Former Vice President Mike Pence said former President Trump should decide for himself whether to drop out of the 2024 presidential race if he is indicted for charges.
Pence chose not to call on Trump to drop out if charges are filed against him while the former vice president was visiting New Hampshire, Politico reported Thursday.
“Look, it’s a free country. Everybody can make their own decisions,” he said.
Pence’s comments come as Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg appears to be close to potentially be filing charges against Trump for hush-money payments that were made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the leadup to the 2016 presidential election.
Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen paid Daniels in exchange for her silence about an affair she had with Trump. Trump later reimbursed Cohen for the payment, and the Trump Organization declared it to be a legal expense.
Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including one for campaign finance violations stemming from the payment. Trump has admitted to reimbursing Cohen for the payment but said it was not related to his campaign.
Trump has said himself that he “won’t even think” about dropping out if he is indicted.
Pence, who has indicated he is considering a 2024 bid that would have him face off against Trump, remained loyal to Trump throughout most of his vice presidency, but the two had a falling out after Pence refused Trump’s calls to not certify President Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.
Pence has insisted that he did not have the authority to reject any electoral votes from being counted in his capacity as president of the Senate and only had a ceremonial role in counting the votes on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump has slammed Pence for not rejecting the ballots.
Pence has more recently stepped up his criticism of Trump after at times moderating his attacks on the former president. He said at the annual Gridiron Dinner on Saturday that “history” would hold Trump accountable for his role in what happened during the Jan. 6 insurrection and said Trump’s words before the riot “endangered” Pence’s family and everyone at the Capitol.
Trump argued while traveling on his personal plane to a campaign event in Iowa on Monday that Pence himself was responsible for what happened during the attack, saying that Pence’s refusal to reject the votes from the key states that clinched Biden’s victory led to the violence.
“Had he sent them back to Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, the states, I believe, No. 1, you have had a different outcome. But I also believe you wouldn’t have had ‘Jan. 6’ as we call it,” Trump said.
Politico reported that Pence reiterated that he did not have the power to overturn the election again while in New Hampshire.
“I know our former president has said I had the right to overturn the election, but Donald Trump is wrong,” he said. “I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone.”