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CNN Live Event/Special

CNN Townhall: Former Vice President Mike Pence. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired November 16, 2022 - 21:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, and welcome to CNN's town hall with former Vice President Mike Pence. I'm Jake Tapper.

He is the man at the center of one of the most fateful days in American history, January 6, 2021. And, tonight, the former vice president will lay out the details of that day, along with behind-the- scenes accounts of the Trump presidency, which he writes about in his newly published book, which is entitled "So Help Me God."

Mr. Pence joins us just 24 hours after Donald Trump announced that he is running for president for the third time.

Our audience is here to ask the vice president about issues important to them. The questioners are Republicans and independents and Democrats from the New York area and from Mr. Pence's home state of Indiana.

Please welcome former Vice President Mike Pence.


TAPPER: Good to see you, sir. Thank you for joining us.




PENCE: Thank you.

TAPPER: So, we're going to get to the audience in just a moment.

But, first, I have to ask you, of course, about the elephant in the room, which is your former boss Donald Trump just announced that he's running for president.

Will you...

PENCE: Heard that.


TAPPER: Will you -- will you support him?

PENCE: Well, it's great to be here at CNN, Jake.

TAPPER: Thank you.

PENCE: It really is.

Thank you for bringing together so many great Americans, including, I heard, some people from my home state of Indiana...

TAPPER: A lot of them. A lot of them.

PENCE: ... we have with us here.


TAPPER: Hoosiers in the house.

PENCE: And let me just -- let me just say that it was -- it was a great honor for me to be a part of the Trump/Pence administration.

And, in four short years, we rebuilt our military, we revived our economy, we unleashed American energy, we appointed conservatives to our courts at every level.

But, in the end, our administration did not end well. And I write about that in my book. But, as I have traveled across the country over the last year-and-a-half, one thing I have heard over and over again, whether it's at the grocery store in Indiana or traveling around the country, is, people want us to get back to the policies of the Trump/Pence administration.

They want to see America strong, and prosperous, and advancing the policies that we advanced that left America more secure, and seven million American jobs created.

But the other thing that I have heard consistently is that the American people are looking for new leadership, leadership that will unite our country around our highest ideals, leadership that will reflect the civility and respect that most Americans have for one another.

Once you get out of politics, you learn pretty quickly that, while our politics is very divided, the American people actually get along pretty well every day and treat each other with kindness and with decency and with respect.

And so, I think, in the days ahead, whatever role I and my family play in the Republican Party, whether it's as a candidate or simply a part of the cause, I think we will have better choices...

TAPPER: Better choices.

PENCE: ... than my old running mate. I think America longs to go back to the policies that were working for the American people, but I think it's time for new leadership in this country that will bring us together around our highest ideals.

TAPPER: Would that be you?

PENCE: I will keep you posted.


TAPPER: You will keep me posted.


TAPPER: All right.

Just -- just to put a button this, if Donald Trump were to run and win the nomination, would you support him as the nominee?

PENCE: Well, let me say, there -- there may be somebody else in that contest I'd prefer more, Jake.

TAPPER: Mm-hmm. Anyone in mind?


PENCE: Well, I honestly believe we're going to have better choices.

Literally everywhere I have gone across the country, I have heard again and again that the American people look at the policies of the Biden and Harris administration that have ignited the worst inflation in 40 years, that have caused gasoline prices to go through the roof, have literally, literally weakened America at home and abroad every single day.

They want to get back to the policies and -- but maybe it's because of my Hoosier and Midwestern upbringing. They often say to me that we want to get back to treating one another in public life the way the American people treat one another every day, and that's with respect for all viewpoints in this country.

And I have every confidence that we will produce a standard-bearer for our party, whoever he or she may be, that will -- that will lead us there and lead us to victory in 2024.

TAPPER: Well, your talk of civility leads us perfectly into the first question we have from Jesse LaGrossa in the audience. He's an accountant from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He's a Republican who voted for the Trump/Pence ticket.


JESSE LAGROSSA, ACCOUNTANT: Vice President, thank you for being here.

PENCE: Hi, Jesse. Thanks. LAGROSSA: Whether you love him or hate him, former President Trump, now candidate Trump, is a polarizing figure who brought controversial issues to the forefront of American politics.

How does the country move past the polarization and find common ground solutions to these important issues facing this nation?

PENCE: Well, Jesse, thanks. Thanks for the question.

