Vice President Mike Pence condemned political violence “in the strongest possible terms” while calling for increased civility, in an interview with HillTV Monday.
Violent acts like the Tree of Life synagogue shooting or attempted bombings of high-profile Democrats, however, should not be “associated” with “strong political debate,” he said.
“We condemn political violence in the strongest possible terms. It will not be allowed. It will not be tolerated,” he said. “We saw that last summer with the attack on the Republican baseball practice, of course, we saw the suspect mailing pipe bombs to prominent political figures this week, [and] the horrific and anti-Semitic attack that took place in Pittsburgh grieves our hearts. We need to continue to work as a nation to bring these senseless acts of violence to an end, and we will.”
“But,” he added, “I think we need to be very careful…about associating acts of violence with strong political debate in America. Throughout our history, we’ve always had strong political debate, and then we settle those things at the ballot box. I think what the president is determined to do is continue in the days that remain in this election and going forward to make sure that we preserve the freedom of speech, and the ability of Americans to have those debates, to work out our issues in the public domain, and then carry that into the ballot box and resolve our differences there.”
Pence’s comments came the same day President Trump blasted political rivals as “weak on crime,” “bad for [the military],” and in one case, a “disaster.”
The president also spent the the morning criticizing unfavorable polling, calling CNN’s most recent survey, which registered his approval rating at just 39 percent, a “suppression game.”
So funny to see the CNN Fake Suppression Polls and false rhetoric. Watch for real results Tuesday. We are lucky CNN’s ratings are so low. Don’t fall for the Suppression Game. Go out & VOTE. Remember, we now have perhaps the greatest Economy (JOBS) in the history of our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 5, 2018
“So funny to see the CNN Fake Suppression Polls and false rhetoric,” he tweeted. “Watch for real results Tuesday. We are lucky CNN’s ratings are so low. Don’t fall for the Suppression Game. Go out & VOTE. Remember, we now have perhaps the greatest Economy (JOBS) in the history of our Country!”
Trump also insinuated that illegal voting was rampant and claimed he had “strongly notified” law enforcement “to watch closely for any ILLEGAL VOTING which may take place in Tuesday’s Election (or Early Voting).”
“Anyone caught will be subject to the Maximum Criminal Penalties allowed by law,” he tweeted. “Thank you!”
Time and again, analysis has shown little to no evidence of widespread voter fraud, a favorite bogeyman on the right and particularly of the president. Moreover, the Brennan Center for Justice last January called such activity “vanishingly rare.”
Regardless of those statistics, Trump has in the past called on supporters to act as “election monitors” in “certain areas” to ensure his political rivals or undocumented immigrants to not cast illegal ballots. He has also claimed, without proof, that such immigrants cast “millions” of ballots in the last election.
Trump has also ramped up his racist, anti-immigrant message of late, urging supporters to take a camera and infiltrate a caravan of immigrants heading north through Mexico to the U.S. southern border, in order to find dangerous individuals, who he claims make up the majority of the group (untrue).
“You’re going to find MS-13, you’re going to find Middle Eastern, you’re going to find everything,” he said at a rally in Houston last month. “And guess what, we’re not allowing them in our country.” The president blamed Democrats for the country’s immigration problems, saying they were “soft” on border issues.
Separately, Trump has also incorrectly referred to the caravan of migrants fleeing danger and poverty in their home countries in Central America as “an invasion,” sending thousands of U.S. troops to the border to prevent them from getting in, despite the fact that the group is still thousands of miles away.
At least one recent attack — the deadly mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last month — was spurred on by false claims and conspiracy theories about the migrant caravan, specifically one pushed by the president himself, which claimed falsely that liberal billionaire donor George Soros was personally funding the caravan.
Trump has repeatedly drudged up Soros in anti-Semitic political rants as a way to convince conservatives to vote.
When confronted with that rhetoric, Pence has repeatedly defended the president, suggesting recently that Trump’s false claim about “dangerous” individuals traveling with the caravan was, in fact, true.
It’s “inconceivable that there are not people of Middle Eastern descent,” he said, speaking with The Washington Post last month.