>> A loyal vice president to Donald Trump, who took a stand on January 6th this week on "Firing Line."
He stood by Trump's side for four turbulent years.
>> I thought that loyalty and discretion were among the most important aspects of the job.
>> But on January 6th... >> If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.
>> ...the Vice President said no to the President and certified the election for Joe Biden.
>> Joseph R. Biden Jr., of the state of Delaware, has received 306 votes.
That day of tragedy ultimately became a triumph of freedom.
>> Now, with the 2024 presidential race approaching, is it his turn?
>> Ronald Reagan once said the American people have a funny way of letting you know if they want you to run for president.
>> What does Vice President Mike Pence say now?
>> "Firing Line with Margaret Hoover" is made possible in part by... And by... Corporate funding is provided by... >> Vice President Mike Pence, welcome to "Firing Line."
>> Thank you, Margaret.
Great to be here.
>> You have just published your book, "So Help Me God."
It's a reference to your faith and to the many oaths of office you have taken as a U.S. representative from the state of Indiana, as governor of Indiana, and as vice president of the United States.
And you write about one of your Democratic predecessors, Walter Mondale, who was the vice president of Jimmy Carter.
You write that Mondale had said that a vice president's job is to, quote... How did that inform your approach to the job?
>> Well, I tried to study my predecessors to understand the position.
But I also had the advantage of having had a lieutenant governor when I was governor of Indiana.
And so I had a better sense of what the person in the lead position might most appreciate from the person who was elected on the same line that they were as we are in Indiana.
It was a great honor for me to run for and serve as vice president of the United States.
And I thought that loyalty and discretion were among the most important aspects of the job.
As Vice President Mondale said, that it's the job of the -- of the vice president to share his opinion with the president, but in private.
You know, the President would often have a bullpen around the Resolute desk in the Oval Office.
And sometimes the President would turn to me and say, "What do you think?"
and I'd almost invariably say, "Let me talk to you about that later."
Because I had a great sense that it was important that, as vice president, I was standing with the president, in whatever decision that he would make, that I reflected a loyalty to the President.
And the only higher loyalty was to God and to the Constitution.
And so all throughout the administration, I sought to do that.
>> I'd like to move to the 2020 election, the transition, January 6th.
You write in your book that soon after the 2020 race was called for Joe Biden, you told Jared Kushner that you didn't believe there was enough fraud to have impacted the outcome of the election.
You still publicly supported the election challenges, the legal challenges.
>> I did.
>> And I wonder if you could explain what you saw as the best possible outcome from those challenges.
>> I shared the concern of millions of Americans about voting irregularities that did take place in a half a dozen states around the country.
>> Explain what you mean by irregularities.
>> I will.
You know, in the case of Wisconsin, a year after the election, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found that state law had been violated in two different respects with regard to drop boxes and early voting.
Now, the evidence that there was widespread fraud that affected the outcome of the election would never come.
>> But there were irregularities.
The Supreme Court of the United States sequestered thousands of votes in Pennsylvania that had been accepted after the deadline and counted.
Again, not evidence that it would have changed the outcome and not in numbers that would have changed the outcome.
But I thought it was altogether appropriate for us to be in the courts, raising challenges, bringing whatever evidence might emerge.
Members of Congress had every right to debate voting irregularities and any evidence of fraud if it were to emerge before the Congress of the United States because that's the system and the process that we have.
>> So it was about letting the process play itself out.
>> It was.
>> Do you think when you talk about those irregularities now there are people who still lean on that as an article of faith that there was fraud in the 2020 election?
>> Well, the American people are entitled to their opinions.
But, um... >> But not -- >> I don't believe that we have seen evidence of -- of the kind of widespread fraud in any state that would have changed the outcome of the election.
I mean, the simple fact is that we -- we have a process in this country, established at the Constitutional Convention, that states conduct elections.
Challenges to those elections are resolved in the courts.
States then certify elections and then send electoral votes to the Congress.
And the only role the Congress has, with the vice president as presiding officer, is to open and count the electoral votes that have been sent by the states.
We went through that process.
And January 6th was a tragic day with the rioting that ensued.
But thanks to the efforts of law enforcement that day and Republicans and Democrats in the Congress, we reconvened, finished our work, and I believe that we did our duty under the Constitution and the laws of this country and ensured the peaceful transfer of power.