But let me just say, it was the greatest honor of my life to serve as vice president with President Donald Trump. I don't think any candidate other than Donald Trump could have defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016. Republican primary voters saw that -- that formidable candidacy of Hillary Clinton, and I think they knew we needed a fighter, someone that could step forward and help turn the country back to the policies that would make us strong and prosperous and secure.

And he was the right man at the right time. And it was my honor to serve alongside him.

But I truly do believe, as I just shared with Jake, that I think we're moving into a different season in America. Our nation has been through a lot, the COVID pandemic, the riots of the summer of 2020, and, of course, the tragic day in January of 2021.

And what I hear people saying more than anything else is that they want to see leadership that will look at uniting the American people around our highest ideals. I truly do believe that. And I -- and I think it all begins with the golden rule.

As I write in my book, the most important decision I ever made was to put my faith in Jesus Christ when I was a freshman in college. The second most important decision I ever made was to ask Karen Pence to become my wife 37 years ago.

For us and for our family, we have -- we have always tried to live by the golden rule, to treat others the way that we want to be treated. It wasn't always true in my political career. When I first started out in politics, as I write, in my book, I let my ambition get ahead of me. I got involved in one of those negative personal attack campaigns.

But when it was all over, I reflected on what my Christian faith required of me. And the time 10 years later that we had the opportunity to run for Congress again, we always sought to run in such a way that first demonstrated the decency and our commitment to treat people properly and respectfully about issues more important than us.

And then it was about winning. And through my years in Congress, through my years as governor of Indiana and as your vice president, I have tried to emulate that. And I think, whether it's me and my family or some other standard-bearer for our party, I believe we're -- we're going into a season where the American people are looking for that kind of leadership that vigorously debates our issue, stands strongly for them, as I always have, but does so with gentleness and respect.

TAPPER: I want to bring in our first Hoosier of the night, Daniela Moloci. She's from Fort Wayne.

PENCE: Hi, Daniela.

TAPPER: She's a student at Indiana University. She's a Democrat who voted for President Biden.



I was wondering, based off of the themes of your book, for you, when was the most difficult moment in your political career to reconcile the competing interests of loyalty, God and the Constitution?

PENCE: Well, Michelle, good to have you here. And...

TAPPER: Daniela is her name

PENCE: Danielle (sic). Forgive me.

And, clearly, the days leading up to January 6, and January 6 itself was the most difficult day in my public life. I was always loyal to President Donald Trump. He was my president, and he was my friend. And we worked together very closely for all those four years of our administration.

Whenever we had disagreements -- and we did from time to time -- I kept them private. I thought it was important, as vice president, that I offer my advice and my counsel to the president confidentially. And we did.

But I had one higher loyalty, and that was the God and the Constitution. And that's what set in motion the confrontation that would come to pass on January 6, because I had taken an oath to the Constitution of the United States. It was -- it ended with a prayer, "So help me God," which inspired the title of my book.

And I was determined to keep my oath, as the Bible says, to keep my oath even when it hurts, and -- but to do that with someone with whom I'd worked so closely and forged such a good relationship, someone who I'd created a record with that I will be proud of for the rest of my life, was difficult.

But I will always believe that we did our duty that day, upholding the Constitution of the United States and the laws of this country and the peaceful transfer of power.

TAPPER: Let's have a seat, if it's OK with you.

I want to -- since we're talking about January 6, I do want to take you back to that day. Take a look at the video over here. That, of course, was the noose hanging outside the Capitol that day, and rioters were calling for your execution, chanting, "Hang Mike Pence."

Almost two years later, is it still tough to -- there's some of the video of the "Hang Mike Pence." Two years later, is it still tough to see that and hear that?

PENCE: Jake, it saddens me. But, that day, it angered me.

I must tell you, when -- when the Secret Service took us down to the loading dock, accompanied by my wife, my daughter Charlotte and our Secret Service detail, I was determined to stay at my post.

I told the Secret Service that I was not leaving the Capitol. I didn't want to give those people the sight of a 16-car motorcade speeding away from the Capitol that day.

But frankly, when I saw those images, and when -- when I read a tweet that President Trump issued saying that I lacked courage in that moment, it angered me greatly. But to be honest with you, I didn't have time for it. The president had decided in that moment to be a part of the problem. I had decided and was determined to be part of the solution.

