CNN town hall with Mike Pence

By Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury, Tori B. Powell, Shania Shelton and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:06 AM ET, Thu June 8, 2023
16 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
10:53 p.m. ET, June 7, 2023

Pence on Trump's Mar-a-Lago documents case: Indicting a former president sends a terrible message to the world

From CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi in Des Moines, Iowa

Former Vice President Mike Pence participates in a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Dana Bash at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday, June 7.
Former Vice President Mike Pence participates in a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Dana Bash at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday, June 7. Will Lanzoni/CNN

When asked about investigations into former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence said "no one is above the law" but indicting a former president sends a terrible message to the world and would “be terribly divisive to the country." 

“We're the symbol of justice in the world. And the serious matter, which has already happened once in New York, of indicting a former president in the United States sends a terrible message to the world," Pence said in CNN's town hall about the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case.

CNN's Dana Bash pressed Pence on whether that means he believes investigators shouldn’t move forward with an indictment even if they believe Trump committed a crime.

Pence replied that “no one’s above the law” and added “I would just hope that there would be a way for them to move forward without the dramatic and drastic and divisive step of indicting a former president of the United States.”

Pence also said it would “be terribly divisive to the country” if Trump were to be indicted by federal investigators over possible obstruction of justice and mishandling of classified documents. 

“This kind of action by the Department of Justice I think would only fuel further division in the country,” Pence said. He added later, “I hope the DOJ thinks better of it and resolves these issues without an indictment.”

CNN reported earlier Wednesday that the Justice Department recently informed Trump’s legal team that he is a target in the federal investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN, a sign that prosecutors may be moving closer to indicting the former president. 

Asked if he would pardon Trump if he’s convicted of crime, Pence said he would not speak about hypotheticals. Pence again said that “no one’s above the law” and that “the handling of classified materials is a very serious matter.”

He said that he doesn’t “know the facts of the former president's case. But what we’ve got to have in this country is equal treatment under the law.”

Pence added he was “troubled” over the search warrant executed by the Justice Department at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. “There had to be dozens of ways that could have been handled other than that kind of behavior,” he said.

He then pivoted to criticizing President Joe Biden over his timeframe of alerting the DOJ about documents found in his office.

More on the Mar-a-Lago documents probe: The special counsel’s investigation has scrutinized Trump’s handling of classified documents he brought with him to his Mar-a-Lago Florida resort after leaving the White House, including actions that were taken after Trump received a subpoena in May 2022 to return all classified materials in his possession. Last August, FBI agents retrieved more than 100 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago after obtaining a search warrant.  

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Paula Reid, Sara Murray, Jeremy Herb and Kristen Holmes contributed reporting in this post.  

10:43 p.m. ET, June 7, 2023

Pence says he has "no interest" in pardoning January 6 rioters

Former Vice President Mike Pence participates in a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Dana Bash at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday, June 7.
Former Vice President Mike Pence participates in a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Dana Bash at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday, June 7. Will Lanzoni/CNN

Former Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday night that he has "no interest or no intention" of pardoning people who attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

“I have no interest or no intention of pardoning those that assaulted police officers or vandalized our capitol. They need to be answerable to the law,” Pence told Dana Bash during a CNN town hall in Des Moines, Iowa.

He referenced a statement he made on Twitter the day of the attack urging people to leave the Capitol and discouraging violence.

"I said that those that failed to do that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and I continue to believe that today," he said.

Pence's comments contrast with former President Donald Trump, who said he was “inclined to pardon” many of the pro-Trump rioters who were convicted for their roles in the attack on the Capitol. He said he won’t be able to pardon “every single one” but said “it will be a large portion of them.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has also suggested that he would consider pardoning some convicted on January 6 charges.

CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi contributed reporting to this post.

9:16 p.m. ET, June 7, 2023

Asked about Trump's actions on Jan. 6, Pence says he will always choose the Constitution if he's elected president 

Former Vice President Mike Pence participates in a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Dana Bash at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday, June 7.
Former Vice President Mike Pence participates in a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Dana Bash at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday, June 7. Will Lanzoni/CNN

Asked Wednesday if a vote for Donald Trump is a vote against the Constitution, Mike Pence referred to his experiences during the January 6 insurrection, where Trump asserted Pence had the right to overturn the election results.

"I said today that I felt that he was asking me to choose between him and the Constitution. I chose the Constitution. And I always will," Pence said, referencing his remarks earlier Wednesday when he launched his campaign.

"I said today President Trump was wrong then, he's wrong now," he added.

