Former vice president Mike Pence is expected to say that there is “no room in this party for apologists for Putin” during a speech to the GOP’s top donors Friday evening in New Orleans.
“Where would Russian tanks be today if NATO had not expanded the borders of freedom? There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin,” Pence plans to say, according to excerpts of the speech obtained by several media outlets, including the Associated Press. “There is only room for champions of freedom.”
While Pence does not mention former president Donald Trump by name in the excerpts, according to the reports, the comments come after Trump recently called Putin “smart” and “savvy” shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Trump told conservative radio hosts Buck Sexton and Clay Travis last week: “I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.”
One day later, Trump spoke to a crowd at a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago and said: “They say, ‘Trump said Putin’s smart.’ I mean, he’s taking over a country for two dollars’ worth of sanctions. I’d say that’s pretty smart.”
“He’s taking over a country — really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people, and just walking right in,” he added.
On Friday, Pence is also expected to continue to refute Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
“Elections are about the future,” Pence is expected to say. “My fellow Republicans, we can only win if we are united around an optimistic vision for the future based on our highest values. We cannot win by fighting yesterday’s battles, or by relitigating the past.”
Last month, Pence rejected Trump’s claims that the former vice president had the authority to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
“I heard this week that President Trump said I had the right to overturn the election. President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone,” he said at a Federalist Society event in Florida.
“Frankly there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” he added.
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