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Pence: Abortion decision 'among most consequential' of Trump legacies

Former Vice President Mike Pence addressed abortion, Trump, the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and more in a wide ranging interview with Meet the Press. 
Former Vice President Mike Pence during a Meet The Press interview.
Former Vice President Mike Pence during a Meet The Press interview.Meet The Press

Former Vice President Mike Pence said the Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate the national right to abortion is “among the most consequential legacies” of former President Donald Trump’s administration, underscoring his staunch opposition to abortion rights in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press.

“The Dobbs decision not just overturned Roe v. Wade, but it returned the question of abortion to the states and to the American people. And I celebrate that from really the depths of my heart,” Pence said in the interview, which aired Sunday.

“I truly believe the opportunity to restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law may be among the most consequential legacies of the Trump-Pence administration, if not the most consequential,” Pence later added. 

Pence’s comments come as he’s weighing his own run for the White House in 2024 — a decision he said he’ll make by the end of the year.  

If Pence jumps into the race, he’d be taking on his former running mate, Donald Trump, who launched a third run for president last week, just days after the GOP’s disappointing showing in the midterm elections.

Most post-election examinations have pinned at least a part of the party's woes to the court's decision that energized voters concerned about abortion rights — and an election cycle that included several state ballot initiatives to secure those rights.

But Pence implied that the party's election woes rested elsewhere.

“Candidates that were focused on the issues that people are facing today and solutions for tomorrow, focused on the future, did quite well,” Pence said. “But candidates that were focused on the past, candidates that were focused on re-litigating the 2020 election, did not fare as well.”

On the abortion issue, Pence insisted that the Dobbs decision has helped make the debate a battle of hearts and minds “to persuade our neighbors and friends to the day that abortion is not only illegal, but it’s unthinkable.” Pence voiced his support for a proposal from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to ban most abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

‘He was my friend’

Pence was limited in his direct criticisms of Trump, even in his recollections of being pushed by the former president not to certify the 2020 presidential elections results and fueling the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol where some rioters called for Pence to be hanged. 

“Over those four and a half years that we worked together, President Trump was not just my president. He was my friend,” Pence said during the interview at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Pence declined to directly answer whether Trump is fit to serve as president again, or whether Trump respects the Constitution. And Pence placed the blame for Trump’s push to overturn the election results on the lawyers who convinced Trump that Pence had the authority to do so.

“I don’t know if it is criminal to listen to bad advice from lawyers,” Pence said when asked if Trump committed a crime in fomenting an insurrection. “Truth is, what the president was repeating is what he was hearing from that gaggle of attorneys around him.”

The Covid response

The team around Trump at the time also included chief of staff Mark Meadows, who Pence criticized as an ineffective “gatekeeper.” Pence said it was Meadows who discouraged regular White House briefings during the early months of the Covid pandemic. 

For his part, Pence touted his role in the administration’s pandemic response, bringing together leaders in public health and economic experts. Those leaders included Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease who has since been vilified on the right. 

Pence did not directly answer whether the criticisms to Fauci are fair, describing the expert as a “great source of comfort to millions of Americans” in the early days of the pandemic, but questioning Fauci’s support for vaccine mandates. 

“Dr. Fauci ultimately aligned himself with many Democrat governors who took what were temporary policies and made them long-term policies in their state,” Pence said. “And the American people love freedom.”

Mar-a-Lago search

Pence also addressed the FBI’s search for classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residents, criticizing Attorney General Merrick Garland’s decision to approve the search.

“I have great concerns about his judgment and leadership at the Justice Department in the wake of it,” Pence said. 

Pence insisted the Justice Department could have taken additional steps before searching Trump’s residence, even though the Justice Department and the National Archives had been in a standoff with Trump over the documents for months leading up to the search. 

“No one’s above the law. But I would hope the Justice Department would give careful consideration before they take any additional steps in this matter,” Pence said.