Home>US & World>Full transcript: Former Vice President Mike Pence on “Face the Nation,” Nov. 20, 2022
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Full transcript: Former Vice President Mike Pence on “Face the Nation,” Nov. 20, 2022


The following is the full transcript of an interview with former Vice President Mike Pence airing Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”


MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you for making time for us today. 

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Thank you, Margaret. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Good to see you again.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: You too.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, having seen what you saw up close for four years, do you think there is a danger in Donald Trump being president again?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I’ll always be proud of the record of the Trump-Pence administration and for four and a half years, President Trump was not only my president, but he was my friend. We worked very closely to create a record of prosperity at home, 7 million good paying jobs. We rebuilt our military. We saw more than 300 conservatives appointed to our courts. We took down the ISIS caliphate. We brought about peace in the Middle East. But obviously it didn’t end well. And while the President and I parted amicably I- I believe as we look to the future that we’ll have better choices, and I’m very confident Republican primary voters will choose wisely in the days ahead about who should be our standard bearer, but again, I’ll- I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to have been Vice President during four consequential years in the life of this nation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Mr. Trump is unfit for office. Do you agree?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, as I said, the President and I were very different, but we- we worked together very closely, and I think the combination and the entire team and our administration, created a record that frankly, the American people cherish, particularly in the wake of the failed policies of the Biden administration at home and abroad. Whether it be the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, whether it be an economy now in a recession, a gusher of spending in Washington, DC that’s ignited the worst inflation in 40 years. Everywhere I’ve gone for the last two years, Margaret, I’ve heard people tell me that they want to get back to the policies of that administration. The Trump-Pence administration delivered for the American people. But I truly do believe that the times call for leadership that can unite our country around our highest ideals and demonstrate the kind of respect and civility and I think the American people show each other every day.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will you support the Republican Party nominee even if it is Mr. Trump?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I- I look forward to being involved in the process in some way. I can tell you that my wife and I will take some time when our kids are home this Christmas- it’ll be the first time in three years with two in the military that we’ll all be together and we’re gonna give prayerful consideration about what role we might play. And whether we are in the debate as a candidate, or in the debate as simply as an active Republican, I look forward to getting behind the Republican cause and supporting candidates around the country as well as our nominee to get this country turned back to the policies that will make us strong and prosperous again.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That sounds like you prefer he’s not the nominee, but you didn’t say no.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I just think there’ll be better choices. And you know, I hold the view Margaret that no one could have beaten Hillary Clinton except Donald Trump in 2016. You know, as I write in my book, “So Help Me God,” I actually endorsed another candidate in the primary in Indiana. But when I saw the way Donald Trump came through Indiana, and inspired people who literally felt left behind by the elites in Washington, DC, literally for decades, I knew that he was going to be elected President of the United States. Republican primary voters knew we needed a fighter in the White House, we needed- we needed to have that energy that could turn back on the policies of the American left, but I think- I think now calls for a different time. I think now, I think the American people will want to see us move forward, solve some of the intractable problems that have literally gone unsolved for more than a generation. I think, everywhere I go, the encouragement that I’ve received is always predicated on- on the message that we- we love the record, but we like- we’d like new leadership. And I am confident Republican primary voters will give us just that in whoever the man or woman is, that is our standard bearer.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, you talked about moving forward. The idea of re-litigating the 2020 election continues to circulate, as you know that, amongst members of your party. Homeland Security is warning of the risk of political violence and they have drawn a direct line between domestic violent extremism and this false belief that the 2020 election was somehow rigged. Do you think that continuing to push these claims as the former president does is a direct threat?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: The 2020 election was not stolen. We have a process in this country, where states conduct elections. Questions of irregularities and fraud are then adjudicated in the courts, the states then certify electoral votes, and as we did on January 6, in the wake of that terrible violence, the role of the Congress is to open and count those votes and to certify the election. We did that, until Biden was elected President of the United States of America. But I do think there’s been far too much talk questioning the integrity of our elections. I’m all for election reform, I’m glad to see states around the country that are strengthening election integrity. Because the truth is there were irregularities in the election, even where there wasn’t ever evidence of widespread fraud, Margaret, there- in the state of Wisconsin–

