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Eyes on 2024: Pence blasts Trump in “Meet the Press” interview

Former Vice President Mike Pence sat down with "Meet the Press," highlighting former President Trump's split in some places with conservatism.

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Former Vice President Mike Pence expanded on some of his most direct criticisms of his former running mate, former President Donald Trump, in Sunday’s interview with “Meet the Press.” 

“In 2016, Donald Trump promised to govern as a conservative,” Pence said, “but he makes no such promise today,” specifically criticizing Trump for “walking away from a clear commitment to the right to life,” sending an “ambiguous message” about the war in Ukraine, and having a position on the national debt that’s “identical to Joe Biden’s.” 

Amid the indictment of Trump over his handling of classified documents, Pence reiterated he would “clean house at the highest levels of the Department of Justice” on his first day as president. And he brushed aside a discussion about whether he agreed with some of his GOP presidential rivals who say they’d consider pardoning Trump by calling the question “premature” before Trump’s trial concludes. 

You can watch the entire interview here

In other campaign news…

Biden re-elect kicking into gear: After a bit of a slow start, Biden’s re-election is taking shape. He spoke to union members Saturday trumpeting what the Associated Press called “an unapologetically economic populist message,” and as NBC News’ Jonathan Allen reports, the re-election campaign has 20 fundraisers planned for the last half of this month, many featuring Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris. 

Looking the other way: Key Republicans are either excusing Trump’s handling of classified information amid his indictment, or arguing that Biden and his family should be prosecuted or jailed. 

DeSantis out west: Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis campaigned in Nevada over the weekend at an annual Basque Fry, touting his Covid policies in Florida as a success. Meanwhile, a super PAC backing him trained hundreds of canvassers in Iowa as part of a multi-million dollar ground game effort across the early GOP primary states, NBC News’ Dasha Burns and Allan Smith report. 

Florida men: Miami Mayor Francis Suarez disagreed with DeSantis’ support for expanding prohibitions on discussing gender identity and sexual orientation in classrooms, calling it “excessive” in an interview with NBC News’ Hallie Jackson as they discussed Suarez’ presidential bid. 

Deployed: Michael Haley, the husband of GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley, deployed Saturday for Africa, where he’ll be for much of the 2024 presidential cycle. 

Debate pledge drama: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie lampooned the Republican National Committee’s loyalty pledge as a “useless idea,” while former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he disagreed with the pledge and warned that Trump could pardon himself if elected. 

Last steps for the First Step Act? Politico reports on how Republicans like DeSantis, Pence and Hutchinson are all criticizing the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill signed by Trump, on the campaign trail. 

Let’s make a date: The South Carolina GOP has set its presidential primary for Feb. 24, while Democrats kicked the can again on their proposed calendar shakeup into September. 

Will he, won’t he: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said during a radio show Friday “I don’t think I’m going to run again” for governor.