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Pence on possible 2024 presidential run: "I think we've got time"

Pence talks classified documents
Former Vice President Mike Pence on Biden classified document discovery 04:17

Former Vice President Mike Pence continues to leave the door open to 2024 presidential run but told CBS News this week that he does not feel any rush to formally announce a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, even though his former boss, former President Donald Trump, is already seeking it.

"I think we've got time," Pence said in an interview on Tuesday in The Villages, a Republican stronghold in central Florida.

Pence's lack of urgency about an announcement reflects broader dynamics inside the Republican Party, where the 2024 presidential race has yet to dominate discussions among rank-and-file voters and major donors, particularly with the new House Republican majority in the political spotlight.

With Congress driving national debates, Pence and many other possible 2024 Republican contenders are focusing instead on their current elected offices or on bolstering ties with the party's voters. On Saturday, Pence, long close to the conservative evangelical community, will launch a tour of megachurches.

"In the months ahead, I'm just going to be listening to the American people," Pence said. "We're going to continue to travel, we're going to continue to listen."

"I think we're going to have new leadership in this party and in this country," he added. "And I have every confidence that our voters will rally behind our standard bearer and we'll give the country a new beginning."

When asked why he and other possible Trump rivals are staying out of the 2024 race for now, Pence said that Trump's decision to enter the race last November will not change his own deliberations: "The only thing we've decided for sure is that we weren't going to let anybody else make our decision for us."

CBS News interviewed Pence after an event he held promoting his memoir, "So Help Me God," which was published last year by Simon & Schuster, a subsidiary of CBS News' parent company Paramount Global.

Pence's book signing was in The Villages, a high-profile retirement community in Sumter County where Trump won 68% of the vote in 2020. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, considered another top possible challenger to Trump, won the county with 73% of the vote in his 2022 reelection bid. 

Ahead of last year's midterm elections, Pence worked to build his political capital inside the party, visiting 35 states to campaign for Republican candidates up and down the ballot. Since then, he has visited early voting 2024 states like New Hampshire and Iowa as part of his book tour. 

At book gatherings, Pence often fields questions from a moderator or the crowd about his time with Trump, including the tumultuous end of their relationship leading up to the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol. He often says he and Trump will never see "eye to eye" about that day, when Pence oversaw the congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election and Trump urged him to take steps to block it. 

Since Republicans had a disappointing showing in the midterms, winning only a narrow House majority and failing to win control of the Senate after aiming for a "red wave," Pence has suggested to audiences that it's time for Republicans to move on from candidates who are "focused on relitigating the past," though he has been careful with remarks and still speaks highly of his years as vice president.

In his CBS News interview, Pence drew a connection between the stolen election rhetoric that fueled many of those involved in the Jan. 6 attacks to the recent attacks on Brazil's government buildings and democratic institutions, which were carried out by supporters of former Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro.

"It is evidence that what happens in the United States has repercussions around the world. I have no doubt that this tragic day, in January of 2021 in this country, played some role in sowing the seeds of what's taking place in Brazil," Pence said.  

Pence also said he believed there is a "double standard" between how the Justice Department handled recently revealed papers marked as classified held at a Biden think tank, and how the government executed a search for documents marked as classified at Trump's resort in Florida. Attorney General Merrick Garland has assigned the U.S. attorney in Chicago to review the roughly 10 documents found at the office used by President Biden after he left the vice presidency, while a special counsel has been appointed to probe the Mar-a-Lago document matter, where hundreds of sensitive documents were discovered. 

Pence called the Mar-a-Lago search "a gross overreach," and when asked if there should also be a special counsel investigating the Biden documents, Pence said, "I think there should be equal treatment under the law." 

"They're different in degree, but not in kind," Pence said about the two investigations, when asked if he would acknowledge a difference in the episodes, in terms of scope and context. 

"And when the American people see President Biden receiving one form of treatment with the discovery of classified documents that were retained after he left the office of the vice president, they see President Trump treated in an entirely different way," he said.

"Again, the handling of classified material is a very serious issue for our nation, and we ought to take it seriously. But there ought to be equal treatment under the law," he added.

Turning to the new House Republican majority, Pence, who served in the House for over a decade, told the crowd in The Villages that last week's chaotic battle for the speakership was "invigorating" and said he has "every bit of confidence" that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy "is going to lead that new conservative majority with skill and integrity and conservative principles."

"That's what democracy should look like," Pence told CBS News about the contentious, multi-ballot showdown over the speakership on the House floor. "I think that vigorous open debate, the airing of differences, and ultimately the result is going to benefit the Congress and ultimately benefit the American people."

As he mulls a 2024 run, Pence's policy group, Advancing American Freedom, has begun to lay out legislation recommendations for the new GOP-controlled House. On Monday, the group released a framework focused on energy independence that seeks to temper climate change-related regulations and committees. 

Pence told CBS News he thinks it's "incumbent on Speaker McCarthy and the new Republican majority" to reinstate or maintain several immigration policies enacted during the Trump-Pence administration, such as building more walls along the U.S.-Mexico border, the "Remain in Mexico" policy and Title 42, a pandemic-era border policy aimed at curbing the number of migrants who are allowed to seek asylum.

The Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from ending Title 42 last month. 

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