And so, we essentially set that aside. I collected the Republican and Democrat leadership of the House and Senate on a conference call, and we began to work the problem. They tasked me to reach out to leadership at the Pentagon, the leadership at the Justice Department to surge additional resources there.

And thanks to the courage of those amazing Capitol Hill police officers and federal law enforcement, we -- we quelled the violence. We reconvened the Congress the very same day.

And I will always believe that, because of their courage and valor, a day of tragedy became a triumph of freedom, and we demonstrated to the American people and to the world the strength of our institutions, the resilience of our democracy.

But those memories, those images will always be with me.

TAPPER: So, you just said that the president in that moment decided to be a part of the problem.

And I have to say, as somebody that had been reporting on it for the months leading up to January 6, I don't think anything happened in that moment that was part of the problem. President Trump had been campaigning in favor of the overturning of the election for months and months and months. It wasn't in that moment. And he wasn't part of the problem.

He was the problem.

PENCE: Well, look, the people that rioted at the Capitol are responsible for what they did.

And, as I said that day and I have believed every day since, those people should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. When I saw the images of people smashing windows, ransacking offices, and creating the mayhem that ultimately cost lives, I was filled with a simmering indignation. I had served in the Congress for 12 years. I had dreamed from the time I was a little boy, as I wrote in my book, about someday representing my hometown in Congress. And to see what was happening there, the first time since 1814 that our Capitol Building, I -- I just found myself thinking, not this, not here, not in America.

And I -- I hear you loud and clear. Look, there -- in the weeks after the election, I had -- I had told the president that, after all the legal challenges would play out, which the campaign had every right to bring...


PENCE: I mean, there were, Jake, voting irregularities in a number of states, where election laws had been changed by either executive action or by the courts.

There was never evidence of widespread fraud. I don't believe fraud changed the outcome of the election. But the president and the campaign had every right to have those examined in court. But I told the president that, once those legal challenges played out, he should simply accept the outcome of the election and move on.

But he was hearing different voices. And, frankly, there were -- there were some legal experts that were allowed on the White House grounds that should have never been let through the gate.

TAPPER: Yes, you're talking about Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani.

I want to come back to that in a second, but I do want to show this moment, because it was so important and so heartbreaking. This is inside the Capitol. This is video of the Secret Service trying to get you and your wife, Karen, and your daughter Charlotte to safety as rioters came within 40 feet of you, we found out later.

Your family's lives were at risk, not just yours, although that would be tragic, but your wife's and your daughters. And I was worried for you that day, sir, covering this. I was worried for your wife. I was worried for your daughter and relieved that nobody was harmed.

You -- if I were you, I would still be livid with Donald Trump. I would be so furious. And I know you're a measured man, but are you still angry?

PENCE: Well, I must tell you, the president's words and tweet that day were reckless.

And they endangered my family and -- and all the people at the Capitol. And I was angry.

But, you know, my Christian faith tells me to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. And in the Christian faith, forgiveness is not optional. We literally pray in the Lord's Prayer to forgive those who trespass against us. And in the days that followed, when the president asked to meet with me, after he'd made the right statements to the country; he'd committed to a peaceful transfer of power; he condemned the people that rioted at the Capitol, we met, and we sat down. And I prayed -- I prayed for God's grace to meet that moment and that spirit. And it wasn't easy.

And -- and to be honest with you, I'm -- I'm as human as the next guy. And I -- I still pray for the president. And I pray for the grace to forgive him and all those responsible for that tragic day.

But I truly do believe that we live in a time when the American people ought to be searching our hearts and having more grace toward one another. I mean, it seems like our country's more divided now than ever before. Even broadcast networks seem to be perceived to be divided along partisan lines, which is why I'm grateful for the opportunity to be on CNN today.

I just think, if -- if all of us can be more forgiving to one another, we'll -- we'll have unity in this country more than we've had in recent years. And -- and with that unity, we'll meet the challenges that America faces in the balance of this new century.

TAPPER: So, you have forgiven him. But from what I read in your book and other interviews you've done, it doesn't sound like he ever apologized. And we know from testimony that he gave the impression to his top White House aides that were there when the crowd was chanting "Hang Mike Pence," he said something along the lines of -- according to testimony under oath -- "Maybe they're right," about you.

So, I come from a different faith tradition that also believes in forgiveness, but it also believes in people seeking forgiveness when they have done wrong to someone.

