Trump's vice-president Pence applauds successor at inauguration

Outgoing US Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife Karen speak to vice-president-elect Kamala Harris at the inauguration of new President Joe Biden.
Outgoing US Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife Karen speak to vice-president-elect Kamala Harris at the inauguration of new President Joe Biden.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Outgoing US Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife Karen attended the inauguration of new President Joe Biden on Wednesday (Jan 20) after skipping both a farewell ceremony for Mr Donald Trump and the usual protocol of welcoming his successor to his home at the Naval Observatory.

Mr Pence, whom some of Mr Trump's supporters during the deadly Jan 6 assault on the US Capitol had threatened to hang for refusing to try to overturn Mr Biden's Electoral College win in Congress, applauded the next vice-president, Ms Kamala Harris, as she arrived at the US Capitol. Mr Trump skipped the inauguration.

Mr Pence, the Republican former Indiana governor, and his wife on Wednesday will fly home to Columbus, Indiana, where they will be greeted by a group of supporters and friends, according to a source familiar with the plans. The couple plans to move back to Indiana later this year.

Mr Pence was a loyal lieutenant throughout Mr Trump's four-year term. But he found himself shunned by the outgoing president for days for not supporting his quest to overturn Mr Biden's victory based on false claims of widespread voting fraud and irregularities, although the two men sought to repair their ties before leaving office.

Mr Pence spoke with Ms Harris last Thursday, marking the highest-level contact between the outgoing and incoming administrations.

The father of a Marine Corps F-35 pilot, Mr Pence and his wife thanked troops for their service during a final visit to US troops at military bases in California and New York over the weekend. Mr Pence also met with National Guard troops guarding the Capitol, vowing to ensure a safe transition of power.

Ms Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff to former first lady Laura Bush, said Mr Trump's refusal to participate in Mr Biden's inauguration was a "sad break with tradition" that would leave Mr Trump and his family - and his supporters - without closure.

Ms McBride praised Mr Pence for his actions in recent weeks.

"He did what was right for the country despite intense pressure, and he did not buckle," Ms McBride said.

Mr Pence, who certified Mr Biden and Ms Harris's electoral win in Congress last week after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in attempt to stop the process, has not publicly spoken directly about the siege or the subsequent impeachment of Mr Trump by the US House of Representatives for inciting an insurrection.

But on Sunday, in his final speech as vice-president, Mr Pence praised the resilience of the American people, adding, "I have faith that the day will come where we put these challenging times behind us."