Mike Pence, the former vice president of the United States, served a single term with President Trump from 2017–21. Despite years of total loyalty to the former president, he resisted intense pressure after the 2020 election to misuse his ceremonial role in Congress on Jan. 6, 2021 to prevent the certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory and obstruct the peaceful transition of power.
Shortly after the riot broke out at the Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump willfully poured fuel on the fire by tweeting: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.” This led the mob to erupt in angry cries of “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!” Six months later, at the June 2021 Faith & Freedom Coalition conference in Orlando, Florida, the MAGA crowd was still booing him and calling him a “traitor,” an epithet he found difficult to shake as he made his own unsuccessful bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.
Although Trump and Pence parted ways after leaving the White House, the former vice president has remained guarded about what he says publicly about his former boss. With the November 2022 release of his memoir So Help Me God—which his own PAC made a bestseller by spending $91,000 to buy up copies of the book—he refused to repudiate Trump in his effort to become the next GOP candidate for president. It wasn’t until September 2023 that he finally intensified his criticism of the ex-president but by the following month he had dropped out of the race, with Trump holding a commanding lead in the polls.
In February 2023, the Justice Department’s special counsel investigating the insurrection subpoenaed Pence. Although both he and Trump filed legal challenges to prevent his testimony, in late March 2023 a federal judge ordered him to appear before the grand jury investigating the former president’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.
Prior to his years in the White House, Pence served as governor of Indiana from 2013–17, after representing the state’s 2nd and 6th congressional districts in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001–13.
Pence is a devout evangelical Christian with a long history of opposition to abortion rights. As governor, he signed a law that mandated funerals for fetal tissue after every abortion or miscarriage in Indiana (though a federal judge blocked it from taking effect). He frequently describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order” and is credited with helping Trump build strong connections with evangelicals and right-wing Christian groups and leaders. Despite his avowed Christian values, as vice president Pence never challenged Trump or took issue with his flagrant disregard for morality. He helped Trump pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate the activities of Hunter Biden and never denounced the then-president when he repeatedly praised Russia and Putin over American intelligence agencies in their assessment of the 2016 election.
January 6, 2021
- On Dec. 21, 2020, Pence met with Trump and a group of Republican congressmen at the White House to plot a strategy to keep the president in power despite his loss to Biden.
- Prior to the Electoral College certification procedure, Trump repeatedly tried to pressure Pence—both publicly and privately—to overturn the results of the 2020 election by refusing to certify the electors, even though the vice president has no power to intervene in the matter. Trump called Pence a “p*ssy” and threatened to end their relationship. Among his many pronouncements on social media, he tweeted: “I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so” and “All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people.”
- In February 2022, Pence rebuked Trump for claiming that he had the power to overturn the election results, saying, “President Trump is wrong.… I had no right to overturn the election.” He added: “And frankly there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”
- In August 2022, eyeing a potential run for president, Pence announced that he would consider testifying before the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection, if he were invited to do so (though he also complained that the committee had “a partisan taint”). Although he said such testimony would be “unprecedented,” other presidents and vice presidents have in fact testified before Congress in the past—and in the end, he did not appear before the committee.
The Big Lie
- In 2017, Trump appointed Pence to head a commission on voter fraud despite lacking any evidence of problems on that front in the U.S. That same year, he also met with congressional Republicans in private to pledge a “full evaluation of voting rolls in the country, the overall integrity of our voting system in the wake of this past election.”
- Pence was silent and complacent while Trump and his allies waged a relentless campaign of misinformation and frivolous legal challenges against the outcome of a fair and just election. Prior to the election, he did not object to Trump speaking about dangers of mail-in balloting in April 2020 or declaring that there was no way that he would lose unless the election was “rigged.”
- On Jan. 2, 2021, Pence’s Chief of Staff Marc Short said that the vice president shares “the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud and irregularities” and that he “welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people.”
- In March 2021, Pence further pushed the Big Lie through a commentary published on the Heritage Foundation site criticizing H.R. 1, the voter protection legislation also known as the For the People Act. As he often did while in office, he “echo[ed] a lie from… Trump in a slightly more sophisticated way.” Among the disinformation Pence spread, he began the piece by alleging that the 2020 election involved “significant voting irregularities” and “numerous instances of officials setting aside state election law”—two claims that both numerous courts and media experts have repeatedly rejected as false.