In a speech delivered Friday night to party leaders in New Orleans, Pence attacked those in his party that have failed to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin's unprovoked invasion in Ukraine.
"Where would Russian tanks be today, if NATO hadn't expanded the borders to freedom?" According to extracts taken from the speech that was closed to reporters, Pence stated that there is no place in this party to be apologists Putin." "There are only champions for freedom."
Pence didn't directly refer to the former president. Trump used language that was criticized for being deferential towards Putin. He called the Russian leader "smart", while insisting that the attack would never have occurred under his watch.
As he prepares for a possible run for the presidency in 2024, Pence continued to deny Trump's lies regarding the 2020 election. Trump has been teasing his own comeback bid, which could put them in direct competition. He continues to falsely claim that Pence has the power to reverse the 2020 election.
"Elections are about the future," Pence stated. "My fellow Republicans: We can only win if all of us are united behind a positive vision for the future that is based on our highest ideals. We can't win by fighting the past or by disputing the past.
Pence is becoming more open to challenging Trump, a drastic departure from his deferential position as vice president.
Pence stated that the men would not see each other again on Jan. 6, 2021's Capitol insurrection. This was when Trump supporters stormed Capitol to prevent Joe Biden from being certified as a winner. He directly refuted Trump's false claims he could have overturned those results as he was vice president.
He nevertheless joined the often-stated view of Trump, and other Republican Party members Friday evening, in blaming President Joe Biden. He accused the current president of "squandering the deterrence that was put in place by our administration to keep Putin or Russia from even trying to draw international boundaries using force."
According to excerpts, Pence stated that "It's no coincidence Russia waited till 2022 to invade Ukraine." "Weakness awakens evil and the scale of evil that is sweeping across Ukraine speaks volumes for this president."
Allies of Pence believe that he is capable of forging a coalition which brings together white Evangelical Christians, movement conservatives and more establishment-minded Republicans. However, Trump's attacks against Pence have caused him to be deeply unpopular with large swathes Trump's loyal base, possibly complicating his bid to become the Republican presidential nominee.
On Jan. 6, Pence had to be taken to safety by his family after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol Building, some shouting "Hang Mike Pence!"