While former Vice President Mike Pence delivered his harshest rebuke to date against Donald Trump for the 2021 insurrection, he did so at a private dinner as he tried to play both sides of the issue, critics charged Sunday.
"Make no mistake about it, what happened that day was a disgrace, and it mocks decency to portray it in any other way," Pence declared Saturday night at the Gridiron dinner, a white-tie event thrown by journalists in Washington.
“President Trump was wrong,” Pence said. “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.”
The words were startling from Pence, but didn't reach nearly far enough, detractors complained.
"I’m glad he said it, but it’s not sufficient that he refuses to say so on the record, and in front of the appropriate investigative bodies," Trump critic and Lincoln Project cofounder Rick Wilson told the Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC's Politics Nation.
If Pence "wanted to make a difference with these comments, he would've done [so] in front of the J6 [House] committee, or in front of the special counsel. He would not be fighting the special counsel tooth and nail to avoid giving testimony. But he is willing to [talk] at the Gridiron dinner," Wilson added. "He should be speaking in a way where the official weight of these words would have an impact on Donald Trump."
But Mike Pence, "like every other Republican, wants to have it both ways," Wilson charged. "They want to nod and wink at normal America, and say: 'I know how bad he [Trump] is' — and they also want to nod and wink at Trump's base, and say, 'I'm trying to fool the normies.' "
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) agreed. While she was encouraged Pence declared Trump's actions as "wrong," and that "history will hold him accountable," she also told Sharpton: "I want to know if these comments were not made in front of the American public — or before the special counsel which has subpoenaed him to testify about the events leading up to Jan. 6."
What is the "purpose of him saying this now? " she asked. "It's a little too late for this now."
Jackson reiterated the horror of insurrection day when she was “on my stomach” hiding in the House from angry Trump supporters. "It was a mob takeover," she recounted. "It was violent."