Trump’s attempt to blame Jan. 6 violence on Mike Pence implicates him in a crime: ex-GOP strategist

Even Fox News hosts laughed at Trump's claim that "in many ways" Jan. 6 was Pence's fault

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published March 14, 2023 12:24PM (EDT)

Donald Trump and Mike Pence (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Mike Pence (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump on Monday tried to blame the violence he incited on Jan. 6 on former Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence called out Trump's role in the Capitol riot on Saturday, declaring that "history will hold him accountable" even as Pence himself tries to fight a subpoena to testify in the Justice Department's Jan. 6 investigation.

"President Trump was wrong," Pence said at the annual Gridiron dinner in D.C. "I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable."

Trump fired back at Pence ahead of a rally in Iowa on Monday.

"Had he sent the votes back to the legislatures, they wouldn't have had a problem with Jan. 6, so in many ways you can blame him for Jan. 6," Trump told reporters, according to The Washington Post, referring to Pence's refusal to reject electoral votes in Congress. "Had he sent them back to Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, the states, I believe, number one, you would have had a different outcome. But I also believe you wouldn't have had 'Jan. 6' as we call it."

Trump's attempt to blame Pence for the violence from Trump supporters who chanted "Hang Mike Pence" in the Capitol fell flat.

Even Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade openly laughed at Trump's claim.

"You cannot blame Mike Pence for what happened on January 6th," Kilmeade said Tuesday

"Well, Donald Trump did yesterday," co-host Steve Doocy replied. 

Former Republican strategist Tara Setmayer, who is now an advisor to the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, suggested that Trump's attempt to deflect blame may have further implicated him in a crime.

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"He always admits to the crime," Setmayer said on MSNBC. "And he turns it around and blames everybody else. It's always about projection."

MSNBC contributor Steve Benen called Trump's "blame-the-victim" argument "utterly bonkers." He added that it could also pose legal risks.

"The former vice president is a critically important witness, with unique insights, but he's currently fighting the subpoena, trying his best not to cooperate with law enforcement. In the process, Pence is also shielding Trump from accountability," Benen wrote, predicting that it's possible that Pence could reverse course in response to Trump's accusation.

"But in practice, Trump apparently believes that Pence is so docile, he can blame his former vice president for the violence Trump created — the violence that put Pence's own family in danger," Benen added, "confident in the knowledge that Pence won't do anything provocative in response."

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

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Aggregate Capitol Riot Donald Trump January 6 Mike Pence Politics