EXCLUSIVE — Former President Donald Trump is effectively ruling out tapping former Vice President Mike Pence as his running mate should he mount a third White House bid in 2024 and win the Republican nomination.
“I don’t think the people would accept it,” Trump told the Washington Examiner Tuesday evening during a wide-ranging telephone interview from Mar-a-Lago, his private social club and political headquarters in Palm Beach, Florida.
The former president cited friction stemming from the aftermath of the 2020 election, suggesting their differences are too stark to overcome. Trump claimed the contest was stolen and wanted Pence to overturn the results during the congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Pence, who in his capacity as Senate president was presiding over the certification proceedings, refused, explaining the Constitution granted him no such authority.
Trump continues to insist otherwise. He pointed to bipartisan talks on Capitol Hill to reform the Electoral Count Act, the law governing the congressional certification of Electoral College results, as proof his vice president could have thrown out electoral votes from various states and facilitated a second term for the Trump-Pence ticket. The former president called Pence a “really fine person” but signaled their relationship might be irrevocably broken.
“Mike and I had a great relationship except for the very important factor that took place at the end. We had a very good relationship,” Trump said. “I haven’t spoken to him in a long time.”
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More than one year after the Trump administration gave way to the Biden administration, enmity between the pair of two-time running mates runs both ways.
Pence is considering a 2024 bid. He has let it be known he would not automatically stand aside if Trump ran and has accelerated efforts to establish his independence from the former president. Pence recently told a gathering of conservative lawyers Trump is flat “wrong” to claim the vice president is constitutionally empowered to throw out the results of a presidential election. Pence also took aim at Trump in a March speech to Republican donors.
“There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin,” he said during remarks to party financiers gathered for a Republican National Committee donor retreat, adding later: “We cannot win by fighting yesterday’s battles or by relitigating the past.”
Trump has often praised Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical acumen and hesitated to criticize him directly, although the former president told the Washington Examiner he was “surprised” the Russian strongman invaded Ukraine and declared “he’s very much changed.” Meanwhile, Trump argued that shifting the GOP’s focus to the 2022 midterm elections, and 2024, would be a political mistake, saying that resolving what happened in the 2020 election matters most to Republican primary voters.
Trump, throughout his political career, has often feuded with close associates — even appearing to excommunicate them from his inner circle, only to welcome them back later with open arms.
That is always a possibility with Pence. The two developed a close and productive working relationship in 2016 after Trump tapped the Indiana governor and former 12-year House member to be his running mate. He gave Pence an unusual amount of autonomy to operate politically and shape his administration’s agenda. In return, Pence gave Trump near-unquestioned loyalty, at least publicly.
Amid Trump’s repeated criticism of Pence Tuesday during his conversation with the Washington Examiner, the former president occasionally signaled that he retains at least some level of appreciation for the vice president who served him. “I still like Mike,” Trump said. But on balance, Trump’s comments were cold and critical.
The former president has no intention of dropping his complaints about the 2020 election.
Neither is Trump in the mood to forgive Pence for declining to go along with a scheme to send electoral votes from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and possibly more states, back to their respective Republican-controlled legislatures, where the former president believes sympathetic state lawmakers would have awarded him the Electoral College votes he needed to defeat Biden.
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“Mike thought he was going to be a human conveyor belt, that no matter how fraudulent the votes, you have to send them up to the Old Crow,” Trump said, using his nickname for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
“But that turned out to be wrong. Because now, as you know, they are feverishly working to try and get it so that the vice president cannot do what Mike said he couldn’t do,” the former president added, referring to proposals to overhaul the Electoral Count Act. “Obviously, they were either lying, misrepresenting, or they didn’t know."
"I was disappointed in Mike,” Trump said.