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Transcript: Former Vice President Mike Pence on "Face the Nation," Aug. 6, 2023

Full interview: Former Vice President Mike Pence
Full interview: Former Vice President Mike Pence on "Face the Nation" 19:13

The following is a transcript of an interview with former Vice President Mike Pence that aired on "Face the Nation" on Aug. 6, 2023.

MAJOR GARRETT: Mr. Vice President, you were in New Hampshire recently, as you were going to an event, some Trump supporters came to you and called you a traitor, said you were a sellout, said you didn't uphold the Constitution. To what degree does that rattle you?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: You know, I know in my heart of hearts, that on January 6, I did my duty, kept my oath to the Constitution of the United States. And the thing that I'm encouraged about, Major, is as we travel, not only here in New Hampshire, but around the country, is more and more Americans are recognizing that we kept our oath that day. And I think with this week's news I've had- I've had so many people come up to me and just express their appreciation for the stand that we took, by God's grace, to do our duty to see to the peaceful transfer of power. And I'm encouraged by that, I must tell you. Look, President Trump was wrong. He was wrong then. He's wrong now. I had no right to overturn the election. And more and more Americans are coming up to me every day and recognizing that, and- and for my part, I'm running for president in part because, frankly, President Trump asked me to put him over the Constitution that day, but I chose the Constitution and I always will.

MAJOR GARRETT: So I want to ask you about characterizations that have been made by those who speak on behalf of the president's legal team. They've said this week that all they asked of you, that is to say the president, was to delay the proceedings to allow states to conduct an audit. Is that a truthful representation of what you were asked to do, Mr. Vice President?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:  Major, that's not what happened. And, you know, as I wrote about in my book, as I've spoken about very openly, and- and frankly, as is recounted in aspects of the pleadings that were filed this week. From-from sometime in the middle of December, the president began to be told that I had some authority to reject or return votes back to the states. I had no such authority. No vice president in American history had ever asserted that authority and no one ever should. Your viewers can go to Article II of the Constitution and see that it's very clear. It says that the vice president, as president of the Senate, should preside over the House and Senate in a joint session, and that the Electoral College votes shall be opened and shall be counted. There was no discretion ever given to the vice president in history, nor should there ever be. I had no right to overturn the election and Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024. But look, I- I- I stand by the facts as they occurred. I mean, it ebbed and flowed between different legal theories, but at the end of the day, I know we did our duty. I know we kept our oath. But I- I truly do believe that, you know, no one who ever puts himself over the Constitution should ever be president of the United States. I mean, our Constitution is more important than any one man and our country is more important than any one man's career. And, you know, I'm running because, not just I kept faith with the Constitution every day for those four years, but also because this country is in a lot of trouble. And frankly, I know the media is preoccupied with this issue and virtually everything having to do with my former running mate, but as I travel around New Hampshire, as I was in Iowa over the last week, people are struggling in this economy. They're worried about the world becoming more dangerous by the day. They're seeing energy prices spike. And we're gonna focus on those issues even while making the case that, that we kept our word, we kept our oath and by God's grace, we did our duty on that fateful day.

MAJOR GARRETT: To the point you just made, Mr. Vice President, some Republicans have lamented that so far, this primary conversation within the Republican Party, is content free, policy free because of all the distractions around it. Do you agree?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I think it's- it's- it's one of the unfortunate aspects of- of this week's news around the president is now this is- this just ensures that- that many in the media and in the public debate are going to spend more time talking about the president and his legal challenges than talking about what the American people are facing. I- I- I gotta tell you, I gave a speech last week, at the Indiana State Fair outlining my plan to tackle inflation. We came out with a very first plan to do that. In the coming week, we're gonna lay out our plan to unleash American energy and achieve American energy independence, but it's- it's just one more reason why I'm convinced that not only do we need new leadership in the White House, but we need new leadership in the Republican Party and I've just determined, my wife and I are to travel all across New Hampshire, all across Iowa, all the early states and tell our story and focus on those issues the American people are focused on and I'm very confident, more every day that the American people are going to rally around a standard bearer that is focused on the issues they're dealing with, rather than re-litigating the past or focusing on the latest controversy in the media.

MAJOR GARRETT: It is a matter of public interest, though, Mr. Vice President, if this case comes to trial, would you be a witness against the president?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I will- I will tell you, you know, I didn't want anything to do with the January 6 committee. That was a partisan committee on Capitol Hill, Major. And it seemed to me to be just politics, from the very start, particularly when- when Nancy Pelosi dismissed, you know, members of Congress that Speaker McCarthy wanted on the committee. And frankly, you know, I was one of the first people to denounce that indictment in Manhattan and to denounce the raid on the president's home, but in this case, we've stood firmly for the rule of law. You know, I- I took a stand, we challenged in court the scope of any testimony that I could provide, because as president of the Senate, the Constitution provides me with the protections that are afforded to members of Congress. We- we won that at the lower court level and, and ultimately, we responded to a subpoena, and I have no plans to testify, but people can be confident we'll- we'll obey the law. We'll respond to the call of the law, if it comes and we'll just tell the truth. Look, I've been telling this story over the last two years. But I must tell you over the last week, it seems that more and more Americans have been coming up to me and just expressing a word of appreciation, for what by God's grace that we did that day. You know, I took that oath in January of 2021. To- excuse me, January 2017- to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I made that promise to the American people and to Almighty God, and by His grace, and with their support, we kept that oath every single day, including through that day and- and we'll continue to tell that story everywhere we go.

