Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy said Sunday that he would have certified the results of the 2020 presidential election and that then-Vice President Mike Pence missed a "historic opportunity" to initiate changes on Jan 6, 2021.
With Donald Trump absent at the first GOP presidential debate Wednesday, Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur who has closely aligned himself with the former president, took center stage. He launched and received the most attacks during the debate, seizing on the opportunity to rise from relative obscurity to a notable contender.
Asked by NBC News' Chuck Todd in an interview on “Meet the Press” whether Pence had done the right thing on Jan. 6 by certifying the results of the election, Ramaswamy said: “I would have done it very differently. I think that there was a historic opportunity that he missed, to reunite this country in that window.
"What I would have said is: This is a moment for a true national consensus where there's two elements of what's required for a functioning democracy in America," he said. “One is secure elections, and the second is a peaceful transfer of power. When those things come into conflict, that’s an opportunity for heroism.”
Ramaswamy said if he had been in Pence's position, he would have pushed "reforms" through Congress before he certified the election.
“Here’s what I would have said: ‘We need single-day voting on Election Day, we need paper ballots, and we need government- issued ID matching the voter file.’ And if we achieve that, then we have achieved victory and we should not have any further complaint about election integrity. I would have driven it through the Senate," he said.
“In my capacity as president of the Senate, I would have led through that level of reform, then on that condition certified the election results, served it up to the president — President Trump — then to sign that into law. And on January 7th, declared the re-election campaign pursuant to a free and fair election,” he said. “I think that was a missed opportunity."
David James, press secretary for Pence's campaign, criticized Ramaswamy's remarks on “Meet the Press.”
“Vivek’s statement today on January 6th is both shocking and concerning in its lack of understanding of how our system of government works," James wrote. "In one breathe he joins Nancy Pelosi and radical progressives in wanting to nationalize our election system, and in another he claims that the Vice President has unilateral authority to decide when to certify elections."
Pence’s campaign also pointed NBC News to an email it sent to subscribers following Ramaswamy’s remarks.
“Ramaswamy has flipped and flopped around the issue of January 6. His most recent comments are perhaps his most egregious, including on this morning’s edition of Meet The Press on NBC,” Pence’s campaign said in a statement. “On August 4, 2023, he refused to say he would have certified the results of the 2020 election on January 6, 2021. Yet at Wednesday’s GOP Debate, he raised his hand in support of what Mike Pence did in following the Constitution, despite his comments on MTP today.”
In response, Ramaswamy’s campaign pointed out that he did not raise his hand in support of Pence. During the debate, several GOP candidates were asked whether they believed Pence did the right thing on Jan. 6. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum were among those who said he did. Ramaswamy was not asked the question.
Earlier this month, Ramaswamy reportedly sidestepped when asked by Politico whether he would have certified the election results as Pence did following Joe Biden's 2020 win and amid Trump's refusal to concede.
“I would have never let it get to that point,” Ramaswamy said, according to Politico. “I would have never put myself — or been part of an administration, if I was in a serious position of leadership — to ever have allowed us to have gotten to that doorstep.”
Later in his interview on “Meet the Press,” Ramaswamy was asked why he thinks he's going to be an effective leader as someone who has less experience than Trump.
“I want to build on the foundation that Trump laid, frankly, I will invite him as an adviser and a mentor,” the candidate said. “I don’t want to relearn the same lessons. I want to pick up where he left off in taking on the administrative state.”
He had already previously indicated that he'd want Trump as an adviser, but it was the first time he reiterated that wish since the former president was booked on charges that he conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. In the first of his four indictments this year, Trump had his mug shot taken on Thursday night before he was released on a $200,000 bond.
Ramaswamy, 38, had also said during a town hall in Newton, Iowa, Friday that he would like Elon Musk, the owner of X, formerly known as Twitter, to be an adviser in his administration should he be elected.
“I’ve enjoyed getting to know better Elon Musk recently, I expect him to be an interesting adviser of mine because he laid off 75% of the employees at Twitter,” he said.