9:10 p.m. ET, June 7, 2023

Pence says he is running for president because he believes "this country is in a lot of trouble"

Former Vice President Mike Pence participates in a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Dana Bash at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday, June 7, 2023.
Former Vice President Mike Pence participates in a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Dana Bash at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday, June 7, 2023. Will Lanzoni/CNN

Former Vice President Mike Pence said he is running for the Republican presidential nomination because he believes "this country is in a lot of trouble."

He pointed to issues like inflation and foreign policy where he thinks Democrats have not been doing a good job.

"Now more than ever, I think those of us that have the experience to bring back real change and to put America back on a track of common sense, conservative principles have a responsibility to step forward," Pence said at a CNN town hall Wednesday night.
9:34 p.m. ET, June 7, 2023

NOW: CNN's town hall with Mike Pence has begun

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Former Vice President Mike Pence shakes hands at the start of a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Dana Bash at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday, June 7.
Former Vice President Mike Pence shakes hands at the start of a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Dana Bash at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday, June 7. Will Lanzoni/CNN

CNN's town hall with former Vice President Mike Pence is happening now in Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Pence, who turned 64 today, is answering questions from CNN's Dana Bash and Iowa voters just hours after officially announcing his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

The live audience includes Iowa Republicans and Iowa voters who say they plan to pre-register to take part in the Republican caucuses by the deadline set by the state GOP and who pledge to appear in person at the caucuses.

The town hall offers an early window into how Pence, who served under former President Donald Trump, plans to run against his prior boss, who’s the front-runner for the GOP nomination.

The two men have been at odds over Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and incite an insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The event will also shed light on how Pence, a former Indiana congressman and governor, plans to try to differentiate himself from the early polling leaders like Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on issues like abortion, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and more.

Where you can watch: The town hall is streaming live, without requiring a cable login, on CNN.com’s homepage and across mobile devices via CNN’s apps for iOS and Android, and CNN OTT and mobile apps or via live TV.

The town hall will also be available on demand beginning Thursday to pay TV subscribers via CNN.com, CNN OTT apps and cable operator platforms.

8:51 p.m. ET, June 7, 2023

Here's what to watch for during tonight's CNN town hall with Pence

From CNN's Eric Bradner

The empty stage the night before CNN’s Republican Presidential Town Hall with former Vice President Mike Pence at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, June 6.
The empty stage the night before CNN’s Republican Presidential Town Hall with former Vice President Mike Pence at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, June 6. Will Lanzoni/CNN

Former Vice President Mike Pence is set to field questions from Iowa voters in a CNN town hall soon after officially announcing off his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination earlier in the day.

Here are some key things to watch for in the event:

Pence vs. Trump on Capitol riot: Pence was a loyalist of former President Donald Trump through their two campaigns as running mates and four years in office. But the two had a public falling-out after Trump urged Pence to attempt to overturn the results by rejecting some swing states’ Electoral College votes. Pence insisted he had no constitutional authority to do so in his ceremonial role presiding over Congress as those votes were counted.

Pence first took on his former boss in a February 2022 speech in which he was critical of the pressure Trump privately and publicly heaped on him.

“President Trump was wrong,” Pence said then. “I had no right to overturn the election.”

He has also said Trump endangered Pence’s family, which was in the Capitol on January 6. Trump was slow to release a message telling his supporters to stop attacking the Capitol while Pence was inside and some of the mob were chanting death threats against him.

Trump has continued to repeat falsehoods about voter fraud, which millions of his supporters have bought into, and he once again refused to concede that he lost during a CNN town hall last month.

It’s not yet clear to what extent Pence is willing to place his differences with Trump over the aftermath of the 2020 election at the center of his campaign. Pence’s campaign announcement video, released early Wednesday, does not mention Trump.

Wednesday’s town hall will shed light on how the former vice president plans to approach the issue.

New messages from Pence? Pence has been a regular speaker at conservative gatherings for months. But this week, when he filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to officially enter the 2024 race, the ground shifted.

Now that he is a candidate, Pence will have to repair his image in the eyes of many conservatives who cast him aside after Trump’s 2020 loss (and in some cases have booed him since).

He’ll have to offer a message that stands on its own, outside the context of his relationship with the former president.

CNN’s town hall – following his official campaign launch earlier in the day – will be an important opportunity to begin to do just that.

The Iowa caucuses, which kick off the GOP nominating process in early 2024, will likely be crucial to Pence’s hopes.

“Iowa feels more like Indiana than any other state in the nation,” he said in Des Moines last month.

Here are four other things to watch for in CNN’s town hall.

8:09 p.m. ET, June 7, 2023

How Iowa caucuses work — and why the state plays an important role in the nominating process 

From CNN's Eric Bradner

CNN will soon host a town hall with former Vice President Mike Pence in the key state of Iowa. The state will kick off the 2024 Republican presidential nominating process early next year with its caucuses. 