MARGARET BRENNAN: 50 lawsuits at the state and federal level that were shut down, that were put forward by the former president.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well in the state of Wisconsin, their Supreme Court found that their state had actually violated their election laws in two instances a year after the election. The Supreme Court of the United States sequestered votes that had come in beyond the deadline in Pennsylvania. There were irregularities, and I think the American people do well to continue to strengthen election integrity, but those that continue to propagate language that undermines our election, including those who following the 2016 election referred to it as stolen. You know, it’s remarkable to me as much attention as there is in the national media on election deniers, that there’s little talk about the fact that Hillary Clinton said for years that our election was stolen. She- she and her party–

MARGARET BRENNAN: As you know that–

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: –blamed Russia and our campaign for colluding. Of course, all of which turned out to be itself a fraud. And all of that–

MARGARET BRENNAN: But I don’t have to tell you that January 6 was an horrendous and unique event predicated on this false claim, which is why I wanted to ask you about that. According to a CBS tally, there are going to be 156 members of Congress that will be sworn in in January who continue to raise questions about the validity of the 2020 election. That’s more than back in 2020. Isn’t that a risk? Doesn’t the party need to stop that?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, look, there’s a- there’s a First Amendment in this country that people can hold the opinions that they hold even if I disagree with them. But I have every confidence that the new Republican leadership in the Congress, the new Republican majority when Nancy Pelosi hands the gavel to Kevin McCarthy, is going to draw the lessons from the midterm campaign which for me give evidence of the fact that the American people want the Republican Party and frankly, all of our leaders to be focused on the future. Look, the people of this country are going through a lot right now. The cost of groceries, the cost of living going through the roof, the cost of a tank of gasoline up 60%, crime in our major cities, the worst crisis on our southern border in history. And I think what you’re going to see is Republican leadership and the Congress that’s going to focus on those issues. And I think that’s where people want us focused.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Did it surprise you then that Republicans didn’t end up with a larger margin, given all the factors you just laid out which were arguably in their favor?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I-I was surprised. I was disappointed at the outcome of the election in that regard, although, you know, I was there, Margaret, as I write in my book. I was there the last time that we defeated Nancy Pelosi’s majority and I’m- I’m looking forward to the day that Kevin McCarthy is elected Speaker of the United States House and leads the Republican majority. A win is a win. But I would have liked to see more Republicans elected to Congress, I would have liked to have seen a Republican majority in the Senate. And my- my conviction is that as you look around what happened on Election Day, candidates that were focused on the future, candidates that were focused on the issues the American people are focused on, did quite well in the main. I think of- I think of a Governor Brian Kemp in Georgia who went through a contentious primary in what people said was a divided Republican electorate won decisively – 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Opposed by the former president. 

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Was indeed

MARGARET BRENNAN: Endorsed by you.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I was proud to support Governor Brian Kemp in that primary. But then he went up against unquestionably the most formidable Democrat candidate in the country, and he won handily. But Brian Kemp, like so many other candidates around the country, was focused on the future and what people of the country were dealing with everyday. By contrast, I think the candidates that were focused on the past focused on the past –

MARGARET BRENNAN: 2020?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:  –relitigating the past did not fare as well. And it’s my conviction that the Republican Party is going to earn the right to lead this country in the days ahead on an increasing basis that we’ve got to be known as the party of the future. And I’m confident that new Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, Senator McConnell and Republicans in the Senate will do just that.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Party of the future would mean not the party of Trump. That sounds like what you’re saying.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, as I said–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do I have that right?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I- look, that’s up to the American people. Particularly it’s up to Republican primary voters.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You had such an eyewitness view, sir for four years. 

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I did.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have a credibility to say to the American public, whether there is a risk or not of him being commander in chief.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, Margaret, look. January 6 was a tragic day. I’ll always believe that I did my duty under the Constitution and the laws of this country in the midst of that. And I’ve been very clear as I am in my book that the President’s words and actions in and around January 6 were reckless. The tweet that he issued the day that I was in the loading dock before- below the United States Senate endangered my family and endangered people that were in the Capitol and was indefensible. But, I must tell you that I couldn’t be more proud of the response of Republican and Democrat leaders in the Congress who came together, the response of Capitol Hill police and federal law enforcement to quell the violence, made it possible for us to reconvene the Congress on the very same day of that riot and complete our work under the Constitution as- as I say that, in the book, I- I believe a day of tragedy became a triumph of freedom.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you’ve received bipartisan praise for having done that.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: But beyond all of that, I don’t- I don’t want to confuse the tragedy of that day with what- with the extraordinary accomplishments of our administration and when you think at home and abroad, the progress that we made – 7 million good paying jobs, unemployment at a 50 year low, by cutting taxes, rolling back regulation, unleashing American energy. We created unbridled prosperity in this country. And on the foreign policy stage of which you’re a well-known expert, with the direction of- of our Commander in Chief, the armed forces, the United States crushed the ISIS caliphate, took down their leader without one American casualty, held Assad and Syria accountable when he used chemical weapons on his own people, re-established the credibility of American force.

