Former President Trump’s indictment over his actions after the 2020 election and around Jan. 6 has poured gasoline on a long-simmering dispute between the former president and his old running mate, former Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump had been restrained over the past year even as Pence grew increasingly vocal about differing accounts of the events of Jan. 6, the war in Ukraine, the future of Social Security, and the Republican Party’s approach to abortion. Trump was even mum as Pence launched a competing campaign in June for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
But Trump’s animus toward Pence spilled out into the open in recent days with the former vice president playing a central role in the indictment against Trump for his efforts to subvert the 2020 election.
“Trump will turn on anyone. Loyalty is a one way street for him. Pence put his fidelity to the Constitution over Trump. I hope he won’t agree to support him again,” Alyssa Farah, who served as a press aide to both Pence and Trump in the White House, posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Pence, however, dodged questions over the weekend about whether would support Trump should he be the 2024 nominee — leaving that door seemingly open.
Trump has attacked Pence repeatedly on social media since pleading not guilty last Thursday to the charges levied by the federal government in the case.
He wrote that he felt “badly” for Pence and his presidential campaign, which had been struggling to gain traction in the roughly two months since it launched.
“WOW, it’s finally happened! Liddle’ Mike Pence, a man who was about to be ousted as Governor Indiana until I came along and made him V.P., has gone to the Dark Side,” Trump wrote on Truth Social on Saturday.
“I never told a newly emboldened (not based on his 2% poll numbers!) Pence to put me above the Constitution, or that Mike was ‘too honest.’ He’s delusional, and now he wants to show he’s a tough guy,” Trump added, denying information that was contained in the indictment. “I once read a major magazine article on Mike. It said he was not a very good person. I was surprised, but the article was right. Sad!”
During a campaign stop in New Hampshire over the weekend, Pence was greeted by pro-Trump hecklers who derided the former vice president as a “traitor” and a “sellout.”
“Why didn’t you uphold the constitution?” one protester shouted.
“I upheld the constitution,” Pence responded as he prepared to pose for a photo with a family. “Read it.”
Indeed, rioters on Jan. 6 focused their ire squarely on Pence, who as vice president at the time held a ceremonial role in overseeing the Electoral College count by Congress, the final step in solidifying Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential win. Trump had said that morning that he would win the election if Pence did “the right thing.”
Trump supporters chanted “hang Mike Pence” as they pushed their way into the Capitol, even setting up a gallows outside. He along with dozens of lawmakers were ushered to safety when rioters breached the building.
Pence advisers said the former vice president went into the campaign clear-eyed that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol would be a key issue for voters and the media, and Pence has leaned into the conflict with Trump over Jan. 6 as his 2024 campaign seeks to capitalize on the renewed attention on his role that day.
The former vice president was among the first 2024 primary candidates to put out a statement on the indictment, stressing that Trump’s attempt to put himself over the Constitution should disqualify him from office.
Pence has given several interviews to major media outlets in the days since, and his campaign has started selling merchandise emblazoned with the phrase “Too Honest,” a reference to a section of the indictment in which Trump described Pence as being “too honest” when he said he lacked the authority to overturn the election results.
His campaign has seemingly benefited from the spike in attention, racking up thousands of donations in the days since the indictment was announced and pushing him closer to qualifying for the first primary debate later this month.
“Pence never had a shot at this thing, so while Trump taking swipes at him doesn’t exactly help his cause, it adds a patina of relevance that had been comically absent to date,” Liam Donovan, a former aide to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, posted on X.
One Republican strategist said the attacks from Trump give Pence a boost in media attention that his campaign had previously been lacking, though they acknowledged that it is unlikely to help the former vice president win over Trump supporters who he’d likely need to prevail in the primaries.
Pence is polling in the single digits in most surveys, and Trump is unlikely to view him as an imminent threat to win the party’s presidential nomination.
But strategists said there is a risk for Trump if Pence is on the debate stage contradicting the former president’s version of events around Jan. 6, or if the former vice president remains front and center pushing back on his old running mate.
For Pence, there is also the possibility that Trump’s trial will block out any efforts to discuss major policy differences or issues like the economy.
Pence bemoaned that Trump’s indictment meant more discussion of Jan. 6 and less focus on kitchen table issues or criticisms of the Biden administration.
And for Pence, it could mean time on the witness stand in a future trial, keeping him squarely in Trump’s crosshairs.
“I have no plans to testify. But, look, we’ll always comply with the law,” Pence said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“I want to tell you, I don’t know what the path of this indictment will be,” Pence added. “The president’s entitled to a presumption of innocence. He’s entitled to make his defense in court…But what I want the American people to know is that President Trump was wrong then and he’s wrong now, that I had no right to overturn the election.”