Trump slams Jan. 6 committee, denies he called Pence a “wimp”

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Former President Donald Trump on Friday offered his first public comments since the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol began to reveal the extent of his attempts to remain in power. The committee has presented harrowing video footage and searing testimony, including accounts from Trump’s close associates and members of his family.

Trump called the hours of testimony — in over three days of hearings so far — “a complete and total lie.” He spent much of his speech blasting the committee’s efforts as politically motivated, and insisting he’d done nothing wrong.

“It’s a complete and total fraud,” he said, speaking at a conference in Nashville, held by the Faith and Freedom Coalition. He claimed footage had been selectively edited and downplayed the insurrection as “a simple protest that got out hand.”  

“They’re taking six-, eight- and nine-hour depositions, and they’re putting up five-second clips, making everybody look bad,” Trump said. “They’ll take nine hours’ worth of depositions, destroying people, trying to destroy them, and out of the nine hours, they’ll put up a five-second clip, where they got a little tired.” 

The former president also opined about those who are being prosecuted for their role in the Jan. 6 rioting, and suggested, as he has in the past few months, that he would look at pardoning some of them if he wins the presidency again.

“Most people should not be treated the way they’re being treated, and if I become president someday, if I decide to do it, I will be looking at them very, very seriously for pardons,” he said.

He also denied the testimony of a former aide, Nicholas Luna, who told the committee that on the morning of Jan. 6, Trump had a phone conversation with Pence — described by Ivanka Trump as “heated” — in which Luna heard Trump call the vice president a “wimp.” 

The hearing Thursday detailed the pressure Trump and lawyer John Eastman brought to bear against Pence to overthrow the election during the counting of the electoral votes that day.

“I never called Mike Pence a wimp,” Trump said Friday. “I never called him a wimp. Mike Pence had a chance to be great. He had a chance to be, frankly, historic.”

But Trump still seems to take issue with the idea that Pence’s role in presiding over the counting of the electoral votes on Jan. 6 was a ceremonial one. 

“They were emphatic, emphatic, about Mike Pence,” Trump said. “In other words — ready? He had no choice, no matter what, he had to send those votes, he had no — there is absolutely nothing that he can do. I said, ‘Well, what is he? A robot?’ I actually came up with the word ‘conveyor belt.’ … In other words, … he’s a human conveyor belt.”

The former president also kept alive the idea that he is considering another run for the presidency in 2024.

“One of the most urgent tasks facing the next Republican president — I wonder who that will be,” Trump said at one point, prompting a standing ovation and chants of “USA!”

“Would anybody like me to run for president?” he asked the crowd, unleashing more cheers.

Trump’s return to the public conversation comes as he has been actively weighing when he might formally launch a third presidential run, according to people familiar with the discussions. The debate, according to aides and allies who insist he has yet to make a final decision, centers on whether to announce a campaign in the coming months, or, in accordance with tradition, wait until after the November midterm elections.

Fin Gómez and Fritz Farrow contributed to this report.

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