MARGARET BRENNAN:   This sounds like a campaign platform issue for you.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, no for me, Margaret, it really is–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because you’re going to have to defend the administration you served in.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: For me, it is all evidence of what we were able to do during the four years of the Trump-Pence administration. And while we- while we had our critics then and today and in the future, I’ll always be proud of what we did for this country. We left America stronger and more prosperous than any time in my lifetime. And while it didn’t end well, I’ll always be proud of the record that we created for the American people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I have interviewed you many times throughout the years and I always know you to be very measured and very careful with your words. But I think a lot of Americans when they saw those pictures of you with your family, with your daughter, with your wife, with your brother, sheltering for your lives that day, would ask why did it take you two years to talk about your anger? Weren’t you incandescent with rage that your family was put at risk like that?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Margaret, I was angry that day, and many days since. But on January 6, I have to tell you that I had to put that aside. The President had decided to be a part of the problem. I was determined to be a part of the solution, to work with leaders in Congress, leaders at the Pentagon, leaders in law enforcement to do our part to finish our work under the Constitution. But let me also say I- I’ve spoken about this many times over the last two years. I communicated correspondence to the Congress and the American people on January 6 about the reasons for my actions. After the first 100 days of the Biden administration, I was- I was back on the road speaking about the differences the President and I had. Earlier this year when the President once again said that he believed I had the right to overturn the election, I- I made it clear that there’s- I had no right to overturn the election. That there’s no idea more un-American than the idea that any one person could choose the American president. 

MARGARET BRENNAN:  You–

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: So I’ve spoken over the course of the year but I must tell you it’s a great privilege for me to have the opportunity to- to tell my story. Literally from my upbringing in a small town in Indiana, being raised by a combat veteran and a precocious, red-headed, first generation Irish American, to have met the girl of my dreams, to have stepped into the political arena early in life and learned lessons, but then had the privilege of being able to serve in the Congress as a conservative leader, to go home to Indiana to be a governor. And then the four consequential years of the Trump-Pence administration and it was important for me to have the opportunity to put it all into context and- and also underpin it all with my faith. You know, the Bible says be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, and in the immediate days after nine- after January 6, I- I sought to do that. I prayed to do that. We still had the people’s business to do until the end of the administration. And- but I’ll be candid with you, it wasn’t easy. And I continue to pray for the grace to be able to focus forward and to do my part to help move our country toward a more prosperous and peaceful future.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Do you- I mean that day you were- you were calling and trying to get the National Guard to come in and restore order. You were making those calls. Did you feel you had to do that because the commander in chief was derelict in his duties?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Margaret, I didn’t know what the President was doing at the time. I wasn’t at the White House. I had no contact with the President or the White House that day. When I spoke to the congressional leaders in our first conference call, they informed me that they were getting mixed messages from security personnel. And I asked them if they wanted me to get involved. And they did. They asked me to see if I could get some answers. And so I began to make some calls. I- You know, I was determined not to leave my post that day. I thought it was important for me to stay at the Capitol. And- and to do whatever I could to facilitate a federal response. But I give credit to the leaders in both political parties that day, because on that very first call, there was a unanimous agreement that whatever needed to be done, we needed to reconvene the Congress that day and finish our work. I remember Speaker Pelosi telling me that she’d actually heard from one source that it could be up to three days before we could be back in the Capitol and to all of their credit, the Democrat and Republican leaders all said that was completely unacceptable. I remember in that call I reflected about an experience that four of us on the call had had in agreeing with the sentiment. And that was- that was on September 11. When I was a freshman member of Congress. I write about it in the book. I thought the best thing members of Congress did that day was that we- we reconvened on the steps of the Congress itself. We had a- a press event, but members broke into a spontaneous rendition of “God Bless America.” I thought that sent the right message to the nation and to the world on a day of unspeakable violence against the United States of America that we were here, our government was attacked. And I expressed that to the leaders on the call. Three of whom had also been at that very same event on the steps of the Capitol. And they all were in complete agreement that whatever was necessary to be done, we had to reconvene that day. We had to show the American people and the world that we would complete our work under the Constitution of the United States and achieve the peaceful transfer of power for which our nation is celebrated the world over.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But what- what some people will hear from what you just said is you compared January 6 to the terrorist attacks on this country on 9/11. There was responsibility for those terrorist attacks on 9/11. Do you think President Trump needs to be held responsible in his events – in the events that led to January 6 and the violence of that day?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I think everyone that perpetrated the violence at the Capitol needs to be held to the strictest account of the law –