>> You write about how, after the election, you privately took opportunities to try to convince the President to accept the results of the election.
Around the same time in public, you were telling supporters to stay in the fight, and on January 4th, you said, "I promise you, come this Wednesday, we will have our day in Congress."
>> You know, I know we all we all got our doubts about the last election.
And I promise you, come this Wednesday, we'll have our day in Congress.
We'll hear the objections.
We'll hear the evidence.
>> Help me understand how, privately, your communications with the President were so different than your public communications at the time.
>> You know, for 4 1/2 years, President Trump was not only my president, he was my friend.
And we developed a close relationship.
And as I said earlier, I didn't always agree with every decision the President made, but I always shared my counsel in private.
And in the aftermath of the 2020 election, I -- I did that regularly.
I made it clear what I understood about the state of legal challenges that were underway.
As you said, I encouraged the President, after all the legal challenges had played out, that if nothing changed, that he should simply accept the results of the election.
Take a bow.
And if he wanted to run again, run again.
And I'll never forget that day in the Oval Office before we left for Christmas, in which I used just those words with him.
It was just the two of us there, and he looked at me and he said, "What do you think we ought to do?"
and I said, "If nothing changes, just take a bow.
Let's go travel the country.
Let's go thank people for what we did.
Let the future take care of itself."
And I remember he pointed at me as if to say, "That's worth thinking about."
And I'll always wish he had much more deeply.
But that was the approach that I had in my relationship with the President.
And, in fact, I had hoped, all the way up until January 5th, that he would come around, particularly about my role.
I remember on the evening of January 4th, the President opened his speech that night as I watched on television, referring to me, and he said, "Our great Vice President is going to have to come through for us," or words to that effect.
But then he said, "Or if he doesn't, maybe I won't like him as much."
But then he stopped himself, Margaret, and he said to the crowd, "No.
No, one thing you know about Mike Pence is he always plays it straight."
>> You know one thing with him, you're gonna get straight shots.
He's gonna call it straight.
>> And I remember watching on television and thinking, "I think he's coming around on my roll," which to me, I'd made clear to him for many weeks that I had no right to overturn the election, that the American presidency belongs to the American people.
And the very idea that any one person would have the authority to decide what electoral votes to count and and which not to count was -- it was un-American.
And I've made that clear.
Now, with regard to my rhetoric, I will tell you that I fully supported the election challenges in the court.
And what I wanted to assure voters was that they needed to stay in the fight for election integrity, not just through January 6th, but going forward, and I'm very pleased that in the last two years, many Republican-led states around the country have passed common-sense election-integrity reforms that have bolstered the confidence of the American people in that "one person, one vote" principle at the heart of our democracy.
And I believe that by channeling the great frustration that Republicans felt in the election into -- into the legal processes that exist under the Constitution and the law, we would have -- we would have a better chance of moving through that difficult time.
>> One of the things I noticed as I read your book, "So Help Me God," was you never recounted a moment where you said, "Mr. President, the election was fair and legitimate."
Did you ever tell the President, "Mr. President, the election was fair and legitimate, and we lost"?
>> Well, as I say on the first page of "So Help Me God," it was an election we lost.
And I made that clear to the President over and over again.
But I never wanted to discount every opportunity that we had to air concerns that tens of millions of Republicans felt about the election, either in the courts or before the Congress of the United States.
What saddened me and ultimately angered me was that, in the waning days leading up to January 6th, the expectation of a fulsome debate that would hear of irregularities and any evidence of fraud gave way to an expectation greatly facilitated by a group of outside lawyers that were allowed to advise the President, people that not only should never have been in the Oval Office, but they shouldn't have been let on the White House grounds, that communicated to the public that, in some way, I could change the outcome of the election.
And I'll never forget driving up to the Capitol that day with my daughter at my side, and I looked out and I saw many Americans standing just beyond a rope line.
They were literally cheering our motorcade.
>> Thinking that you would be able to overturn the election.
>> My heart went out to them, and I looked at my daughter, and I said, "Those people are going to be so disappointed."
>> Just try to characterize what I think I understand you're saying.
You were trying to channel that frustration in a constructive way that would play out in a rules-based system, that your intent was to channel it constructively, not to fan the flames.
>> I think that's -- that's especially well said, and it's exactly what my sentiment was -- with one caveat, and that is that, in the days immediately following the election, we didn't know what we didn't know.
