye on that. I really don’t."

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