Pence: There's no room in GOP for "apologists for Putin"
“There is no room in this party for apologists" for Russian President Vladimir Putin former Vice President Mike Pence plans to tell top Republican donors during a speech in New Orleans on Friday.
Why it matters: The excerpted remarks appear to be the most forceful separation yet between the former vice president and his ex-boss, Donald Trump.
- He does not mention Trump by name in the portions of the speech shared in advance.
On Russia: “To those who argue that NATO expansion is somehow responsible for the Russian invasion of Ukraine: Ask yourself, where would our friends in Eastern Europe be today if they were not in NATO?" the vice president will tell the GOP donors during his speech.
- Trump was a vocal critical of the trans-Atlantic alliance during his presidency, at one point calling it "obsolete" and lobbing frequent attacks at other member states.
- The former president called Putin "very savvy" last month after the Russian leader recognized two breakaway "republics" in eastern Ukraine as independent. Western leaders denounced the declaration as a violation of international law and Ukrainian sovereignty.
- "There is only room for champions of freedom," Pence will say in his speech.
- Former national security adviser John Bolton said in an interview earlier this week that Trump made it "that much easier" for Putin to invade Ukraine by spreading conspiracy theories during the 2020 elections about the Democratic National Committee servers and Hunter Biden profiting in Ukraine.
On 2020: "Elections are about the future," Pence will say in a not so subtle repudiation of Trump and his supporters' ongoing focus on 2020. "My fellow Republicans, we can only win if we are united around an optimistic vision for the future based on our highest values."
- "We cannot win by fighting yesterday’s battles, or by relitigating the past," the vice president will add.
Big picture: The speech won't just be a rebuke of some of the professed beliefs or actions of the Trump-wing of the party, the vice president will also hit on popular GOP policy priorities, including "restoring the sanctity of life to the center of American law" and defending against "woke culture" — red meat for the base.
- "In 2022 and beyond, the American People will choose more than which party controls their government. Voters will decide whether their children and grandchildren stand tall as citizens of the freest nation on earth, or whether they are forced to live in the economic, moral and spiritual poverty of socialism," Pence will say. "That is what is at stake in this election, and we can’t let them down."
Editor's note: This story is developing and has been updated throughout.