PENCE: Well, Jake, I don't know what was happening at the White House. I was at a loading dock at the U.S. Capitol building working the problem and doing my level best to help facilitate the arrival of security personnel to quell the violence. But what I can tell you is, in the five days following January 6, I -- I made no effort to contact the president. He had said the things publicly that I believe needed to be said, committing to a peaceful transfer of power, condemning the violence that had taken place.

But when his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law came to my office, as I write in "So Help Me God," and asked on that following Monday if I'd be willing to sit down with the president, I -- I told them I wasn't looking for a meeting, but if he had something to say to me, I'd hear him out.

And I walked down to the Oval Office, that you've been to many times, into that back hallway, in the small dining room, where the president and I had spent so many productive hours working through issues at home and abroad, the progress that we had made -- we're a stronger, more prosperous country -- a lot of it had happened over that small dining room table.

But I walked into the room, and the president's chief of staff was present, but he quickly left. The president looked up at me and he asked if Karen and Charlotte were OK. And I said tersely, "They're fine, Mr. President." And he said, "Were you scared?"

And I said, "No," I was angry. I was angry about the differences we had, and I was -- I told him seeing those people ransacking the Capitol infuriated me.

But we sat for more than an hour and a half, and I was candid with the president about my disappointment. And I must tell you that I sensed the president was deeply remorseful in that moment. And I know that's at odds with people's public perception about him. But I want to tell you it was true. I could tell he was saddened by what had happened. And we spoke through it that day.

And I encouraged him to pray. He told me many times that he was a believer, and I told him, "Well, turn to Jesus," hoping that he would find the comfort there that I was finding in that moment.

In the days that followed, I made my way back in that office for another meeting. And the president, days later, was still what I would call downcast. His voice was fainter than I ever remember at any time in our four and a half years together. And after we finished talking through some end of the administration business, I -- I reminded him that I was praying for him. And he was dismissive about it.

But as our meeting came to a close, I stood up -- and he was seated at that small table. And I looked at him, and I said, "I guess there's just two things we'll probably never agree on."

And he looked up and said, "What?"

And I referred to my role on January 6th. And then I said, "I'm never going to stop praying for you."

And he smiled faintly and said, "That's right. Don't ever change."

And we parted amicably, as much as we could in the aftermath of those events. We spoke from time to time after we both left office.

But, Jake, after -- after the president returned to the rhetoric that he was using before that tragic day in January, criticizing me and others who had taken a stand for the Constitution of the United States, I -- I just determined it was best to go our separate ways, and we have.

But I -- I truly do believe, in -- in those moments, he was saddened by what had happened. And he conveyed that to me in -- in ways that -- that I'll never forget.

TAPPER: We're going to have more with the former vice president, Mike Pence, after this break. Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back. We're live at a CNN town hall event with former Vice President Mike Pence.

Mr. Vice President, I want you to meet Harrison Reeck. He's a student at Indiana University. He said he's a Republican who voted for President Biden. Harrison?

PENCE: Harrison, good to see you.

QUESTION: Good evening, Vice President Pence. Is there anything you wish you would do differently during your vice presidency?

For example, in your book, you wrote that Mr. Giuliani told President Trump that the campaign lawyers were not telling the truth regarding the report on election challenges. Do you wish you did more to prevent false information regarding the 2020 election?

PENCE: I remember that day very much, Harrison. And I appreciate the question. And I appreciate you reading my book.


To me, that was a pivotal moment that I'm not sure I appreciated at the time. The president's campaign lawyers, people named Justin Clark, and others, were telling the president that the legal challenges did not look like they were going to pan out, that while there were irregularities that took place in half a dozen states, that the -- the alleged evidence of fraud simply was not emerging.

But the confrontation that happened in the Oval Office that day, where -- where Rudy Giuliani questioned the integrity of the president's lawyers, saying, "They're not telling you the truth," set into motion a change that would happen in the days that followed, where those outside lawyers replaced the extraordinarily competent lawyers on the campaign. And it was a fateful decision in that moment.

I mean, look, the president made his own decisions along the way. But the American people deserve to know that the president was surrounded by a group of advisers who, as the good book says, were telling him what his itching ears wanted to hear. And those of us that were telling him different were telling him that we have a process in this country where -- where states conduct elections, Jack -- Jake. They -- they consider in the courts any potential challenges to those elections. The states then certify the elections. And the only role of the Congress of the United States is to open and count those electoral votes. We made that case again and again to the president. But sadly there were advisers that were telling him different.