MARGARET BRENNAN: But what about those who fed it? What about those who gave it oxygen, “the lie” oxygen to mislead people?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well I- you know, what I would tell you is I’m confident that the American people will hold all those responsible at the end of the day, and history will be their judge. In my book, I- what I’ve tried to do is share a candid story about the evolution of that controversy. You know, it’s- the President and I have developed a –

(CROSSTALK)

MARGARET BRENNAN: You say the President came to you at least five times. You lay it out in detail leading up to January 6, and it’s almost like you couldn’t believe this because you kept telling him over and over, ‘this is not legal, this is not constitutional.’ 

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I did. Many people did.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you look back and say I wasn’t forceful enough. I mean what could you have done differently? Or was it just that he was so determined, the fact was not useful?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I did tell the president many times that after he exhausted every legal challenge that the campaign had every right to pursue, that he should simply accept the results. And my hope was that he would eventually come around before January 6th, you know, we had developed not just a close working relationship that I described in the book, Margaret, but we had developed a friendship. The President and I were always candid with each other and but I always- whenever I had a difference of opinion with the President, and I thought my role as Vice President was to share that opinion in private. I believe it’s the job of the Vice President to be loyal to the President of the United States. The only higher loyalty you have is to God under the Constitution, and that precipitated the confrontation that we had, in and around January 6, but along the way, it was my hope that while the President was hearing from a cadre of attorneys who, frankly should never been let on the White House grounds, let alone in the Oval Office, telling him what, as the Bible says is itching ears wanted to hear. My hope was in- at the end of the day, he would come around. I remember on the night of January 4, we had a meeting with the President and part of that legal team in the Oval Office. The President left on the helicopter. There were no harsh words between us but he was continuing to make his case and I was continuing to make my position clear. But at his rally in Georgia, which I watched on television, the President actually opened up the rally by speaking about me, saying our great Vice Presidents gonna have to come through for us adding that if- if Mike doesn’t come through for us, I won’t like him so much. But then he paused and he said to the crowd ‘now- now one thing you know about Mike Pence is he always plays it straight.’

MARGARET BRENNAN: And then he called you the next day. 

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, but I remember in that moment, thinking he might be coming around, 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But he wasn’t. 

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: At the end of the day he wasn’t and I leave that to others to explain why it was my my continued hope was that at the end of the day, he would recognize what our duty was on that day, as the presiding officer under the Constitution to oversee the candidate electoral vote of an election that we lost, but, but it was not to be.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Before I move on, I want to ask you though, do you intend to ever sit and answer questions written in person for the January 6 committee? Do you believe though, that the public deserves that? Is this interview “it”? Is this book “it”? Or will you answer questions about that day before Congress?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I shared my heart and I shared my story in this book, I will continue to speak openly about it. I expect to some degree for the rest of my life. But from the time the January 6 was formed, and every member was appointed by the Democrat Speaker of the House, I was concerned –

MARGARET BRENNAN: But your Chief of Staff spoke to them Marc Short, your legal counsel Greg Jacobs testified– 

