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Trump-Pence Ticket, Torn by Jan. 6, Becomes an Unequal Rivalry – The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Eighteen months after departing the nation’s capital for the final time as president, Donald J. Trump returned on Tuesday confronting federal investigations, fresh doubts about his viability in an increasingly likely third White House bid and an emerging rivalry with his erstwhile running mate.

In addresses from two hotel ballrooms less than a mile apart in Washington, Mr. Trump and Mike Pence, the vice president whom he had left at the mercy of a mob of his supporters during the Capitol riot, put on clear display one of the most uncomfortable splits inside their party.

The competing speeches on the same day would have been inconceivable for a former president and his own vice president not long ago. But the demise of precedent has long been a hallmark of the Trump era.

The strange tableau also illustrated many Republicans’ frustrations and reservations about a 2024 Trump campaign, which a recent New York Times/Siena College poll suggested could cause large numbers of Republican voters to defect from the party in a general election.

In his 90-minute speech, Mr. Trump repeatedly veered off script to complain about “hoax” investigations, boast about surviving two impeachments and lie about his 2020 election loss. Mr. Pence, by contrast, urged the party to look ahead and unite for the next political battles.

“Some people may choose to focus on the past, but elections are about the future,” Mr. Pence said.

A scowling Mr. Trump leaned on menacing imagery of an America besieged by violent crime and in desperate need of a rescue that only he could provide.

“Our country is going to hell,” he said. “It’s a very unsafe place.”

The two appearances also underscored the wide gap in enthusiasm among Republicans between Mr. Trump and any other potential primary rival in 2024.

While Mr. Pence drew tepid applause during his 30-minute address to about 250 attendees at an event hosted by the Young America’s Foundation, Mr. Trump commanded numerous standing ovations from an audience of about 800 people at a gathering of the America First Policy Institute. The former president’s speech seemed to double as a reunion for former administration officials, campaign aides and informal advisers.

Nearly everyone, that is, except Mr. Pence.

Mr. Pence has been a recurring target of criticism from Mr. Trump, who has denounced the former vice president’s refusal to delay the certification of the 2020 election results on Jan. 6, 2021. In his speech, Mr. Pence made only passing reference to the ensuing attack on the Capitol — when he was forced into hiding as rioters chanted for him to be hanged — as a “tragic day.”

Last week, the House committee investigating the Capitol riot detailed Mr. Trump’s decisions not to call off the violence, and the fear that members of Mr. Pence’s Secret Service detail felt for their lives.

The hearing prompted a striking shift in the conservative media. In scathing editorials from two newspapers controlled by the Murdoch family, The New York Post said Mr. Trump was “unworthy” to be president again, while The Wall Street Journal opined that he had “utterly failed” his duty to handle the crisis.

And on Monday, news emerged that two of Mr. Pence’s top aides had testified to a federal grand jury in Washington as part of the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the events surrounding the riot.

While Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence were in somewhat regular contact immediately after leaving office — speaking several times by phone in conversations that avoided the subject of the Capitol riot — they have not held similar discussions in months, according to their advisers. In an interview last year, Mr. Trump said that he had never told Mr. Pence he was sorry for not acting quicker to stop the attack — and that Mr. Pence had never asked for an apology.

But a rivalry has flared up behind the scenes.

One source of tension has been the book Mr. Pence is writing about his time in the administration. When Mr. Trump learned about the memoir, titled “So Help Me God” and set to be published on Nov. 15, the former president was still musing about obtaining a deal of his own.

This year, the two men have veered from each other on the midterm campaign trail. They have backed opposing candidates in several primary races, including the Republican governor’s contest next week in Arizona, and the party’s primary for governor in Georgia in June, when Mr. Pence’s pick, Gov. Brian Kemp, easily defeated his Trump-backed challenger, David Perdue.

Mr. Pence, meanwhile, left out of his speech the kind of effusive praise for Mr. Trump that he had regularly injected into his addresses as vice president and instead referred to the “Trump-Pence” administration’s accomplishments.

A mild-mannered former governor of Indiana, Mr. Pence remains a reviled figure among much of the Republican base — largely because he resisted Mr. Trump’s attempts to subvert the 2020 election.

In a New York Times/Siena College poll of Republican voters this month, just 6 percent said they would vote for Mr. Pence if he ran for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, compared with 49 percent who said they backed Mr. Trump and 25 percent who supported Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

Still, Mr. Pence has been praised by some fellow Republicans for his steadfastness during, and after, the Capitol riot. Pat Cipollone, the former White House counsel, told House investigators that Mr. Pence deserved the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the nation’s highest honors, for withstanding Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign — and remaining on Capitol grounds amid the violence — to certify the election.

Mr. Pence also defended himself, and directly contradicted Mr. Trump, in a February speech to the Federalist Society in Florida where he said the former president incorrectly believed that the vice president had the authority to overturn election results.

“President Trump is wrong,” Mr. Pence said at the time. “I had no right to overturn the election.”

But the former vice president has been reluctant to revisit the issue. On Tuesday he drew subtle distinctions between Mr. Trump’s fixation on the 2020 election and his own preference to focus more broadly on his hopes for the conservative movement.

In his speech, Mr. Trump received some of his biggest applause when he strayed from his prepared remarks, including his call to keep transgender women from playing in women’s sports — and again when he claimed he had won the presidency a second time.

Mr. Trump also called for creating sprawling homeless encampments outside cities, which would have bathrooms and medical staff, and he urged aggressive policies to combat crime. He renewed his support for the death penalty for drug dealers and for controversial stop-and-frisk law enforcement tactics that, he said, would help “give police back their power and prestige.”

“Leave our police alone,” Mr. Trump said. “Each time they do something, they’re afraid they’re going to be destroyed, their pensions are going to be taken away, they’ll be fired, they’ll be put in jail. Let them do their job.”

In his speech, Mr. Pence celebrated the Supreme Court’s recent ruling eliminating the federal right to abortion and called for a movement of cultural conservatives to turn back a “pernicious woke agenda” that was, he argued, “allowing the radical left to continue dumping toxic waste into the headwaters of our culture.”

“We save the babies, we’ll save America,” he said.

Still, Mr. Pence couldn’t escape the direct contrast with Mr. Trump. When Mr. Pence finished his speech, the first question from the audience of young conservatives was about the former president “and the divide between the two of you.”

“I don’t know that our movement is that divided,” Mr. Pence said. “I don’t know that the president and I differ on issues, but we may differ on focus.”

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

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