Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday said that former President Donald J. Trump and his advisers had tried to get him “essentially to overturn the election” and that the American people needed to know it.
The remarks, made in an interview with Fox News, are some of Mr. Pence’s most pointed to date about what he experienced in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, when he presided over the congressional certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.
And they came as Mr. Pence, who is trailing his former boss, the G.O.P. front-runner, in the Republican primary, has faced a slog in his attempt to get enough small-donor donations to qualify for the first Republican debate on Aug. 23. An adviser to Mr. Pence said he got more than 7,000 donations on Wednesday, the day after Mr. Trump’s indictment on charges of conspiring to overthrow the 2020 election.
The new remarks are less of a pivot than a subtle shift in Mr. Pence’s language on a topic over which he has long walked a delicate tightrope — condemning Mr. Trump’s behavior while saying he hoped an indictment would not be in the offing, describing it as divisive for the country.
But in the hours after the indictment, Mr. Pence became somewhat more explicit publicly about some of the pressure campaign tactics that Mr. Trump and his allies engaged in while attempting to persuade Mr. Pence to use his ceremonial role overseeing the certification of Electoral College votes to toss out the results.
In a campaign speech earlier Wednesday at the Indiana State Fair, Mr. Pence reiterated his stance that “anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be president of the United States.” Mr. Trump, in a post on his social media site, Truth Social, said he feels “badly” for Mr. Pence as he struggles to gain traction in his presidential bid.
The effort by Mr. Trump and his allies to push Mr. Pence to reject the 2020 election results is laid out in detail in the indictment that the special counsel Jack Smith brought on Tuesday. The indictment focuses extensively on Mr. Trump’s attempts to twist Mr. Pence’s arm, with details provided by Mr. Pence in an interview with investigators and in contemporaneous notes that he provided under subpoena.
The indictment references an episode where Mr. Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, alerted the lead Secret Service agent on Mr. Pence’s detail that he was “concerned for the Vice President’s safety” after Mr. Trump told Mr. Pence he would have to “publicly criticize” him for refusing to go along with Mr. Trump’s request after a meeting on January 5.
Mr. Pence told Fox News: “I never considered it. “
“I was clear with President Trump throughout all the way up to the morning” of Jan. 6, 2021, he told Fox News. “It wasn’t just that they asked for a pause. The president specifically asked me and his gaggle of crackpot lawyers asked me to literally reject votes.”
He said that people can read the indictment, which he had hoped wouldn’t have to happen.
“I don’t know if the government can meet the standard, the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt for criminal charges,” he said. “But the American people deserve to know that President Trump and his advisers didn’t just ask me to pause. They asked me to reject votes, return votes, essentially to overturn the election.”