Trump-Pence note, torn on Jan. 6, becomes unequal rivalry

WASHINGTON — Eighteen months after leaving the nation’s capital for the last time as president, Donald J. Trump returned Tuesday facing federal investigations, fresh doubts about his viability in an increasingly likely third bid to run for president. the White House and a budding rivalry with his former running mate.

In addresses from two hotel ballrooms within a mile of each other in Washington, Mr. Trump and Mike Pence, the vice president he left at the mercy of a mob of his supporters during the Capitol Riot, exposed one of the most uncomfortable divisions within their party.

Competing speeches on the same day would have been inconceivable for a former president and his own vice president not so long ago. But the demise of precedent has long been a hallmark of the Trump era.

The bizarre painting also illustrated the frustrations and reservations of many Republicans about a 2024 Trump campaign, which a recent New York Times/Siena College poll suggests could cause large numbers of Republican voters to quit. party in general elections.

In his 90-minute speech, Mr Trump repeatedly deviated from the script to complain about “hoax” investigations, boast of having survived two impeachments and lie about his defeat in the 2020 election. Mr Pence , on the other hand, urged the party to look to the future and unite for the next political battles.

“Some people may choose to focus on the past, but elections are about the future,” Pence said.

A scowling Mr. Trump relied on ominous images of an America beleaguered by violent crime and in desperate need of a rescue that only he could provide.

“Our country is going to hell,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous place.”

The two appearances also underscored the wide gap in enthusiasm among Republicans between Mr Trump and any other potential primary rival in 2024.

While Mr Pence drew lukewarm applause during his 30-minute speech to around 250 attendees at an event hosted by the Young America’s Foundation, Mr Trump drew numerous standing ovations from an audience of around 800 people at an America First Policy Institute rally. . The former president’s speech appeared to double as a meeting of former administration officials, campaign aides and informal advisers.

Almost everyone except Mr. Pence.

Mr. Pence has been the recurring target of criticism from Mr. Trump, who has denounced the former vice president’s refusal to delay the certification of the 2020 election results on January 6, 2021. In his speech, Mr. Pence n made only a passing reference to the ensuing attack on the Capitol — when he was forced into hiding as rioters chanted for him to be hanged — as a “tragic day.”

Last week, the House committee investigating the Capitol riot detailed Mr. Trump’s decisions not to call off the violence and the fear members of Mr. Pence’s Secret Service felt for their lives.

The hearing caused a striking change in the conservative media. In scathing editorials from two Murdoch family-controlled newspapers, the New York Post said Mr Trump was ‘unworthy’ to be president again, while the Wall Street Journal said he had ‘completely failed’ its duty to manage the crisis.

And on Monday, news emerged that two of Mr. Pence’s top aides had testified before a federal grand jury in Washington as part of the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the events surrounding the riot. Additionally, information emerged Tuesday that federal prosecutors have been seeking information about the former president’s role in efforts to nullify the election as the Justice Department investigation gathers pace.

While Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence were in fairly regular contact immediately after leaving office – speaking several times by phone in conversations that avoided the subject of the Capitol riot – they have not had similar discussions since. months, according to their advisers. In an interview last year, Mr Trump said he never told Mr Pence he was sorry he hadn’t acted faster to stop the attack – and that Mr Pence didn’t. never asked for an apology.

But a rivalry has erupted behind the scenes.

One source of tension has been the book Mr. Pence is writing about his time in the administration. When Mr Trump learned of the memoirs, titled “So Help Me God” and due for release on November 15, the former president was still considering getting his own consent.

This year, the two men drifted apart during the midterm election campaign. They have backed opposing candidates in several primary races, including next week’s Republican gubernatorial contest in Arizona and the party’s primary for governor in Georgia in June, when Mr. Pence’s choice, Gov. Brian Kemp, was easily beat his Trump-backed challenger David Perdue.

Mr. Pence, meanwhile, omitted from his speech the kind of effusive praise for Mr. Trump that he had regularly injected into his speeches as vice president and instead referred to the administration’s achievements. Trump-Pence”.

A mild-mannered former Indiana governor, Mr Pence remains a reviled figure among much of the Republican base – largely because he resisted Mr Trump’s attempts to overthrow the 2020 election.

In a New York Times/Siena College poll of Republican voters this month, just 6% said they would vote for Mr. Pence if he ran for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, compared to 49% who said they supported Mr. Trump and the 25% who backed Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida.

Still, Mr. Pence was praised by some of his fellow Republicans for his toughness during and after the Capitol riot. Pat Cipollone, the former White House attorney, told House investigators that Mr. Pence deserved the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the nation’s highest honors, for resisting the pressure campaign of Mr. Trump — and staying on the Capitol grounds amid the violence — to certify the election.

Mr. Pence also defended himself and directly contradicted Mr. Trump, in a February speech to the Federalist Society in Florida, where he said the former president mistakenly believed the vice president had the power to cancel the election results.

“President Trump is wrong,” Mr. Pence said at the time. “I had no right to cancel the election.”

But the former vice-president hesitated to come back to the question. On Tuesday, he drew subtle distinctions between Mr. Trump’s fixation on the 2020 election and his own preference to focus more broadly on his hopes for the conservative movement.

In his speech, Mr Trump received some of his biggest applause when he walked away from his prepared remarks, including his call to stop transgender women from playing in women’s sports – and again when he claimed he had won the presidency a second time.

Mr. Trump also called for the creation of large homeless encampments outside cities, which would have bathrooms and medical staff, and he called for aggressive policies to tackle crime. He renewed his support for the death penalty for drug traffickers and controversial stop-and-frisk tactics by law enforcement that he said would help “give back the power and power of the police.” its prestige”.

“Leave our police alone,” Trump said. “Every time they do something they are afraid of being destroyed, their pensions are taken away from them, they will be fired, they will be put in prison. Let them do their job.”

In his speech, Mr. Pence celebrated the recent Supreme Court decision eliminating the federal right to abortion and called on a movement of cultural conservatives to reverse a “pernicious program of awakening” which, according to him, “allowed the radical left to continue dumping toxic waste into the sources of our culture.

“We save the babies, we will save America,” he said.

Yet Mr. Pence could not escape the direct contrast to Mr. Trump. When Mr Pence finished his speech, the first question from the audience of young conservatives was about the former president “and the rift between you two”.

“I don’t know if our movement is that divided,” Pence said. “I don’t know if the president and I disagree on issues, but we may differ on direction.”

Maggie Haberman contributed report.

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