TAPPER: So can I ask you just a follow-up, because you write in your book that, for all intents and purposes, the election was over -- over on December 14th, when the electoral college voted.

PENCE: Um-hmm.

TAPPER: And this is -- so, all of the court cases, all the adjudication, it's all been decided. The states have made their decision. The electoral college voted.

PENCE: Not all the court cases.

TAPPER: In any case -- what court cases are you talking about?

PENCE: Well, there were additional court cases that eventually would not come to fruition until long after the election was settled.

TAPPER: OK. But the states had decided that their -- their...

PENCE: The states had certified.

TAPPER: ... their electoral -- yes, OK. But in the weeks that followed December 14th, President Trump continued to push to have states overturn the election. And you didn't say anything publicly until January 6th, when you issued your public statement saying that you were going to uphold your duties and you were not going to overturn; there was no constitutional role.

And I'm wondering, if you believe that the election was over December 14th, why didn't you make that clear to the American people on December 14th?

PENCE: It's a fair question, Jake. Let me say, as I said in my book, which I appreciate you reading.


TAPPER: I did.


PENCE: It was essentially over. We have a system whereby, under the Electoral Count Act, adopted in the 1880s, members of Congress can bring objections and hold debates and determine whether or not to accept or reject electoral college votes.


Members of the House and Senate had prepared a range of objections that were to be debated on January 6th, just as Democrats had done in the last three elections where Republicans had been elected president.

TAPPER: After the Democratic candidates had conceded and there was no serious effort to overturn election results.

PENCE: But in all fairness, Democrats and prominent Democrats --


PENCE: -- actually raised objections before the Congress. And it was their every right to do it under the laws of the country.

TAPPER: Al Gore conceded. John Kerry conceded. I mean, it wasn't even remotely the same thing.

PENCE: What I was determined to do was two things. Number one was that we faithfully executed the Constitution of the United States and the laws of the country, including debating potential objections and any evidence that might emerge, which was never to come.

The second thing was -- let me say again -- as vice president of the United States, I had forged a close working relationship with President Trump. He was not only my president, he was my friend. And I gave him advice in private.

And as I recount in the book, there were moments along the way where I may have had an impact on decisions that he ultimately had. But I never made those disagreements in public. And I thought it was important as vice president that I don't.

And all along the way in December and frankly all the way through January 4th, I continued to hope that he would come around. Frankly, as you read in my book, things actually didn't come to a head and became truly contentious between us until the final days and the final hours.

In fact, I'll never forget, on January 4th, we had another meeting. We asked me to hear out his lawyers. I made it clear that I didn't believe I had the authority he was being told I had to reject or return votes to the states.

But we spoke amicably, and the president left for the helicopter to go to that rally in Georgia. And he opened up the rally, Jake, as I watched on television -- maybe not on this network. The president opened his speech by referring to me. He said something to the effect of, our great vice president's going to have to come through for us. And he said, if he doesn't, I'm not going to like him very much.

But then he paused, and he caught himself. And he said, no -- he said, no, the one thing you know about Mike is he always plays it straight.

And in that moment, I thought he might be coming around, as he had in other moments in our administration with decisions at home and abroad where at the end of the day, he arrived at a decision. He had a decision-making process that was very dynamic. My hope was even in that moment that he would be there.

But in the end, he was not. And we did our duty that day -- nothing more, nothing less.

TAPPER: I want to bring in another Hoosier, Kaden Soonthornsima, a student at Indiana University. He's Republican --

PENCE: Hi, Kaden.

TAPPER: -- Who has volunteered for candidates for both parties and interned for a Democratic state representative -- Kaden.

KADEN SOONTHORNSIMA, STUDENT, INDIANA UNIVERSITY: Mr. Vice President, it's an honor to be here.

PENCE: Thank you.

SOONTHORNSIMA: After the 2020 election, you stuck to your constitutional duties as vice president and ensured, despite the January 6 insurrection, the transition of power as well as the vote count in the Senate. What would you say to representatives who are still attempting to make claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election? And how can we maintain safety in future elections?

PENCE: Well, first, thank you for the question. It's a really important one.