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I’ll get to that

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you don’t want to engage with them at all?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I served for 12 years in the Congress. It’s inconceivable to me that one party would appoint every member of a committee in Congress that’s antithetical to the whole idea of the committee system. That being said, I never stood in the way of senior members of my team cooperating with the committee and testifying. But Congress has no right to my testimony. We have a separation of powers under the Constitution of the United States. And I believe it would establish a terrible precedent for the Congress to summon a Vice President of the United States to speak about deliberations that took place at the White House.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you’re – you’re closing the door on that entirely?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I am closing the door on that, but I must say again, the partisan nature of the January 6 committee has been a disappointment to me. It seemed to me in the beginning, there was an opportunity to examine every aspect of what happened on January 6, and to do so more in the spirit of the 9/11 Commission, nonpartisan, non-political, and that was an opportunity lost.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think Republicans are open to doing that to have some self-reflection about January 6?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I’d leave that to others about the fate of the committee structure and decisions that would be made. But- but for my part, I think it’s important as I did on January 6, that we- that we uphold that separation of powers in the Constitution of the United States, two co-equal branches of government and, and that’s where we’ll stand. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And so the lawyers and the Chief of Staff to the president at the time that Mark Meadows who let those lawyers you said had no business on the White House grounds you think, no consequence? Only prosecute the people who actually physically went to the Capitol?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, I know there are those that are speaking in defense of people that rioted at the Capitol created the conditions where lives were lost. But I believe everyone that was rioting in the capitol that day of perpetrating violence needs to be held to the strictest account of the law. I remember watching it unfold only on cell phones that we had in that parking garage in the Senate. And I was filled with indignation. It’s the people’s house. I served there for 12 years. I dreamed as a boy to someday be able to serve there and I just remember thinking, not this not here, not in America. And I truly do believe that it’s one of the centerpieces of our law that those that do the crime are responsible for the crime. But- but I do believe that at the end of the day, the American people will hold accountable of those that permitted the circumstances around which January 6 was able to flourish into violence that day.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Throughout the book, you mentioned some of the more controversial episodes you had in exchanges with the former president. After Charlottesville, you said the President was not a racist, not bigot, and the debate about a statue could indeed have well meaning Americans on both sides. About the phone call that led to the first impeachment after the President asked Ukraine’s leader to investigate Hunter Biden, you said ‘it was not how I approached interactions with foreign leaders, but the President had done nothing wrong.’ During the pandemic when you’re standing next to him and the President talks about using disinfectant to treat COVID You described it as an unforced error. It sounds like you’re excusing his behavior or enabling this behavior

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Or explaining what happened. We were in an environment where much of the national media simply assumed the worst about Donald Trump for the first day of our administration. I’ll never forget–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Were you more forceful behind closed doors than you let on in this book? 

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Say again?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Were you more forceful behind closed doors, than you let on? 

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: The President- whenever the President and I had a difference of opinion, he knew my opinion. But I always shared it in private, as I think a vice president should. And the American people don’t don’t elect two presidents. And the Vice President’s job is to be loyal to the President and share his opinion directly. And I think privately, to give the president his counsel, and I did and I chronicle that some in the book, but I I have to tell you, Margaret, as I started to say, it is extraordinary to me to think of the level of opposition that that our administration faced literally from day one, the headline of the Washington Post on our Inauguration Day, in 2017 was ‘the quest to impeach Donald Trump starts today.’ Never in my lifetime, and you covered it as well as anyone in the national press, did I see the level of opposition, they even call themselves the resistance, that each and every day took the worst version of events and assumed the worst about everything? And in “So Help Me God” what I try and do is- is is explain my perspective on those incidents, whether it be in the campaign, or in the course of our administration, where, where I believe our administration was understood, misunderstood, where, where things were mischaracterized and, but- but again, I was proud in those moments, nonetheless to stand by the President. You know, as I say in my book–

MARGARET BRENNAN: You didn’t have any misgivings? You’re putting this on the press –

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Let me speak about- let me speak about a couple of the incidents. Charlottesville. Its a place that’s very, very special to you, as a UVA grad. Visited there last year to speak to students myself and I-I paid my respects at the alley where we lost Heather Heyer that tragic day.  But as I speak about that moment, I recite what the President said, but but I but I express my regret that he had not specifically denounced the KKK, White supremacists and White nationalists that had been present. So when I arrived in Colombia, I sought to do that. I squared my shoulders before the international media, I stated our administration’s position and specifically rejected those groups, said they had no place in American public life. The President had denounced the extremists that were there in his first remarks, but he would go on within a day to denounce those groups, explicitly. And as I said, the- the assertion that President Trump is an anti-Semite neglects the fact that he has Jewish grandchildren, his daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. And as I wrote in my book–

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, the language he uses now is not–language

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: “He’s not a bigot, he’s not a racist”, if he was I would have never been his vice president. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You admit, the language he uses is not what you would use to refer to people who–

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: We were different men. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. You could say that 

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: We were very different men. But–