MAJOR GARRETT: To be clear, Mr. Vice President, you do not regard this indictment as the political persecution of the former president?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I've been very concerned about politicization at the Justice Department for years, Major. Look, I- I lived through the Russia hoax. I mean, I had to deal with the Mueller investigation. I incurred more than $500,000 in legal fees responding to that investigation. I- I watched the Democrats impeach the president for a phone call. And then, and then I've just been- I've been deeply troubled to see the double standard between, you know, the way that the Justice Department has gone after the president, responded even in- with other Republicans and pro-life Americans and the way they seem to be- to take no interest in getting to the bottom of allegations of corruption around President Biden's family. So I have deep concern about that. But look, I don't want to prejudge this indictment. I don't know whether the government has the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to support this case. The president is entitled to the presumption of innocence, but- but my concern about politicization at the Justice Department is the reason why I tell people everywhere I go, if I'm- if I'm the next president of the United States, we're going to clean house at the Justice Department. We're going to appoint men and women at the highest levels in- in- in the Justice Department in this country that will restore the confidence of the American people in equal treatment under the law. 

MAJOR GARRETT: Mr. Vice President, tell me about these notes that the special prosecutor referred to in the indictment? Were those all the notes you took on all of your conversations with the former president at that time? Were you a note taker throughout your time as vice president? Did you hand them off to staff? Were these things you kept yourself? Tell me about the note- the note process?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I can tell you, Major, I have some limitations of what I can talk about relative to the grand jury, but, there was from time to time, particularly at important moments, I had a practice of scribbling a note or two on my calendar just to memorialize it and remember it and I did that in this case. I generally didn't make a practice of taking notes in meetings over the four year period of time, but given the momentous events that were unfolding, I- I- I did take a few notes to remind myself of what had been said. And you know, from very early on, the very first time the president raised the issue with me, that I- that he was being told that I had the right to overturn the election, to reject or return votes, I told him, I knew I had no such authority. Look, I'm a student of American history. I knew the founders of this country would never have given any one person the right to choose what Electoral College votes to accept and which ones to reject. I was very consistent with the president about that and my recollections all reflect that, but you know, at- at the end of the day, the president continued to hold to that view, but I knew what my duty was. And as I said, by God's grace, we did our duty on that fateful day.

MAJOR GARRETT: Mr. Vice President, what do you believe the president's state of mind was about whether he won or lost the 2020 election?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: You know, I really can't say, I- I- I don't know what was in his mind. And it seemed to me through all that period of time the- the president was intent as we all were in getting to the bottom of voting irregularities that had taken place. There were roughly a half a dozen states that had changed the rules in the name of COVID. And frankly, changed them in ways that could benefit Democrat candidates, but in more than 60 lawsuits, all of which I supported and in reviews at state levels, there was never any evidence of widespread fraud that would have changed the outcome of the election in any of those states. And at the end of the day, there was an opportunity to hear objections to those changes on the floor of the Congress, but in addition to the loss of life, the assault on police officers, the vandalism of the Capitol, one of the losses on January 6 was that debate, which could have happened on the floor of the Congress before the American people went by the boards. And so, you know, I really don't know at the end of the day, what the president believed about the election, but for me, for my part, I knew that our duty was clear. That under the Constitution of the United States my job was to preside over a joint session of Congress, open and count the electoral votes, and we did our duty.

MAJOR GARRETT: Did you ever hear the president say "I lost" or did you ever take part in a meeting where it was clear from other words that he spoke that he knew he had lost and was preparing to leave the White House?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:  I remember one occasion before Christmas, where the president asked me what- what- what he thought we ought to do. We were just the two of us in the Oval Office, Major. And I- I remember, I looked at him and I said, look, let all the lawsuits play out, let the Congress do their work to consider objections, but I said at the end of the day, if the election goes the other way, I said we ought to take a bow, we ought to travel around the country. And I remember, I remember, the president is standing in front of his desk, listening very intently to me, and I'll never forget the way he just kind of pointed at me as if to- as if to say, that's worth thinking about. But I don't know what was in his mind at the time. And for my part, it was always about just us going through the process. I mean, look, the peaceful transfer of power is one of the great traditions in the life of this country, where there are issues related to elections, we have courts to review them. We have procedures in states to review them and ultimately, the Congress can hear objections. We were working through that process. And I was determined to play my part to see it through.