Election integrity is the very center of our democracy. The "one person, one vote" principle is at the very heart of our republic. And ensuring that every voter knows that their vote will be counted ought to be a paramount importance to every state in our country because states conduct our elections.

I've been pleased in the aftermath of 2020 election, that many states around the country have enacted common sense reforms to restore voter confidence in their states and ensure people that we'll have elections that are fair and honest.

But I will tell you that one of the takeaways I had from the midterm elections is that in my party, that tonight, CNN just confirmed that Republicans will have the majority in the House of Representatives.


PENCE: And I'm pleased about that. I was actually there, as I write in my book, the last time Nancy Pelosi handed over the gavel to a Republican speaker.

And I'm looking forward to that day in January again.

But I was hoping that we'd have more Republicans in the House, and I was, frankly, hoping that we'd have a Republican majority in the Senate. It was not to be.

And if I could find one common denominator -- and it speaks to your question -- it's that our candidates that were focused on the future, that were focused on the challenges facing American families today, whether it'd be inflation or crime or crisis at the border or high gas prices, those candidates focused on the future did very well.

By contrast, I think you could argue that candidates that were focused on the past, that were focused on relitigating the past, did not fare as well. And I expect that's -- that's going to be taken to heart by Republicans in the Congress of the United States and across the country.

And the truth is that we -- candidates have every right to challenge the outcome of elections in the courts of this country and in legal processes established in the Congress of the United States.

But I think there's been far too much questioning of elections, not just in 2020, but in 2016, where Hillary Clinton said that the election was stolen, said that Donald Trump was not a legitimate president for years. We had Democrat members of Congress that used the same language to justify what became a two-and-a-half-year investigation into so-called Russian collusion that never happened. So, I want to say to you, I think -- I think both parties would do well to work to reaffirm public confidence in our elections and their integrity. But I also think the time has come for us to produce leaders in both parties that are focused on -- on the future.

TAPPER: So, can I ask you just a follow-up on that? Because you're talking about the 2022 election, and I think your analysis is one that is -- is generally accurate, that the candidates who were hung up on the election lies of 2020 did not fare as well in 2022 as the ones who stepped forward and talked about the future.

I was -- now, I know you know better than anyone in a bad way what those election lies can mean in terms of crowds being incited.

I was surprised to see you campaigning for Don Bolduc in New Hampshire and Blake Masters in Arizona, who were two people who lied about the election, who defeated, one could say -- one could argue, better candidates in the Republican primaries, who were future-leaning candidates.

Why did you -- why did you endorse them? Why did you support them? Why did you campaign for them?

PENCE: Well, you know, I've often said, I'm a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican in that order. But I'm a Republican.

And once Republican primary voters had chosen their nominees, I went out and travelled to 35 states over the last year and a half to see if we could elect a Republican majority in the House and Senate, elect Republican governors all across the country.

It didn't mean, as it hasn't meant in the past, that I agree with every statement or every position candidate that I'm supporting in the Republican Party have taken, but -- but I was pleased to do it. And I truly do believe that one of the enduring lessons of this election is we need to be the party of the future.

You know, one of the candidates I supported was Governor Brian Kemp. You know, he found himself in what was expected to be a very divisive primary in Georgia, which broke in many ways along the fault lines --


PENCE: -- of this very debate.

Governor Kemp won a decisive victory in the spring, and then he defeated perhaps the most formidable Democratic candidate for governor in the country with his re-election.

And I think that -- that election particularly proves the point that for the Republican Party to achieve its potential, for us to earn back the right to lead America, we -- the Republican Party should be the party of the future.

TAPPER: All right. We're going to -- we're going to take another quick break. Stay right there. We'll be back with more from Vice President Pence.

Don't worry. I'm going to come to you next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to our CNN town hall with former Vice President Mike Pence.

Mr. Vice President let's bring in Eric Shprints. He's a student at Indiana University. He volunteered for Republicans in 2020. He's a member of the College Republicans Club, and he voted for the Trump/Pence ticket -- Eric.

PENCE: Hey, Eric.

ERIC SHPRINTS, STUDENT, INDIANA UNIVERSITY: Thank you for being here, Mr. Vice President.

PENCE: Thank you.

SHPRINTS: So, you were at one point an extremely popular figure in the Republican Party. But after events of January 6th, you lost a lot of support from some people for in their opinion, quote, not doing the right thing.

What would you say to these people? And would you welcome their support back?

