Washington – Former United States Vice-President Mike Pence has dismissed claims by Donald Trump that he could have stopped Joe Biden becoming president last year.
In his strongest rebuttal yet, he said Trump was wrong to suggest he had had the right to overturn the election.
Separately the Republican Party censured two of its top lawmakers for investigating the Capitol riots.
A mob stormed the Capitol as lawmakers met to confirm President Joe Biden’s poll win on 6 January last year.
Four people died during the riots, and a police officer who suffered two strokes while defending the building died the following day.
The two legislators, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, are the only Republicans on a congressional select committee investigating the riots.
The statement by the Republican National Committee (RNC) accused the pair of helping to persecute “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse”.
The RNC appeared to suggest rioters had been involved in legitimate political actions but RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said the wording referred to other actions taken by the committee and not to the rioters.
The vote was passed by an overwhelming majority of the 168 RNC members at their winter meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, reports say.
The committee said it would “immediately cease any and all support of them” as party members without removing them from the party.
Both lawmakers issued statements in advance of the vote.
“The leaders of the Republican Party have made themselves willing hostages to a man who admits he tried to overturn a presidential election and suggests he would pardon 6 January defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy,” Cheney said.
They also received support from other opponents of Trump in the party. Senator Mitt Romney tweeted: “Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol.”
‘I had no right’
Speaking in Orlando, Florida, Pence was responding to Trump’s comments on Sunday that he could have overturned the election if he had wanted to. Trump has falsely claimed that the election was stolen by Biden.
Days later Trump said the select committee should be investigating Pence instead of the rioters.
“President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone,” Pence said.
“And [current Vice-President] Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.” (BBC)