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you were- you are giving him the Mike Pence stamp of approval when you say he’s not a racist and not a bigot. That’s what I’m asking you about.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: What I’m telling you is that in all my time around him when the cameras were off, I never saw the President mistreat anyone on the basis of- of race or creed or color. And I know that I know that’s hard to hear for some of his harshest critics, but it happens to be true. But it was just one of the criticisms that was leveled at the president in that time. Now, I- I will tell you, he and I- he and I were different people. He was- he was elected on an agenda that I endorsed. But I think he was also elected with a style of politics that is different from mine, and as vice president. I thought my job was to stand by the President, to be loyal, and to support the presidency both in substance and in its efforts that he was elected to advance. And that’s just what we did.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You’ve made clear that you also think the FBI executing a search warrant to take classified material from the former president’s home was not the way the Justice Department should have handled it. But to be clear, were you ever personally concerned about Mr. Trump’s handling of classified information? And for the record, do you think he can declassify just by thinking about it?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well I was- I don’t recall ever being concerned about the President or anyone on our administration’s handling of classified information, at least among the senior staff, of which I had regular contact.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But if he had, he would be prosecuted, you would think. I mean, certainly you talk about your family members who are in the military. If they took classified material home, they would face steep consequences.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, let me say, you know, no one is above the law. But as someone that served on the Judiciary Committee for more than 10 years, having oversight over the Justice Department, I just think there were many better ways to obtain those classified materials from Mar-a-lago, than to execute a search warrant against a former president in the United States of America, something that had never happened in American history, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And never been prosecuted. Do you think that that should happen? 

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, my- my hope is that the Justice Department will think very carefully about next steps. This is a very divided time in the life of our nation. I think our nation needs to heal. But the idea of executing a search warrant against a former president of the United States sent the wrong message to the American people and, frankly, sent the wrong message to the wider world that looks at the United States of America as the standard. And that was my disappointment in the decision to execute a search warrant.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know we’re running out of time, but I do want to ask you about what you have talked about as restoring the sanctity of life, which was, you say, ‘the calling of your life.’ I know this is very important to you, so if you’ll let me, I want to ask you. You’re very proud of the Supreme Court Justices put on the court who just recently struck down Roe v. Wade. Do you think the decision on abortion access should stay in the states? Or should there be a national law banning it?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, it’s a fair question, but let me back up for one second. You know, the most important decision I ever made in my life that I recount in my book is when I put my faith in Jesus Christ. And as I opened up the Bible, I read that, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. And an admonition to choose life so that you and your children may live.” And from very early on in my public career, I- I was determined to be a champion for life. Whether it was in my years as a radio broadcaster, I advocated the right to life or my time in the Congress of the United States, where I worked closely with the late Henry Hyde, who was the lion of the right to life. I- I just always purposed to advance the sanctity of life. And I always believed that Roe v. Wade would be sent to the ash heap of history. It’s- you know, it’s interesting that Ruth Bader Ginsburg even said, who was one of the great Supreme Court Justices of our time –

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, she questioned the legal basis not seeming solid enough, but–

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: She questioned the legal foundation of it, and- and she was right, but- from my perspective– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But does what you’re talking about, the moral imperative–

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does that trump states’ rights?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, the Dobbs decision this summer that I- I was so grateful to see, the majority of which was made up by Supreme Court justices that we- we appointed and confirmed to the- to the Court really gave the country a new beginning for life. And it did return the question of abortion to the states and the American people. Many alarmists on the American left in the beginning spoke about it banning abortion and taking away their right, and actually, I think most Americans figured out pretty quickly that, in fact, this question that bears so deeply on the- the life of the nation, it’s simply been returned to the people and their elected representatives–

MARGARET BRENNAN: So no national ban?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: And so, for my part, I- I will tell you that I will always support efforts to strengthen protections for the unborn. I think it’s most likely that it will be resolved at the state level, but the 15 week legislation in the Congress, had I been a member of Congress, I would have supported because I think it actually–

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s not too liberal for you? Because it would allow access up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well–

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s where the majority of abortions are performed.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:I would have supported it as a beginning, because I thought it- it did a service of exposing the fact that while the Democrats speak about extremism among pro-life Americans, the truth is, the Democratic Party supports abortion all the way up to the moment of birth, and taxpayer funding of abortion. And that’s a position that isn’t supported by more than 25 percent of Americans–

MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re talking about because of exceptions to life of the mother. 

