Pence Confronts Trump

Former Vice President Mike Pence in Ankeny, Iowa on June 7, 2023. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Happy Friday! Eight years ago tomorrow, real estate magnate Donald Trump descended a golden escalator at Trump Tower in Manhattan to announce he was running for president. Who knows: Maybe eight years from now we’ll be remarking on the anniversary of Francis Suarez getting in!

Up to Speed

  • They keep piling in: Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Republican, announced Thursday he’s running for president. “America’s so-called leaders confuse being loud with actually leading,” Suarez said in his announcement video, which features him out for a run around his city. “All Washington wants to do is fight with each other instead of fighting for the people that put them in office.” First elected in 2017, he’ll be the race’s only Latino—and its third Florida man.
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday signed a state law mandating that college athletes in the state participate in sports in accordance with their biological sex.
  • Meanwhile, California’s Senate Judiciary Committee moved forward this week on a bill mandating that courts weigh parents’ consideration of a child’s gender identity claims while adjudicating child custody fights. The bill was passed by the state Assembly earlier this year.
  • Former President Donald Trump’s federal indictment notwithstanding, the Republican National Committee isn’t budging on its requirement to make GOP presidential hopefuls pledge to support the eventual nominee in order to make the debate stage. The RNC reportedly made that clear this week to former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who had been publicly protesting the requirement. (Whether the RNC can ultimately enforce such a pledge is another matter.)

‘I Can’t Defend What It Alleged’

Mike Pence isn’t a political cage fighter or a fire-breathing rhetorician, and he isn’t running for president to repudiate the MAGA era. But the former vice president has made it clear since launching his presidential campaign that there’s one subject on which he’s willing to hit his old boss Donald Trump hard: his contempt for the Constitution and the rule of law.

So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that, in the wake of Trump’s indictment this week on federal charges of mishandling classified documents and obstruction of justice, Pence has gone farther than many of his competitors in criticizing the former president’s alleged behavior. And he’s pointedly refused to join with some competitors, like Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley, who are vowing to pardon if they win the White House (and the former president is convicted).

To be sure, Pence leavens his concerns about the allegations against Trump by acknowledging Republican suspicions about double standards at the Department of Justice and the FBI, two agencies he promises to overhaul if elected president. But his stubborn refusal to absolve Trump before the matter has been adjudicated has irked Trump loyalists and sparked testy interviews this week in conservative media.

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