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Pence’s January 6 Defense
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Pence’s January 6 Defense

Plus, Nikki Haley offers her refined version of MAGA.

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks to guests during a campaign event on July 6, 2023 in Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Happy Friday! On Wednesday Robert F. Kennedy Jr. tweeted several photos of his supporters at July Fourth parades and thanked them for marching on his behalf. Problem is, one of the pictures is of fellow Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson wearing an “MW 2024” pin. She quickly tweeted back that “I was there with the Marianne Williamson campaign, Bobby:)” and Kennedy responded, “I’m sorry we missed each other Marianne. Please stay strong!” Isn’t it just great to see candidates getting along?

Up to Speed

  • The Secret Service is investigating the origins of a bag containing cocaine found in the White House over the weekend, a spokesman said Thursday. NBC News reported Thursday that the illicit substance was found “in a cubby near the White House’s West Executive entrance, not the formal West Wing lobby, as was previously reported.”
  • Second-quarter campaign filings are due to the Federal Election Commission by July 15, but some campaigns are already publicizing their fundraising numbers. Former President Donald Trump’s joint fundraising campaign reportedly raised more than $35 million in the second quarter, nearly doubling his first quarter haul. Perennial polling runner-up Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis raised $20 million during the same period after announcing in mid-May, according to his campaign. 
  • President Joe Biden touted his economic strategy before a crowd of supporters on Thursday in South Carolina, an early state on the presidential nominating calendar that was crucial to his 2020 Democratic primary bid. The unemployment rate has “been below 4 percent for the longest time in 50 years,” Biden said. “Inflation is less than half of what it was a year ago, and we’re continuing to work on it.” 
  • Former Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones announced his candidacy for Congress in New York’s 17th Congressional District—a seat currently held by freshman GOP Rep. Mike Lawler. Jones joins a Democratic primary featuring Liz Whitmer Gereghty, the sister of Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
  • In a court hearing that lasted only minutes, Trump aide Walt Nauta pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges that he conspired with the former president to withhold and hide sensitive government documents at the billionaire’s Palm Beach home. 
  • North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Michael Morgan is considering challenging North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein for the Tarheel State’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2024, telling the News & Observer that “I feel inclined to respect the calls that I’m getting.”
  • Retired Army Capt. Sam Brown is planning to challenge Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada in 2024, NBC News reports. Brown unsuccessfully sought the Republican Senate nomination in Nevada last cycle.

On the Trail, Pence Defends Himself on January 6

SIOUX CITY, Iowa—Mike Pence knows voters will forever associate him with January 6, 2021— some for good reasons and some for bad. Yet as the former vice president made clear to The Dispatch, he isn’t writing off Republicans who think he failed to do his duty.

“If it wasn’t for your vote, we would not have Joe Biden in the White House,” says a woman Wednesday evening at a packed Pizza Ranch buffet in Sioux City. “Joe Biden shouldn’t be there, and all those wonderful things that you and Trump were doing together would be continuing, and this country would be on the right path. Do you ever second-guess yourself? That was a constitutional right that you had to send those votes back to the states.”

The comment elicits one or two nods of agreement from fellow attendees of the meet-and-greet—most notably from a man wearing a “Trump 2024” cowboy hat. But the others focus on Pence’s answer, which he delivers with the calm patience of someone who has responded to such questions many times before.

“I think it’s an issue that continues to be misunderstood,” says Pence. “I know, by God’s grace, I did exactly what the Constitution of the United States required of me that day, and I kept my honor.”

Most of the audience applauds, although the woman looks unsatisfied. Pence explains how Donald Trump’s campaign filed dozens of fruitless lawsuits challenging the 2020 election results in several states. The states, which run elections, had certified their results before sending them to Congress to be counted, he notes.

“When Iowa certified your results and sent them to Washington, D.C., when Indiana certified the results, the Constitution of the United States and Article II says the job of the vice president is to serve as the presiding officer in the joint session where you open and count the vote,” Pence says. “The Constitution says you open and count votes, no more, no less. The Constitution affords no authority to the vice president or anyone else to reject the votes or return votes to the states.”

The woman continues to shake her head in disappointment. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but that’s actually what the Constitution says,” Pence explains.

Questions like hers are rare for Pence, he tells The Dispatch the next morning. “There is a persistent misunderstanding among, I think, a diminishing number of Republican voters about what took place that day,” Pence says. “But I’m absolutely determined to do what I did last night, express it plainly but compassionately.”

The question at Pizza Ranch was the first critical one on January 6 posed to the former VP during two full days with Pence in Iowa. In fact, several Republican voters expressed their admiration for Pence’s actions, unprompted by The Dispatch

Moments after Pence and his wife Karen walk past her family on the Fourth of July parade in Urbandale, Jolene Jungling tells The Dispatch that Pence’s actions in the Capitol earned her admiration.

