Mike Pence Reportedly Defended 'Friendship' with Donald Trump in Meeting with GOP Lawmakers
Donald Trump incited the Jan. 6 riot that put Mike Pence and his family in danger — but no harm, no foul, says Pence: The former vice president reportedly reiterated his support for Trump this week as he embarks on his own post-White House career.
In his first appearance since leaving office last month, CNN reported that Pence, 61, met privately with Republican lawmakers on Wednesday. Pence said he maintains a "friendship" with Trump, 74, according to one lawmaker who was there.
"He spoke very favorably about his relationship with President Trump," Rep. Jim Banks told CNN. "I got the sense they speak often and maintain the same personal friendship and relationship now that they have for four years."
That news comes after earlier reports that Pence's relationship with Trump had seriously frayed in the final weeks of their administration.
Trump had urged Pence to exert unconstitutional authority to throw out the election results showing they lost. The vice president, who had remained loyal in the face of four years of controversies and investigations, declined to do so.
While giving a speech just ahead of the march on the Capitol, Trump told the crowd that Pence needed "to come through for us" and "if he doesn't, that will be a sad day for our country because you're sworn to uphold our Constitution."
When a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol during a joint session of Congress, with Pence presiding in the Senate, some of the rioters called out to "Hang Mike Pence!"
Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence and their daughter Charlotte were quickly evacuated from the building, though not far ahead of the mob.
Trump reportedly did not check on Pence during the riot, in which five people died.
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The former president was impeached for a second time one week later, though the Senate acquitted him of his charge of inciting an insurrection.
During the trial, never-before-seen video evidence showed Pence, his family and other lawmakers being escorted by security with large guns.
Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville also revealed during the trial that minutes after he informed Trump that the vice president had been evacuated out of concern for his safety, Trump sent out a tweet that many critics believed put Pence in even more danger.
"Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution," Trump's tweet read. (Twitter banned his account after the riot.)
Like Trump, Pence has launched his own post-White House team and plans to relocate to Indiana this summer. And like Trump, he is widely seen as a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
"He'll be launching an organization defending the successful Trump-Pence record of the last four years," Rep. Banks told CNN.
In recent weeks, Pence also announced he would become a "distinguished fellow" with conservative The Heritage Foundation and a recurring columnist for its political website, The Daily Signal.
In a separate announcement, Pence said he would join the Young America's Foundation as a "Ronald Reagan Presidential Scholar," giving lectures at the group's Virginia campus and hosting a video podcast to share his conservative viewpoints.
An Indiana political source told PEOPLE this month that no matter what Pence decides to do, in the eyes of the GOP, "the world is his oyster."