Former President Donald Trump defended his supporters who chanted “hang Mike Pence” as they breached the US Capitol on Jan. 6, telling ABC News Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl that “people were very angry”.
Karl released a 36-second excerpt from a taped interview with the 45th president Friday ahead of next week’s release of Karl’s book “Betrayal,” which covers the aftermath of the 2020 election and Trump’s final weeks in office.
Pence, then vice president, was presiding over a joint session of Congress to count electoral votes when rioters overwhelmed law enforcement and broke into the Capitol building, halting the count for hours.
“Were you worried about him [Pence] during that siege?” Karl asked Trump in the audio. “Were you worried about his safety?”
“No, I thought he was well protected, and I had heard that he was in good shape. No,” Trump responded. “Because I had heard he was in very good shape. But, but no, I think —”
“Because you heard those chants,” Karl interjected. “That was terrible. I mean —”
“He could have — well, the people were very angry,” Trump responded.
“They were saying ‘hang Mike Pence,’” Karl countered.
“Because it’s common sense, Jon,” Trump argued. “It’s common sense that you’re supposed to protect — How can you, if you know a vote is fraudulent — Right? — How can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress?”
At that point, the clip tweeted out by Karl ended. However, Axios reported that Trump went on to say: “How can you do that? And I’m telling you: 50-50, it’s right down the middle for the top constitutional scholars when I speak to them. Anybody I spoke to — almost all of them at least pretty much agree, and some very much agree with me — because he’s passing on a vote that he knows is fraudulent. How can you pass a vote that you know is fraudulent?
“Now, when I spoke to him, I really talked about all of the fraudulent things that happened during the election,” Trump reportedly went on. “I didn’t talk about the main point, which is the legislatures did not approve — five states. The legislatures did not approve all of those changes that made the difference between a very easy win for me in the states, or a loss that was very close, because the losses were all very close.”
At the time of the riot, Trump had publicly encouraged Pence to reject the election results — a move that would have trigged a constitutional crisis. Trump has repeatedly expressed disappointment that Pence did not intervene on that day.
Last month, Pence told Fox News he has a “strong relationship” with Trump and claimed the two men had sat down and “talked through” their differences following the riot.
“Look, you can’t spend almost five years in a political foxhole with somebody without developing a strong relationship,” Pence told host Sean Hannity. “And, you know, January 6 was a tragic day in the history of our Capitol building. But thanks to the efforts of Capitol Hill police, federal officials, the Capitol was secured. We finished our work, and the president and I sat down a few days later and talked through all of it.”
The vice president added that he and Trump had “parted amicably at the end of the administration and we’ve talked a number of times since we both left office.”
The House of Representatives has since created a select committee to investigate the events of Jan. 6. The committee has issued dozens of subpoenas, including to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon, and is also looking to obtain records from the administration.
On Thursday, a federal appeals court awarded Trump a small win, pausing a lower judge’s order to hand over the documents to investigators.
The former president has argued the committee’s request is part of an effort to harm him politically and filed a suit last month to halt the release. Trump has said the documents cannot be released due to legal protections “including but not limited to the presidential communications, deliberative process, and attorney-client privileges.”