>> I didn't know the degree to which fraud had occurred.
I mean, there were -- That many states around the country, at least a half a dozen, that in the name of COVID had literally, through executive fiat, changed their election processes and laws.
And in many cases, they did so in ways that seemed to give advantage to Democratic candidates.
In the end, the evidence of fraud never emerged.
But I was interested in making sure that that process played out.
I thought that that debate and the loss of that debate in the wake of the tragedy of that day was -- was very unfortunate, that the American people never -- never had that debate and never had that artery and instead had to witness a tragic day at our nation's Capitol.
[ Applause ] >> In your book, you tell the story of when you visited the Capitol on January 6, 2001, and you watched Vice President Gore certify the election.
>> I did.
>> Two decades later, you did the same thing, but I would -- I would submit, under far greater pressure.
Do you see your actions that day, having done your duty, as heroic?
>> The heroes that day were all wearing uniforms -- law-enforcement personnel that were overwhelmed by violent rioters, Capitol Hill police, federal law enforcement that quelled the violence.
They made it possible for the Congress to reconvene the very same day.
In the midst of the rioting, when I first convened the Democrat and Republican leaders, they told me they were hearing that it might be up to three days before we could come back to the Capitol.
But to their credit, all four of the leaders found that unacceptable, as I did, as well.
We were all just determined to come back.
But none of that would have been possible without the heroic efforts of law enforcement, who, for a time at extraordinary personal risk, stood in the gap and protected our Capitol, quelled the violence, and made it possible for us, as I witnessed that day 20 years earlier, to demonstrate the resilience of our institutions.
When I went out on the Senate floor and every member of the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, were seated at their desks, I read a brief statement.
And in that statement, I commended those heroes.
I condemned the violence.
But I also commended the elected representatives of the American people who had convened on the very same day.
May God bless all who serve here and those who protect this place.
And may God bless the United States of America.
Let's get back to work.
[ Applause ] I closed my statement and just said, off the cuff.
"Let's get back to work."
And was deeply moved when members on both sides of the aisle stood up and applauded, not for me, but for a moment that showed our universal commitment to preserving American democracy.
And I believe that's why that day of tragedy ultimately became a triumph of freedom.
And as long as I live, I'll -- I'll remember it in no other way.
>> From your perspective, is there ever a case where you think it is appropriate to indict a former president of the United States?
>> Well, let me say, no one is above the law, but I would -- I would hope that there would not be that case, especially with regard to my -- my former running mate.
>> Attorney General Bill Barr told me last month that it would be appropriate for the Justice Department to indict a former president in the case of a serious crime, and that he believes that it is possible that President Trump committed a serious crime and that the Department of Justice is gathering that evidence.
If that were the case, he thinks it would be appropriate.
Do you agree with him?
>> Well, I just don't know if it's a crime to take bad advice from lawyers.
And I was very much aware -- >> I think this is about the stolen documents.
>> I was very aware, Margaret, of a cast of legal characters that were allowed to surround the President and tell him, as the Bible says, what his itching ears wanted to hear.
I would hope the Justice Department and a special counsel would -- would move very judiciously and very cautiously, understanding that -- that any such action against a former president of the United States would be deeply divisive to the American people, and it would send the wrong message to the world.
>> But no one's above the law.
>> But no one's above the law.
>> I was reminded, reading your book, that you are the grandson of immigrants.
>> I am.
>> And you fiercely also defend members of the U.S. military.
Your father served in Korea, in the Korean War.
Your son is a marine.
There are 78,000 Afghans in the United States, not to mention the thousands who were left behind in Afghanistan, whose immigration status in the wake of President Biden's disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan is uncertain.
Many of them were our allies -- allies to our military, served alongside our military or their families to those who served alongside our military -- and I wonder if you -- how you think about a bipartisan bill in the Senate, the Afghan Adjustment Act, that would protect those Afghans from returning to Afghanistan under Taliban rule and allow them to remain or settle safely in the United States after thorough security and background checks.
>> Well, the Biden administration's disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan was a disgrace, and it dishonored the service and sacrifice of American military personnel and their families over the last 20 years.
And I truly believe it never would have happened under our administration.
I mean, when -- when we negotiated the peace deal with the Taliban, I was -- I was in the Oval Office when the President took a call from the leader of the Taliban.
