WASHINGTON (AFP, REUTERS) - Former US vice-president Mike Pence said on Friday (Feb 4) that he had no right to overturn the 2020 election and that former president Donald Trump was wrong to claim he could have done so.
Pence dismissed Trump's assertion that as vice-president he could have blocked the Jan 6, 2021, certification by Congress of Democrat Joe Biden's election victory.
Both Pence and Trump are potential presidential candidates in the 2024 election, and their public disagreements are seen as early maneuvering in the race to become the Republican Party nominee.
"President Trump said I had the right to overturn the election but president Trump is wrong," Pence said.
"I had no right to overturn the election," he said.
"The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone."
Trump issued a statement later on Friday disagreeing with Pence. “I was right and everyone knows it. If there is fraud or large scale irregularities, it would have been appropriate to send those votes back to the legislatures to figure it out,” the former president said.
Trump, who has falsely claimed the election was "stolen," said in a statement last week that Pence, who presided over the formal certification of the November 2020 election results by Congress, "could have overturned the election."
Pence has said previously that he did not have the power to block certification, but Friday's comments were his most forceful to date.
Pence told the conservative Federalist Society in Florida that he did his constitutional "duty."
"And frankly there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president," he added.
Pence - a loyalist when Trump was in office - also called the Jan 6 assault on Congress a "dark day in the history of the United States Capitol."
Five people died when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol following a speech by the president during which he repeated his false claims to have won the election.