WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday said he was proud of his decision to approve the certification of Democrat Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential race, pushing back against fierce criticism from former President Donald Trump.
Pence was in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 when pro-Trump rioters launched a deadly assault on the building in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to stop Congress from formally accepting Biden's victory over Trump in the November presidential election.
"I will always be proud that we did our part on that tragic day to reconvene the Congress and fulfilled our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States," Pence said at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California.
Some of the rioters on Jan. 6 chanted threats including "hang Mike Pence," who had refused Trump's request that he block certification of Biden's win, an authority the vice president did not have.
The violence left five people dead. Some 500 people have now been arrested on charges of joining the assault.
"There are those in our party who believed that in my position as presiding officer over the joint session that I possess the authority to reject or return electoral votes certified by the states," Pence said. "But the Constitution provides the vice president with no such authority."
There's more at stake than our party and our political fortunes in this moment. If we lose faith in the Constitution, we won't just lose elections — we'll lose our country.
–Former Vice President Mike Pence
Pence, who went into hiding amid the melee, later attended Biden's inauguration. Trump did not attend the ceremony and has lashed out at Pence, saying that he lacked courage.
"I understand the disappointment many feel about the last election," Pence said. "But there's more at stake than our party and our political fortunes in this moment. If we lose faith in the Constitution, we won't just lose elections — we'll lose our country."
Pence's speech came as he tries to carve out a role for himself in helping Republicans get elected to Congress in 2022, and considers a possible run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
Last week in Orlando, Florida, a handful of attendees booed Pence and shouted "traitor" when he addressed a conservative Faith & Freedom Coalition conference.
Pence, in a speech in New Hampshire on June 3, called the attack on the Capitol a "dark day." He said he had spoken with Trump many times since they left office but they may never "see eye to eye" about the Jan. 6 riot.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Jason Lange and Michael Perry)
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