“I thought what he did was upstanding,” says Jungling, a regular Republican voter.

Chad and Linda Acuff of Ames brought their teenage children to Boone on July 4 to see Pence speak at a rural energy co-op. “We both really respect him for what he did on January 6,” says Linda. Chad says he remembers Pence’s actions that day as “showing who he really was.”

“For me, as a veteran, that speaks very loudly,” he continues. “He did take the reins of leadership as needed during January 6, even though his Secret Service was telling him, ‘You gotta go,’ he knew his responsibilities to the nation.”

All of that may reflect how GOP voters opposed to Trump see Pence’s role, but it’s out of step with how the majority of Republicans still view the 2020 election. According to a CNN poll in March, 63 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said Joe Biden did not legitimately win the election, with 52 percent of those agreeing there was “solid evidence” of a stolen election. That’s down from January 2021—when those numbers were 71 and 75 percent respectively—but it’s still an electoral challenge for the former vice president.

“I believe in her heart of hearts that woman loves the Constitution, and I saw some recognition in her when I said to her, in my effort to be thoughtful about it, I said, ‘Just read the Constitution, Article II, you’ll see what it says,’” Pence tells The Dispatch. “Many people came up to me and said, ‘Thank you.’”

Nikki Haley Spitshines Trump’s ‘MAGA’ 

NORTH CONWAY, New Hampshire—Nikki Haley is offering her own, refined version of the “Make America Great Again” nostalgia that Donald Trump popularized in the Republican Party eight years ago.

“Think of what life was like when you were growing up. Remember how simple it was? Remember how safe it felt? It was about faith, family and country—where parents raised us to be responsible individuals. We went to school and we learned what we needed to, to be successful. We went to church and we found our faith and our conscience,” Haley said Thursday. “Don’t you want that again?” 

Haley was addressing a crowd of about 150 gathered at a community center in the bucolic mountains of northern New Hampshire to give her presidential campaign a test drive. Before fielding unscreened questions from voters at this town-hall style meeting, Haley answered her own question by taking a subtle dig at the politician who made “MAGA” a hashtag.

“We can have that again. But in order to have that, we’ve got to face the facts. Republicans have lost the last seven out of eight popular votes for president. That’s nothing to be proud of. We should want to win a majority of Americans,” she said. “We have to have a new generational leader, that’s looking forward, not back. We’ve gotta leave this chaos and the negativity behind—and the drama that goes with it. We’ve got a country to save.” 

Haley, 51, has her work cut out for her. 

The former South Carolina governor, who served in Trump’s Cabinet as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, trails in state and national polls. The RealClearPolitics average pegs Haley at 3.6 percent nationally; and the latest New Hampshire survey showed her at 5 percent. But it’s not as though the only woman in the GOP primary, and the first Republican woman with a substantial political resume to seek the presidency, isn’t drawing interest.

On a sweltering day voters started filling the seats at the North Conway Community Center 90 minutes before the start of the evening event. Haley intrigues them, and they’re giving her some consideration. But this is New Hampshire. It’s what voters do in the state that hosts the first traditional primary on the quadrennial presidential nominating calendar.

Take John Leonard, a 63-year-old certified public accountant who was wearing a blue ‘Haley for president’ baseball cap.  

“I’m looking for someone who is going to put America first, someone who is strong, someone who has a good handle on the economy,” he said. Might Leonard be leaning toward Haley? “I could certainly support the ambassador,” he answers. “I’m still shopping. I’m not interested in the status quo. I don’t want to see a couple of grumpy old men fighting each other next year.”

Yet he hasn’t ruled out backing the Republican frontrunner in the primary: “We’ll have to see how that pans out.” This is New Hampshire. 

The Q&A portion of Haley’s town hall was substantive. 

Voters asked about federal spending, government bureaucracy, China, immigration, and how the GOP can improve its appeal with younger voters. Yet one man’s question about three politically charged issues showed how far Haley is from building a winning coalition in the primary. 

“A lot of what you said makes sense,” the questioner noted before adding, “I don’t quite understand your position on guns, abortion, and your resistance to Medicaid.” 

Haley attempted to reassure him by explaining that she holds a concealed weapon permit, would only reform federal entitlement programs for younger Americans, and believes there is a role for Washington to play in reducing abortions—but she’s not optimistic Republicans will get a chance anytime soon.

“We haven’t had 60 senators in over 100 years,” Haley says. “No Republican president can ban abortions.”

Notable and Quotable

“I don’t have anything to share.”

—White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responding to a reporter’s question about whether Joe Biden recognizes his son Hunter’s out-of-wedlock biological daughter on Wednesday, July 5

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.

Audrey is a former reporter for The Dispatch.

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.

Thomas Dorsey is an intern for The Dispatch.