MAJOR GARRETT: Would you ever vote again for Donald Trump?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Look, I don't think I'll have to. I have to tell you everywhere I go--

MAJOR GARRETT: --That wasn't the question, Mr. Vice President, would you ever vote for Donald Trump again?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Yeah. Yeah, I know what your question is, but let me be very clear, I'm running for president because I don't think anyone who ever puts himself over the Constitution should ever be president or should ever be president again. This country is in a lot of trouble. And we've got to get back to basics, we've got to get back to keeping faith of the Constitution, we've got to get back to the policies that will make our economy strong, that'll secure our border, that'll support our military, that'll defend our liberties and our values that are under a steady assault by the Biden administration. And we're going to work our hearts out to earn the right to be that standard bearer. And everywhere I go, the encouragement we receive, I'm more convinced than ever  that- that Republicans are not only going to- going to give us a great victory in the fall of 2024, but we're gonna have new leadership in the Republican Party. And I'm gonna work my heart out to make sure it's me.

MAJOR GARRETT: Will the phrase "you're too honest" be a referendum in this campaign?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I- you'd have to leave that to others, but the American people can always count on me being honest about where we are. I was in a barn this weekend in New Hampshire, and I looked at all of them and I said, I'm the guy talking about the national debt. We have the largest national debt since the end of World War II, it's the size of our economy. And we've got--

MAJOR GARRETT: --Mr. Vice President--

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: The American people long for leadership that will speak plainly and honestly with them about the challenges facing the country and how we bring America back. And I promise to be just that candidate.

MAJOR GARRETT: But you know what I'm driving at, Mr. Vice President. That's what President Trump said to you. You're too honest. If no one is going to make it a referendum on his fitness for office, other than you, how is it going to become a referendum?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, well, let me say, I've been called worse, Major, so I'm never offended by people calling me an honest man. And I always aspire to that and aspire to that in my faith, as well, but look, I think there's plenty, plenty of room, running room in this primary campaign. I gotta tell you, the people that are showing up at our town halls, showing up at living room meetings, I think people are ready for a change. And I, look, this is, this election is going to be a referendum on Joe Biden. This election needs to be a referendum on the failed policies of the Biden administration that have weakened America at home and abroad. And I'm confident that Republican primary voters here in the first in the nation primary state are gonna give us a standard bearer that will focus this election on the failed policies of Joe Biden and the Democrats in Washington. And they're gonna carry us to a historic victory in 2024.

MAJOR GARRETT:  Earlier this week, Mr. Vice President, the former president said he felt sorry for you. Do you want his pity?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I would tell you, I- I don't want anything except a listening ear from every American. And I- I just have to tell you, Major, as I've traveled around the country the last two years, the American people have come alongside me at airports and at grocery stores again and again to give me a word of thanks and encouragement. So I- you know, I don't know who the former president is talking to but this is a country that loves the Constitution. This is a country that knows we can do better than the failed policies of the Biden administration. I think that's why so many people are going to our website, They're making a contribution, literally more than 1,000 people a day over the last week, that's going to make it possible for us to be on that debate stage. It's because they see in us the experience and the proven conservative leadership that can bring this country back.

MAJOR GARRETT:  Have you qualified for the debate, Mr. Vice President with 40,000 unique donors?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, we're getting real close, Major, I'll tell you, I encourage people to head to that website. We obviously already qualify easily by the polling numbers, but I think the American people want to see the most experienced and proven conservative on that stage. And frankly, you know, I'm looking forward to the debate, not just with my former running mate, but with others in this party who are walking away from America's historic commitment as leader of the free world, walking away from a commitment of fiscal responsibility and growth and even walking away from our commitment to the right to life. You know, I'm a- I'm an old Reagan conservative from way back and I just, I promise you that, when we're on that stage, we're going to take the case for that broad, mainstream conservative agenda that's led our party to victory and our country to great prosperity and security in years past and will again in the years ahead. 

MAJOR GARRETT: Before I let you go, Mr. Vice President, as I understand it, this is an honor system process with the 40,000 donors. No one at the Republican National Committee checks this evidence. Is that right?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, we'd be fully prepared to have them look at our list. You know, we, as I said, we've had people going to our website, and people have been donating--

 MAJOR GARRETT: --But nobody does, though. But nobody does, though.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Yeah, yeah, we haven't- we haven't been handing out kickbacks or gift cards or soccer tickets. People are just- people are supporting us at because they believe in our commitment. They believe in our- our- our dedication to the broad conservative agenda and we'd be more than happy to have people take a look at that list, but I'm confident we'll qualify, Major, and I'm looking forward to being in Milwaukee.

MAJOR GARRETT: One last thing, do you believe the former president can receive a fair trial in the District of Columbia? 

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I- I- I would hope so, but I- I don't want to prejudge the indictment or prejudge whether, whether the government can make their case. Look, the president's entitled to a presumption of innocence and I- I have every confidence that- that he'll make his case in court, but at the end of the day- at the end of the day, I'm gonna stay focused on where the American people are focused, but I- I'm also I'm never gonna waver in making it clear to people that whatever the outcome of this indictment and whatever it's, you know, wherever it goes, I know I did my duty that day and I think- I think more and more Americans every day are recognizing that- that we kept our oath to the Constitution and if I have the great privilege of being president of the United States, they know that I always will.

MAJOR GARRETT: Former Vice President Mike Pence, thank you for joining us.


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