John Barasso, one of the top Republicans in Congress, declined on Sunday to criticise Donald Trump for his recent comments that it was “common sense” that 6 January rioters at the US Capitol were chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”
The controversy stems from audio of an interview between the former president and journalist Jonathan Karl, recorded earlier this year but released this week, where the ABC News reporter asks Mr Trump about the vicious chants.
“Well, the people were very angry,” Mr Trump said. “Because it’s common sense … How can you— if you know a vote is fraudulent, how can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress?”
On Sunday, Senator Barasso was asked if he had any criticisms of Mr Trump, still the party’s most important standard bearer even though he’s out of office.
“It’s not common sense, but there are issues with every election,” Mr Barasso said, adding, “I don’t agree with president Trump on everything. I agree with him on the policies that have brought us the best economy in my lifetime.”
When he was first asked about the violent threats towards the vice-president, Mr Barasso heaped praise on Mr Trump and highlighted the party’s recent strong showing in the Virginia governor’s race, where the GOP’s Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
“Let me just say, the Republican party is incredibly united right now, and it’s because of the policies of this admin. The more that Democrats and the press become obsessed with president Trump, the better it is for the Republican party,” he said. “President Trump brings lots of energy to the party. He’s an enduring force. Elections are about the future not the past. That’s what we saw in Virginia and all across the country.”
Just moments after the vice-president was whisked out of the halls of Congress by security on 6 January, Donald Trump tore into him for refusing to overturn the certification of the 2020, even though that is not within the power of the vice-president.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution,” Mr Trump tweeted at the time.
As politicians begin positioning themselves for the 2022 midterm congressional elections and the 2024 presidential contest, there’s been a public reckoning within the GOP about how much it should stick with Trump and his obsession with 2020 election conspiracies.
Former New Jersey government and occasional Trump ally Chris Christie has bashed the former president in recent weeks, writing in a forthcoming book that Trump can’t be a “positive force” for the GOP unless he lets the 2020 election go.
“If [Trump] wants to be a positive force in the future, he’s got to let this other stuff go. If he doesn’t, I don’t think he can be,” Mr Christie told The New York Times on Saturday.