Former Vice President Mike Pence said he can’t recall any instance when former President Donald Trump told him he knew he had lost the 2020 election.
“There was no point in time that the president ever told me that he knew he had lost,” Pence told the Des Moines Register in a one-on-one interview Saturday in Ankeny.
Trump was indicted this month on four counts of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election. He has pleaded not guilty.
Legal experts say Trump’s state of mind could be key to the case. Throughout the indictment, prosecutors seek to establish that Trump knew he did not win the election and that his statements about massive fraud were lies.
As Trump campaigned at the Iowa State Fair on Saturday, a reporter asked him if he intended to overturn the 2020 election.
“You know the answer,” Trump responded.
The indictment includes several examples of people who told Trump that he had lost the election or that there was no evidence of sufficient fraud to change the results, including Pence.
Other former Trump officials, including Attorney General Bill Barr, have said Trump was aware he had lost the 2020 election to President Joe Biden.
“At first I wasn’t sure, but I have come to believe he knew well he lost the election,” Barr told CNN this month.
But Pence repeated Saturday that Trump never said as much in front of him.
“I don’t recall the president ever saying to me that he knew he lost the election,” he said.
Whatever Trump’s belief about the election was, Pence said, “I knew my duty was clear.”
“I had no right to overturn the election,” Pence told the Register. “And the American people deserve to know that the president asked me to choose him over keeping my oath to the Constitution, but I chose the Constitution and I always will.”
Pence was present with Trump numerous times after the 2020 election and leading up to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Prosecutors cite Pence’s “contemporaneous notes” throughout the indictment, providing evidence for what Trump said or did during that time.
The indictment describes a January 1, 2021 phone call where Trump called Pence and “berated” him for saying there was no constitutional basis for the vice president to reject electoral votes.
“You’re too honest,” Trump told Pence, according to the indictment. The Pence campaign has sought to capitalize on the attention by selling T-shirts and hats with the phrase “Too Honest” printed on them.
It’s not clear whether Pence will be called to testify at Trump’s trial.
“I have no plans to testify, but, look, we’ll always comply with the law,” he told CNN this month.
Trump and Pence are competing for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, with Trump leading a field of other candidates, including Pence, by a wide margin in polling.
Pence on Saturday wrapped up a three-day campaign swing through Iowa that included stops in Davenport, a trip to the Iowa State Fair and a roundtable with presidents of Christian college and universities.