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Former President Donald Trump defended rioters’ chants of “hang Mike Pence” during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, saying it was understandable because they were angry the election hadn’t been overturned, according to audio released Friday of an interview with the former president in March.
The audio came from an interview with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl conducted at Mar-a-Lago in March for an upcoming book, “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show.” The excerpt was obtained Friday by NBC News from ABC News’ “This Week.”
Asked if Trump was worried about Vice President Mike Pence’s safety during the Jan. 6 riot, Trump said, “I thought he was well-protected, and I had heard that he was in good shape.”
Karl then reminded Trump that some of his supporters involved in the violent attack were calling for Pence to be killed.
“Well, the people were very angry,” Trump said.
“They said, ‘hang Mike Pence,’” Karl told Trump.
“It’s common sense, Jon. It’s common sense that you’re supposed to protect,” Trump said. “How can you, if you know a vote is fraudulent, right, how can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress?”
Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Trump has tried to undermine the election by making baseless claims of widespread fraud that he hasn’t been able to substantiate with evidence more than a year later.
The Constitution required that on Jan. 6, Pence, who is the president of the Senate, was to oversee the opening the envelopes of certified electoral votes from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., as tellers tallied the votes. During this process, Republican lawmakers attempted to challenge the results from certain states.
As the process unfolded on Capitol Hill, Trump was talking to his supporters at a rally near the White House where he said, “I hope Mike is going to do the right thing,” adding that “if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.”
Pence did not have the power to overturn the election results.
In June, at an event in New Hampshire, Pence said that Jan. 6 was a “dark day in the history of the United States Capitol.” He said he may “never see eye to eye” with Trump about the event.
The audio comes as the House select committee investigating the attack has ramped up its probe in the last few weeks, with a number of subpoenas issued to former Trump aides this week.
Rebecca Shabad is a congressional reporter for NBC News, based in Washington.
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