PENCE: Well, Eric, thanks. Thanks for the question.

You know, when I sat down to write my book, "So Help Me God," it was a great privilege for me to be able to tell my story growing up in Indiana, little small town, not far from Bloomington, son of a combat veteran, grandson of an Irish immigrant, son of a precocious first generation American who turns 90 years young this month. And I know she's watching back home.

Hi, mom.

But, you know, for me, telling the story of my years of service, my incredible family, the opportunities we had to serve in Congress and as governor and as your vice president was a great privilege.

But another part of it was my hope was that people that didn't understand how or why we did what we did on that fateful day might better understand it. And it all came back to what ends up being the title of the book.

You know, I put my left hand on Ronald Reagan's bible in January of 2017 and raised my right hand. And I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. And it ended with a prayer: So, help me God.

And I was determined every day that I served as your vice president and having taken the same oath when I was governor and taken the same oath when I was congressman, to do just that. It was the oath my dad took before they sent him into combat in Korea. It's the oath my son Michael took when he became an officer in the Marine Corps.

And so my hope is to those people that might still wonder why we did what we did, I hope that they'll read this book and that they'll see that at the very heart of it for me was a determination to keep our oath, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and my hope is over time they'll understand that we kept faith with that promise.

TAPPER: I want to ask you a question because earlier today you told Margaret Brennan of CBS that you're closing the door on being willing to testify before the January 6th Committee and you had some criticism for them, for the committee and the January 6th Committee just before we went on air released a statement in response and they write in part, quote, "The Select Committee has proceeded respectively and responsibly in our engagement with Vice President Pence," they note that they've praised you for what you did on January 6th. But they go onto say it is disappointing that he is misrepresenting the nature of investigation while giving interviews to promote his new book. I want to give you a chance to respond.

PENCE: Well, it's not the first sharp elbow I've gotten on Capitol Hill. Look, I made the comment today that I, I was disappointed when the January 6th Committee was formed by Speaker Pelosi. And that the Democrat Speaker of the House appointed all the members of the committee.

TAPPER: After McCarthy a Republican removed the members, his members.

PENCE: I must tell you, in my 12 years in the Congress of the United States, the idea of a partisan committee on Capitol Hill, a committee appointed by one party, was antithetical to what the Congress is.

TAPPER: It did happen before though, it happened for the Katrina Committee, when Democratic leaders refused to cooperate, you were actually on Capitol Hill at the time. There was a Benghazi Committee that was all formed by Republicans. So it's not unprecedented.

PENCE: Well, I must tell you, the principle itself was offensive to me. I thought the missed opportunity with January 6th was, was we could have proceeded in a way that was above politics. I mean in the aftermath, and I make no comparison to 9/11 to the thousands of Americans that were lost that day, but after 9/11 we formed a commission that was above politics. It included representatives of both political parties. They examined every aspect of what had happened and it informed legislation that we would enact in the years ahead that I think contributed to the safety and security of our nation.

But the partisan nature of the committee troubled me. But that being said, I never stood in the way of my senior staff cooperating and even testifying before the committee. But as I said today, the January 6th Committee, Congress has no right to my testimony. Because under the Constitution of the United States as vice president we had two co- equal branches of government. The Congress doesn't report to the White House; the White House doesn't report to the Congress and I, I try do believe in a defense of the separation of powers and to avoid what would be a terrible precedent, the very notion of a committee on Congress, in Congress, summoning a vice president to speak about deliberations that took place at the White House I think would violate that separation of powers and I think it would erode the dynamic of the office of president and vice president for many years to come.

TAPPER: Certainly, understand that argument. I would just put a final button on this thing about the commission is that there was a move to be a bipartisan commission and in fact Democrats acceded to all of Kevin McCarthy's requests and then Kevin McCarthy killed it. There was an effort to do that. That's not your doing, that's his, but in terms of that effort for a 9/11 commission.

Let's bring in Anita Murphy, a librarian from Dubois, Indiana. Did I pronounce that correctly? And she's got a Republican, she voted for Joe Biden.

QUESTION: Thank you for January 6th, though. I appreciate what you did.

PENCE: Thank you.

QUESTION: I come from a Republican family, but I have lost (inaudible) in the Republican Party. They seemed to have leaned way to the Far Right and I am a middle-of-the-road sort of person and I really hate the name calling and the demonizing that's going on and why should I have faith in the Republicans to lead this country?