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: And so I thought there was usefulness in that- in that debate. But I believe –

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the 15 week- the Rubio-Graham Bill, the 15 weeks you’re talking about, also has exceptions for life of the mother after the 15 weeks

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Right, and those in support of the Hyde Amendment as a member of Congress, I supported those exceptions during my career. But, Margaret, I do believe it’s more likely this is going to be resolved at the state level. It may take as long to restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law in all 50 states as it did to overturn Roe v. Wade, but people that know me and my family know that so long as we live we’ll- we’ll seek to be about the business of life in this country and doing our part to support sanctity of life.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I was- I was interested to read that you and your wife Karen underwent IVF therapy –

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: We did. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And so –

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Many times.  

MARGARET BRENNAN: And there are- which is a lot to go through. And there are people who are concerned that if you start with abortion access restrictions that it will also lead to restrictions on IVF treatment. If you believe life begins at conception, you can make that argument. Should it be protected as a right?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Oh, I- Karen and I struggled for more than five years with unexplained infertility. And in fact, I’ll never forget the day that I called home, driving off to a work appointment, and Karen answered the phone and said ‘Happy Father’s Day.’ And our son would come along, then a daughter, then another daughter, all within three years. We were busy, but joyful. But in the midst of all of that, we- we also received word that we had- we had made the list for an adoption for a young woman with an unexpected pregnancy. And you know Margaret, we prayed a lot about that. I write about it in the book we- I believe in “forever families.” I believe families can be formed by adoption as much as by natural birth, and- but we wanted to find out if the second family on the list was clinically infertile. And when we did we stepped aside not wanting to prevent them from having the joy of a little one in their home. But I fully support fertility treatments and I think they deserve the protection of the law. They gave us great comfort in those long and challenging years that we struggled with infertility in our marriage and I- I do believe as we work our way forward, we- we can protect the unborn. We can come alongside women in crisis pregnancies, and we can support the newborn with equal vigor. And that’s the challenge that I’ll be articulating all across this country, to leaders in cities large and small, that if we come up with principle and compassion for- for the unborn, for newborns, for mothers with unexpected pregnancies, we can win the cause of life in America.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What about same-sex marriage? A number of Republicans are getting on board federal protections for it. Do you believe that you need to consider that when you talk about compassion?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well as a- as a Bible-believing Christian, I’ll always hold the view that marriage is between one man and one woman. I think it was ordained by God. And that’ll always be my values. But the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled on this – in the Obergefell case. And um –

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don’t think a federal law is needed? A number of Republicans are now –

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:  We can- we can disagree with Supreme Court decisions, but we can’t disobey them. I respect the pronouncements of the Court. And I actually think it’s just as important as we go forward as a nation, that we make it clear that we don’t believe in discrimination against anyone because of who they are, who they love, or what they believe. But at the same time, I think we need to make sure that we protect the religious freedom of every American that’s enshrined in the Constitution: the ability to live, to work, to worship, in a manner according to the dictates of your conscience. And- and I think we’re getting there. I think we’re moving forward as a nation and I look forward to continuing to express my values, but express them with compassion for every American whether they share my values or not.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I have to let you go. But sir, I have to ask, why would you want to be President of the United States?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Margaret, many years ago, a mentor of mine said there’s two kinds of people in Washington, D.C. There’s people that are called and people that are driven. And if you read my book, “So Help Me God,” you’ll see that I’ve been both. Early in my career, I let my ambition get ahead of what I thought my Christian faith required of me. And I wrote about my disappointment in the campaigns that I’d run. But when the opportunity came back around 10 years later, with three little kids, having just built our dream home. Karen and I went to prayer and reflected on what our calling might be. And when we stepped forward to run for Congress, the year we were elected in 2000, it was not so much out of a sense of ambition or entitlement, but it was out of a sense of calling. We felt called to be a part of new leadership coming to Washington, D.C., in the Congress and in the White House. We felt called to go home and run for governor of Indiana. When the call came in 2016, we reflected, we prayed. We believed that we could make a difference and we said yes to Donald Trump and joined the national ticket, and I’ll always be proud of the work that we did during the Trump-Pence administration. But, what I can tell you is that for me and for my house, as we consider however we might contribute to the life of the nation in the years ahead, we’ll be trying to discern that through prayerful reflection, consideration, speaking to family and friends and listening to the American people what our calling might be. Ronald Reagan said one time ‘the American people have a funny way of letting you know if they want you to run for president.’ So we’ll be listening, we’ll be praying and we’ll be deciding what our role might be in the days ahead.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Days ahead? I thought we had to wait till January. You have news you want to make with us, sir?

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Not today.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Not today, okay. Thank you for your time, Mr. Vice President.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Appreciate it.



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