Former US vice president Mike Pence harshly criticised former president Donald Trump for his role in the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, widening the rift between the two men as they prepare to battle over the Republican nomination in next year’s election.
“President Trump was wrong,” Mr Pence said during remarks at the annual white-tie Gridiron Dinner attended by politicians and journalists.
“I had no right to overturn the election.
“And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
Mr Pence’s remarks were the sharpest condemnation yet from the once-loyal lieutenant who has often shied away from confronting his former boss.
Mr Trump has already declared his candidacy.
In the days leading up to January 6 2021, Mr Trump pressured Mr Pence to overturn President Joe Biden’s election victory as he presided over the ceremonial certification of the results.
Mr Pence refused, and when rioters stormed the Capitol, some chanted that they wanted to “hang Mike Pence”.
The House committee that investigated the attack said in its final report that “the President of the United States had riled up a mob that hunted his own vice president”.
With his remarks, Mr Pence solidified his place in a broader debate within the Republican Party over how to view the attack.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, for example, recently provided Tucker Carlson with an archive of security camera footage from January 6, which the Fox News host has used to downplay the day’s events and promote conspiracy theories.
“And it mocks decency to portray it any other way.”
Mr Trump, meanwhile, has continued to spread lies about his election loss.
He has even spoken in support of the rioters and said he would consider pardoning them if he was re-elected.
Speeches at the Gridiron Dinner are usually humorous affairs, where politicians poke fun at each other, and Mr Pence did plenty of that as well.
He took another shot at Mr Trump over classified documents.
“I read that some of those classified documents they found at Mar-a-Lago were actually stuck in the president’s Bible,” Mr Pence said.
“Which proves he had absolutely no idea they were there.”
Even before the dinner was over, Mr Pence was facing criticism for his jokes about Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay Cabinet member in US history.
Mr Pence mentioned that, despite travel problems that were plaguing Americans, Mr Buttigieg took “maternity leave” after he and his husband adopted newborn twins.
“Pete is the only person in human history to have a child and everyone else gets post-partum depression,” Mr Pence said.