WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — Former Vice President Mike Pence will urge Republicans to move on from the 2020 election and will declare “there is no room in this party for apologists for Putin” as he escalates his break from former President Donald Trump.
Pence, according to excerpts of a speech he will give Friday evening to the party’s top donors in New Orleans, will take on those in his party who have failed to forcefully condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin for his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Trump has repeatedly used language that has been criticized as deferential to Putin, including calling him “smart,” as he has insisted the attack never would have happened on his watch.
“Where would Russian tanks be today if NATO had not expanded the borders of freedom? There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin,” Pence will say, according to excerpts from the speech. “There is only room for champions of freedom.”
Pence, who Trump wrongly continues to insist had the power to overturn the 2020 election, will also continue to push back on Trump’s election lies as he lays the groundwork for a possible 2024 presidential run. Trump has also been teasing a comeback bid, potentially putting the two former running mates in direct competition.
“Elections are about the future,” he will say. “My fellow Republicans, we can only win if we are united around an optimistic vision for the future based on our highest values. We cannot win by fighting yesterday’s battles, or by relitigating the past.”
Pence has been increasingly willing to push back on Trump — a dramatic departure from his deferential posture as vice president.
Last month, Pence directly rebutted Trump’s false claims that he somehow could have overturned the results of the 2020 election, telling a gathering lawyers in Florida that Trump was “wrong.”
“I had no right to overturn the election,” he said.
Still, he will join his party Friday evening in blaming Joe Biden for Putin’s efforts, accusing the current president of having “squandered the deterrence that our administration put in place to keep Putin and Russia from even trying to redraw international boundaries by force.”
“It’s no coincidence that Russia waited until 2022 to invade Ukraine,” he will say. “Weakness arouses evil and the magnitude of evil sweeping across Ukraine speaks volumes about this president.”