Pence opens up on Trump and Jan. 6, GOP takes notice, after dismal midterms

Former Vice President Mike Pence; former President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021.
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Former Vice President Mike Pence, long written off as a viable prospective candidate within the Republican Party after the attack of Jan. 6, 2021, has recaptured the party’s attention in the wake of Tuesday’s bruising midterm results.

In an excerpt of his forthcoming memoir published in the Wall Street Journal, which ran not long after Election Day came to a close, Pence revealed a wealth of new details about his direct interactions with then-President Donald Trump in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The former vice president and potential 2024 contender unloaded at length for the first time. He wrote that in a meeting shortly after the 2020 presidential election, he counseled Trump to accept reality and prepare to run again in 2024, but that Trump sounded “weary.”

Pence went on to say he received a phone call from Trump on New Year’s Day 2021, in which Trump pressured him to sign on to a push by congressional Republicans to overturn the election results. Pence said that was not within his power.

“‘You’re too honest,’” Pence said Trump told him. “‘Hundreds of thousands are gonna hate your guts. ... People are gonna think you’re stupid.’”

He also described a Jan. 4, 2021, meeting in the White House with Trump and his lawyer John Eastman in which Pence chipped away at Eastman’s arguments that a vice president has the authority to unilaterally overthrow election results, until the lawyer "stammered" in protest, “Well, it’s never been tested in courts, so I think it is an open question.”

Seen through French windows behind a tree, Vice President Mike Pence talks to Marc Short, who is carrying a file of official papers.
Vice President Mike Pence, left, and his chief of staff, Marc Short, in the Oval Office on Jan. 4, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

When Pence motioned to Trump, he noted that the president did not seem to be paying attention as his vice president dismantled Eastman’s arguments.

Pence aides and advisers have long said that Trump's former second-in-command would never reveal any private conversations he had with Trump during their four or so years of working together. But after months of sharing little of his feelings about the Capitol attack and of Trump persistently targeting him, Pence has been gradually revealing more, in advance of the publication of his memoir next week.

On Wednesday, after the midterm elections, an excerpt of Pence’s book, "So Help Me God," was passed around between Republicans watching the fast-developing 2024 field.

The timing, according to Indiana Republicans who spoke with Yahoo News, seemed a perfect chance to capture Trump at his weakest moment and potentially to elevate Pence as a 2024 prospect at a moment when some Republicans were looking for an alternative to Trump for the GOP nomination.

In the excerpt, Pence delivered a gripping account of how, on Jan. 6, he jabbed his finger at his Secret Service detail, demanding that they not leave the Capitol and that they walk calmly to a secure location, even as rioters bore down on him and his team.

Former Vice President Mike Pence's book
Promotional material for Pence's upcoming book in the hands of an audience member as Pence speaks at the Heritage Foundation on Oct. 19. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

And for the first time, Pence also detailed Trump’s surprisingly sheepish encounter with him days after the insurrection. “I met with the president on Jan. 11. He looked tired, and his voice seemed fainter than usual,” Pence wrote. Trump asked about him and his family, he wrote, inquiring whether he had been “scared” on Jan. 6.

“No,” Pence said he replied. “I was angry. You and I had our differences that day, Mr. President, and seeing those people tearing up the Capitol infuriated me.”

The schedule for Pence’s book launch next week is already packed with plenty of chances for him to make news. He’ll sit down for an interview with ABC News anchor David Muir Monday night. On Wednesday, he'll be the subject of a CNN town hall hosted by the anchor Jake Tapper. He is also expected to attend a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition and to mingle with party megadonors on the subsequent weekend.

It could also get a boost from Trump himself, who has repeatedly teased his formal launch of a 2024 bid for the White House. The latest tease date for Trump’s launch is on Tuesday, the publication date of Pence’s book.