PENCE: Well, thank you for coming to New York City, to be here at CNN.


PENCE: It's good to see you. I think you raise a very important question. And in my book, I write about lessons learned in my life. When you may have first heard of me, I was a candidate for Congress. In 1988 I had hair the same color as this young man.


PENCE: Ronald Reagan was still in the White House. And with my young bride at my side, we jumped into politics at age 29. We went at it hard, and we got into one of these negative personal attack campaigns that we lost not once but twice. In a very real sense, I thought my opportunity in politics was over. But I felt convicted not in my politics but in my Christian faith about the way that I'd carried myself.

The Bible says do onto others as you'd have them do onto you. But in politics it's do onto others before they do onto you. But I'd failed the standard that I'd professed in my faith to live up to and I wrote an essay that I, it's actually in the back of my book, it's entitled Confessions of a Negative Campaigner. (LAUGHS) And I essentially, I wrote it to clear my own conscience, but it ended up in newspapers around Indiana and it ended up being a blessing to me.

And in the years that followed when I was a talk radio show host in Indiana, I sought to live up to a higher standard. I had Republicans and Democrats on my radio show on a regular basis and we debated vigorously as you know Hoosiers love to do. But always respectfully and in a civil tone that's also characteristic of the people of Indiana.

When I had the chance to go to Congress, I tried to live that out every day. And as your governor and as vice president of the United States and it's a deeply held belief of mine that democracy depends on heavy doses of civility. I mean, Jake, you've covered Congress for decades now and they've got these formal rules. The members of Congress refer to one another as "my good friend".

TAPPER: The distinguished gentleman.

PENCE: The distinguished gentlelady. And it all seems very formal, but the roots of it are all in preserving civility in the public debate. Because as a practical matter I will tell you that if, I've never seen a member of Congress begrudge me my views and my values in a good, vigorous debate. Never prevented us from looking for other ways to work together. But when things become personal, as they have too often on both sides of the aisle, and it makes the possibility of finding common ground very difficult.

I mean in my book I talk about the having been a Conservative champion in the House of Representatives. I mean been elected to leadership in the Congress. Often would say to people I'm a Conservative but I'm not in a bad mood about it. Alright? And because of that, debates on the House Floor against some of the most liberal members of the Congress of the United States never affected my ability to have relationships.

You know one of the high points of my career in Congress, Jake, was when the late John Lewis, a giant of the Civil Rights Movement, came up to me on the House Floor and asked if Karen and I would co-lead the annual pilgrimage to mark the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, and walk with him across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. You know Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the heroes of my youth, still is. And to be invited to join one of his right-hand men to mark that historic day was deeply humbling to me.

Now I can tell you that John Lewis and I didn't agree on almost anything except the fact that he was a great man and a good man, who was sincere in his faith and loved this country and I sensed he thought there was some of those qualities in me as well.

That's why civility is so important, and your point is so important. But I believe we're on the cusp of a new season in America where we're going to see a return to government as good as our people as respectful and as civil as the American people are and Hoosiers are with each other every day.

TAPPER: Stay right there. We're going to be back with more from Vice President Mike Pence.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: Welcome back to our CNN Town Hall with Former Vice President Mike Pence. That you write in the book that your son, Michael, there he is right there in his Marine uniform, noted that you and he took the same oath of office, oath of service for him. And --

PENCE: And that's my new granddaughter.

TAPPER: Congratulations. And a constant through line in the book is the deep pride you have for him and his service in the Marine Corps. You call him your favorite wing man and I'm wondering what it meant to you to --


PENCE: My favorite guy.

TAPPER: Your favorite guy. What did it mean to you as vice president, one heartbeat away from being Commander-in-Chief, to have a son actually in service at the time?

PENCE: Well, thank you for mentioning our son, Michael. And let me also mention his incredible wife Sara, who as a military spouse also serves every day. In fact, my wife Karen spent a considerable amount of time when she was Second Lady supporting and promoting the interests of military spouses around America. I think Karen called them "the hometown heroes" and our military spouses are and we're grateful to each and every one of you every day.

I must tell you, having my son in the United States Marine Corps and my son-in-law as a lieutenant in the United States Navy married to our daughter Charlotte, was a source of great pride for us. But it also for me helped us always remember that we should deal with the men and women of our armed forces as though they were our own family, because they are.