Mike Pence contradicts Trump’s rhetoric on Russia: No place in GOP for ‘Putin apologists’

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence has urged Republicans to move on from the 2020 election and said “there is no place in this party for Putin apologists” as he was cementing his rift with former President Donald Trump.

Pence, in a Friday night speech to top party donors in New Orleans, clashed with those in his party who have not strongly condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

“Where would Russian tanks be today if NATO hadn’t expanded the frontiers of freedom?” There is no place in this party for Putin apologists,” Pence said, according to excerpts from the speech, which was closed to reporters. “There is only room for champions of freedom.”

Pence did not directly refer to the former president. But Trump has repeatedly used language that has been criticized as deferential to Putin, including calling the Russian leader “smart” while insisting the attack would never have happened on his watch.

Pence also continued to push back against Trump’s lies about the 2020 election as he lays the groundwork for a possible presidential election in 2024. Trump, who teased his own comeback offer that could potentially put the two in direct competition , continued to falsely insist that Pence had the power to void the 2020 election, which he failed to do.

“Elections are about the future,” Pence said. “My fellow Republicans, we can only win if we are united around an optimistic vision of the future based on our highest values. We cannot win by fighting the battles of yesterday or by challenging the pass.

Pence has been increasingly willing to challenge Trump — a dramatic departure from his deferential posture as vice president.

Pence said the two men would likely never see “eye to eye” over the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol uprising, when Trump supporters stormed the building in an effort to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. Last month, he directly rebutted Trump’s bogus 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-expressed view of Trump and others in the Republican Party Friday night in blaming President Joe Biden for Putin’s actions, accusing the current president of having “squandered the deterrence that our administration has put in place to prevent Putin and Russia from even trying to redraw international borders by force.

“It is no coincidence that Russia waited until 2022 to invade Ukraine,” Pence said, according to excerpts. “Weakness breeds evil, and the magnitude of the evil sweeping across Ukraine speaks volumes about this president.”

While Pence’s allies believe 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 broad audiences. swaths of Trump’s loyal base, potentially complicating his Republican bid. presidential appointment.

On January 6, Pence had to be taken to safety with his family as a crowd of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building, some chanting “Hang Mike Pence!”

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