It’s a tradition that has turned the Hawkeye State into the focal point of many GOP campaigns and positioned its voters to have a crucial role in determining the party’s nominee. 

Iowa’s role as the first state in the presidential nominating process dates to the 1970s. In 1972, it was the first state to hold its Democratic caucus — and it moved to the front of the Republican line four years later in 1976. 

The lead-up to the Iowa caucuses has historically been seen as a test of campaigns’ organizational strength. And its winner typically leaves Iowa with a jolt of momentum in the national polls as the race then shifts to New Hampshire for the Granite State’s primary. 

Iowa is one of the few remaining states to eschew primaries in favor of choosing parties’ nominees in caucuses — election-night gatherings at which voters discuss the candidates and cast their ballots in person. 

Caucuses, unlike primaries, are run by political parties, and are held in venues such as fire stations, churches and schools. 

In Democratic caucuses in Iowa, caucus-goers separate into groups to indicate their candidate preferences and the support of at least 15% of attendees is necessary for the candidate to be considered viable and be awarded delegates. However, in Republican caucuses, attendees cast paper ballots, which are then counted in person. Delegates are awarded based on the results. 

As far as the national momentum-building role of the Iowa caucuses, those election-night results are conclusive. But the official process continues: Delegates selected on election night in the months ahead attend county, district and state conventions, where they are narrowed and delegates for the national convention are chosen. 

The Iowa caucuses are important, but not necessarily decisive. In 2016, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz finished first, narrowly ahead of then-businessman Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Trump would seize the GOP’s nomination in the weeks and months that followed 

8:12 p.m. ET, June 7, 2023

Pence kicked off his 2024 campaign earlier today in Iowa and argued Trump "should never" be president again

From CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi

Former Vice President Mike Pence attends a campaign event where he formally announced his candidacy for president in Ankeny, Iowa, on Wednesday, June 7.
Former Vice President Mike Pence attends a campaign event where he formally announced his candidacy for president in Ankeny, Iowa, on Wednesday, June 7. Will Lanzoni/CNN

Former Vice President Mike Pence announced Wednesday he’s running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination as he delivered his toughest takedown to date of primary rival and former boss Donald Trump, who he said “should never” be president again for his actions in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

At his formal campaign kickoff in Ankeny, Iowa, Pence recalled how Trump had asked him to block the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election win as Pence presided over Congress on January 6, 2021.

“The American people deserve to know, on that day, President Trump also demanded I choose between him and the Constitution. Now voters will be faced with the same choice. I chose the Constitution, and I always will,” Pence said to applause from the crowd at Des Moines Area Community College.

“I believe that anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States. And anyone who asks someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be president of the United States again,” the former vice president said of his onetime boss, currently the front-runner for the 2024 GOP nomination.

In remarks that ran a little over half an hour, Pence, who had been a loyal second-in-command to Trump prior to January 6, maintained that he was “incredibly proud” of the Trump-Pence administration’s “accomplishments,” before explaining why he was challenging his onetime ticket mate.

“The former president continues to insist that I had the right to overturn the election. President Trump was wrong then, and he is wrong now. I will always believe, by God’s grace, I did my duty on that day, I kept my oath, to ensure the peaceful transfer of power under the Constitution and the laws of this country,” he said.

Read more about his campaign launch here.

7:44 p.m. ET, June 7, 2023

The DOJ announced last week it wouldn't seek criminal charges in Pence classified document probe

From CNN's Jeremy Herb and Katelyn Polantz

The Justice Department has closed its investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents found at former Vice President Mike Pence’s home and will not bring any charges, according to a letter from the DOJ obtained by CNN last week.

The decision allows Pence to offer an additional contrast between himself and former President Donald Trump in the 2024 race, his political rival who’s under serious investigation by the Justice Department and others.

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department’s National Security Division have conducted an investigation into the potential mishandling of classified information,” the Justice Department wrote to Pence’s attorney. “Based on the results of that investigation, no criminal charges will be sought.”

How we got here: In January, Pence’s attorney found about a dozen documents marked classified in Pence’s Indiana home after the former vice president asked his lawyer to search his records following the disclosure of classified documents in Joe Biden’s possession in Delaware.

Pence turned over the classified records to the FBI following their discovery, and the FBI and Justice Department’s National Security Division launched a review of how they ended up at Pence’s home. Pence has said that he had been unaware the documents were at his home but said that “mistakes were made” and took responsibility for it.

The Justice Department is still investigating the handling of classified records by Trump and Biden. Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel in each investigation, citing the fact that they are candidates for president.

DOJ declined to comment but confirmed sending the letter.

Read more here.