WASHINGTON (AP) — Former vice president Mike Pence is urging Republicans to move on from the 2020 election, declaring that “there is no room in this party for apologists for Putin” as he further cements his break from former president Donald Trump.
According to excerpts released before a speech Friday evening to the party’s top donors in New Orleans, Pence took on those in his party who have failed to forcefully condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin for his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
“Where would Russian tanks be today if NATO had not expanded the borders of freedom? There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin,” Pence was to say, according to excerpts from the speech. “There is only room for champions of freedom.”
Pence did not directly reference the former president in the excerpts shared ahead of his remarks. But Trump has repeatedly used language that has been criticized as deferential to Putin, including calling the Russian leader “smart” while insisting the attack never would have happened on his watch.
Pence will also continue to push back on Trump’s lies about the 2020 election as he lays the groundwork for a possible 2024 presidential run. Trump, who has been teasing his own comeback bid that could potentially put the two in direct competition, has continued to falsely insist that Pence had the power to overturn the 2020 election, which he did not.
“Elections are about the future,” Pence said, according to the exceprt. ‘’My fellow Republicans, we can only win if we are united around an optimistic vision for the future based on our highest values. We cannot win by fighting yesterday’s battles, or by relitigating the past.”
Pence has been increasingly willing to challenge Trump — a dramatic departure from his deferential posture as vice president.
Pence has said the two men will likely never see “eye to eye” on the Capitol insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, when Trump supporters stormed the building in an effort to stop certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. And last month, he directly rebutted Trump’s false claims that he, as vice president, could have overturned the results, telling a gathering of lawyers in Florida that Trump was “wrong.”
Still, he joined the oft-stated view of Trump and others in the Republican Party on Friday evening in blaming President Biden for Putin’s actions, accusing the current president of having “squandered the deterrence that our administration put in place to keep Putin and Russia from even trying to redraw international boundaries by force.”
“It’s no coincidence that Russia waited until 2022 to invade Ukraine,” Pence said, according to excerpts. “Weakness arouses evil, and the magnitude of evil sweeping across Ukraine speaks volumes about this president.”
While Pence allies believe that he can forge a coalition that brings together movement conservatives, white Evangelical Christians, and more establishment-minded Republicans, Trump’s attacks on Pence have made him deeply unpopular with large swaths of Trump’s loyal base, potentially complicating his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Pence on Jan. 6 had to be whisked to safety with his family as a mob of Trump supporters breached the Capitol building, some chanting “Hang Mike Pence!”
Graham rebuked for Putin comments
(Washington Post) — Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, was sharply criticized by fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Thursday after saying that the “only way” to end the crisis in Ukraine is for Russians to assassinate President Vladimir Putin.
‘’Is there a Brutus in Russia? Is there a more successful Colonel Stauffenberg in the Russian military?’’ Graham tweeted, referencing the Roman politician who participated in the assassination of Julius Caesar and the German military officer who attempted to kill Adolf Hitler.
‘’The only way this ends is for somebody in Russia to take this guy out,’’ he said. ‘’You would be doing your country — and the world — a great service.’’
Graham added that if Russians do not want to live in darkness and be isolated from the rest of the world, then ‘’you need to step up to the plate.’’
Other members of Congress swiftly criticized Graham’s tweets as reckless, including members of his own party.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said, ‘’This is an exceptionally bad idea.’’ Sanctions and boycotts of Russian oil and gas are solutions, along with military aid for the Ukrainians, Cruz said.
‘’But we should not be calling for the assassination of heads of state,’’ he added.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, called Graham’s remarks ‘’dangerous’' and ‘’unhinged.’’
‘’We need leaders with calm minds & steady wisdom,’’ she wrote. ‘’Not blood thirsty warmongering politicians trying to tweet tough by demanding assassinations.’’
Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, said calls for Putin’s assassination from United States politicians ‘’aren’t helpful.’’
‘’I really wish our members of Congress would cool it and regulate their remarks as the administration works to avoid WWlll,’’ Omar tweeted. ‘’As the world pays attention to how the US and [its] leaders are responding.’’
Norman Eisen, who served as US ambassador to the Czech Republic during the Obama administration, said such comments would only raise tensions.
‘’Now Putin can say ‘one of the most senior US senators has called for my assassination,’’' Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said. ‘’Why would you want to help him?”
Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop said the senator ‘’also expressed he was OK with a coup to remove Putin.’’
‘’Basic point, Putin has to go,’’ Bishop said. ‘’He also noted it will be — has to be — the Russian people who do it.’’
Some online critics questioned whether the senator’s tweets violated Twitter’s rules against violence. Twitter did not respond a request for comment from The Post late Thursday.
Graham, a retired Air Force officer, has long been critical of Putin. Once an influential member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Graham in 2016 accused Russia of hacking his campaign e-mail account, CNN reported. He said Russia was ‘’trying to destabilize democracy all over the world. Not just here,’’ according to the outlet.
Graham also called for Russians to assassinate Putin during a Thursday appearance on ‘’Hannity’' on Fox News. Moreover, he introduced legislation this week calling for Putin to be investigated for war crimes.
On Wednesday, Sean Hannity suggested on his radio show that the United States carry out an assassination of Putin, saying, ‘’You cut the head of the snake off, and you kill the snake.’’ Experts told The Post that such a move would not help solve the crisis, and it would be illegal outside an armed conflict with Russia.
Barr: Trump ‘responsible’ for Jan. 6
(Washington Post) — Former attorney general William Barr said in an interview broadcast Friday that he believes that former president Donald Trump is ‘’responsible in the broad sense of that word’' for what transpired at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when a violent mob interrupted Congress’s count of electoral college votes.
‘’I do think he was responsible in the broad sense of that word in that it appears that part of the plan was to send this group up to the Hill,’’ Barr said in an interview with NBC News. ‘’I think the whole idea was to intimidate Congress, and I think that that was wrong.’’
Barr’s comments were part of an interview with anchor Lester Holt that the network plans to air in full on Sunday. Excerpts were aired Thursday and Friday morning.
During Barr’s tenure at the Justice Department, he was widely viewed as an ally of Trump. But the two had a falling out over Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election, according to Barr, who stepped down in December 2020 and is now promoting a new book.
Trump has repeatedly denied responsibility for the Jan. 6 insurrection, blaming congressional leaders, among others, for not adequately securing the Capitol complex.
In a statement Friday, Trump continued to repeat his false claims of election fraud.
‘’Former Attorney General Bill Barr wouldn’t know voter fraud if it was staring him in the face — and it was,’’ Trump said. ‘’The fact is, he was weak, ineffective, and totally scared of being impeached, which the Democrats were constantly threatening to do.’’
In a court filing Thursday, the House select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol asserted that Trump and key allies engaged in potential crimes during their effort to overturn the election by conspiring to defraud the United States and obstructing an official congressional proceeding.
During a speech near the White House ahead of the rioting, Trump urged his supporters to go to the Capitol to send members of Congress a message and suggested he would accompany them.
In a statement Thursday, Trump took a shot at Barr, saying he has been ‘’afraid to even look’' at his claims of election fraud.
NBC said that Trump provided a statement in response to its interview of Barr in which Trump called Barr’s book ‘’fake’' and described Barr as a ‘’coward,’’ a ‘’big disappointment’' and ‘’lazy.’’