And he recited to him what the -- what the requirements of the deal were.
Number one is, you never harm an American.
Number two is, you respect the Afghan national government.
And number three, you don't become a haven for terrorists.
And I remember the leader of the Taliban, as I recount in my book, saying, "Oh, Mr. President, we understand."
And President Trump said, "No, I don't think you do understand."
He said, "If you break the deal, we're going to hit you harder than we've ever hit you before."
And for 18 months, there were no American casualties in Afghanistan, because I think the Taliban knew we meant business.
But when the Taliban moved against Mazar-i-Sharif, and the Biden administration did nothing, when they pulled our troops back all the way to the -- the Kabul airport and abandoned the security of the Bagram Air Force Base and sufficient personnel, it set into motion not only a day of tragedy that cost American servicemembers' lives, but it also endangered tens of thousands of of Afghanis who served alongside our soldiers at great personal risk to themselves and their families.
>> Do we owe them?
>> And while I'm not familiar with the legislation, my heart is with those Afghans and their families.
Anyone that served alongside American personnel as an interpreter or in a security position, I believe this nation owes them a debt of gratitude.
And we ought to take such steps to ensure that those people and their families are not required to return to a country at great personal risk to themselves.
We owe it to them, and we owe it to all the servicemembers who will always be grateful for the service and sacrifice that so many Afghanis made in those 20 years.
>> You were a Democrat until the 1980s.
But you write that your mother placed you on a Barry Goldwater float that drove through your town in 1964.
Two years after you rode on that float, Goldwater appeared on the original "Firing Line" with William F. Buckley Jr., and he discussed the challenges he believed Republicans would face trying to unseat a Democratic incumbent in 1968.
Take a look at this.
>> I take pleasure in introducing a great man and a good friend from whom I'd like to hear first, whether it's getting more and more difficult to defeat any incumbent president.
>> Well, Bill, to answer your question, I think the country has become pretty much a two-party -- a two-term country.
So I think it's pretty much up to the president if he decides to run again.
The chances of the Republicans beating him are not excellent.
>> Of course, that incumbent was Lyndon Baines Johnson, and he wound up withdrawing from the Democratic primaries.
Former Vice President Richard Nixon steps in and wins the presidency.
My question for you is, looking ahead to 2024, if Joe Biden runs again, how can Republicans overcome the power of incumbency?
>> Well, I think, just like Barry Goldwater said, this is a good two-party system.
And if the Republicans articulate a vision for the future that's grounded in those common-sense conservative principles, we'll not only win the next election but we'll win a boundless future for the American people.
>> It's clear to me that you feel very driven to run, but how will you know that you are called to run?
>> Well, as you just alluded, a friend of mine told me many years ago, there's two kinds of people in politics -- people that are called, people that are driven.
And as you can read in my book, I've been both.
I think I know the difference.
I've developed a healthy distrust for my own ambition.
Ronald Reagan once said, the American people have a funny way of letting you know if they want you to run for president.
And as I've traveled around the country over the last year and a half, we've gotten -- we've gotten a pretty consistent message from the American people that they want to get back to the policies of the Trump-Pence administration.
You know, I think our -- our politics are more divided right now, Margaret, than any time in my lifetime.
But I'm not convinced the American people are as divided as our politics.
And as we think about what role we might play, for me, it'll be about discerning whether -- whether we might play a role in helping to have government as good as our people, that's standing and fighting for all the same ideals that we fought for in the Trump-Pence years, but brings a level of civility and respect that, I think and hear, the American people would like to see restored to our national debate.
>> You're incredibly reluctant to criticize your former boss and friend.
And I wonder if that's because it doesn't go well for people who criticize Donald Trump.
Are you reluctant to criticize him because you don't want to run the risk of infuriating the MAGA base of support?
>> I think if people read "So Help Me God, they'll see that I'm incredibly proud of the record of the Trump-Pence administration, what we did for the American people.
But I'm also candid about differences that we had along the way, especially at the end.
And for whatever the future holds for the Pences, I'll always -- I'll always hope that people will, in these pages, have a better sense of who we are, the role we played.
And I'll let them -- I'll let them judge for themselves whether or not -- whether or not there's more we have to contribute in the life of the nation.
>> Mr. Vice President, thank you for joining me here on "Firing Line."
>> Thank you, Margaret.
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