Former Vice President Mike Pence told ABC News that he was "angered" by former President Donald Trump's "reckless" tweet assailing him during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, in his first interview about the violent efforts by Trump's supporters to keep him in power.
The first excerpts from Pence's interview, with ABC anchor David Muir, were aired on Sunday and Monday, with more to be broadcast on Monday night. The former vice president gave the interview to promote his new book, "So Help Me God," which is scheduled to be released Tuesday.
Pence provided his views as Trump prepares to announce a third presidential campaign on Tuesday night at a rally at his private club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, which the FBI searched over the summer to recover dozens of classified documents that had left the White House with Trump.
"The president's words that day at the rally endangered me and my family and everyone at the Capitol building," Pence told Muir, referring to the former president's comments at an event on Jan. 6 at the Ellipse near the White House. At the rally, Trump repeatedly pressured Pence to use his ceremonial role overseeing certification of the Electoral College results of the 2020 election to delay or overturn the outcome, and then called on the crowd to march to the Capitol.
Muir asked Pence about his reaction to a Twitter post from Trump at 2:24 p.m. during the assault on the Capitol, with some of the rioters chanting "Hang Mike Pence" and the vice president's security detail trying to ensure his safety.
Trump's tweet said, "Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done," a reference to Pence's refusal to decide unilaterally which electoral votes should or should not be certified.
Pence paused before answering.
"It angered me," he finally responded. "But I turned to my daughter, who was standing nearby, and I said, 'It doesn't take courage to break the law, it takes courage to uphold the law.' "
He went on: "I mean, the president's words were reckless. It was clear he decided to be part of the problem."
Pence, who is considering his own presidential candidacy, has steadfastly praised the record of the Trump administration. But he has also said that Trump was "wrong" to continue to maintain that one man could dictate who would become the next president. Still, his words on ABC News are his most extensive criticism of Trump to date.
Muir also asked about Pence's outreach to various federal officials trying to mobilize a response to the riot while Trump watched the coverage on TV in the dining room off the Oval Office. The president never made calls to try to keep the riot contained, even as Pence did so while sheltered at a loading dock in the Capitol complex, the House committee investigating the attack has established.
Pence did not comment on what he thought of what Trump was doing that day, but instead said that it would be a "good question" for him as to why it was the vice president making those calls that day.