Former US vice president Mike Pence said he is not sure that he and former president Donald Trump will ever see eye to eye over what happened at the Capitol building in Washington on January 6.
But he also said that he would "always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years".
Mr Pence, speaking at a Republican dinner on Thursday in the early-voting state of New Hampshire, gave his most extensive comments to date on the events of January 6, when angry Trump supporters stormed the US legislature, some chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” after the vice president said he did not have the power to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.
“As I said that day, January 6 was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol. But thanks to the swift action of the Capitol Police and federal law enforcement, violence was quelled. The Capitol was secured,” Mr Pence said.
"And that same day, we reconvened the Congress and did our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States," he said. "You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don't know if we'll ever see eye to eye on that day."
It was a rare departure for Mr Pence, who spent four years standing loyally beside his boss despite controversy, investigation and impeachment. The admission came as Mr Pence considers a run for the White House in 2024 and as Republicans, some of whom were angry at Mr Trump in the days after the riot, have largely coalesced back around the former president.
Mr Pence praised Mr Trump several times during his nearly 35-minute speech at the Hillsborough County Republican Committee's annual Lincoln-Reagan Awards Dinner in Manchester, New Hampshire. He tried to turn the events of January 6 back on the Democrats, saying they wanted to keep the insurrection in the news to divert attention from Mr Biden's liberal agenda.
“I will not allow Democrats or their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans. Or allow Democrats or their allies in the media to distract our attention from a new administration intent on dividing our country to advance their radical agenda,” Mr Pence said. “My fellow Republicans, for our country, for our future, for our children and our grandchildren, we must move forward, united.”
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He accused Mr Biden of campaigning as a moderate but becoming the most liberal president since Franklin D Roosevelt. He said the administration forced through Congress “a Covid bill to fund massive expansion of the welfare state” and was pushing a “so-called infrastructure bill” that was really a “thinly disguised climate change bill” funded with cuts in the military and historic tax increases.
"I just say enough is enough," he said. "We're going to stand strong for freedom."
Mr Pence also hit upon several favourite themes of conservative Republicans, emphasising the need for states to shore up voter integrity around the country. He praised law enforcement as heroes, saying: “Black lives are not endangered by police. Black lives are saved by police every day.”
He also pushed back against “critical race theory”, which seeks to reframe the narrative of American history.
Its proponents argue that federal law preserves the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race and that the country was founded on the theft of land and labour. But Republicans said concepts suggesting that people are inherently racist or that America was founded on racial oppression are divisive and have no place in the classroom.
“America is not a racist country,” he said, prompting one of several standing ovations and cheers during his speech.
“It is past time for America to discard the left-wing myth of systemic racism,” Mr Pence said. “I commend state legislators and governors across the country for banning critical race theory from our schools.”
His choice of states, including an April appearance in South Carolina, is aimed at increasing his visibility as he considers whether to run for the White House in 2024.
Mr Trump is increasingly acting and talking like he plans to make a run as he sets out on a more public phase of his post-presidency, beginning with a speech on Saturday in North Carolina.
Since leaving office in January, Mr Pence has been doing work with the Heritage Foundation and Young America’s Foundation. His team said he plans more trips, including stops in Texas, California and Michigan.
Along with his visits to South Carolina and New Hampshire, Mr Pence has been hitting the fund-raising circuit. He is to speak next week at another fund-raiser hosted by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, will travel to North Carolina for a Heritage Foundation donor event, and will then head to California, where he will take part in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute's speakers' series, a Republican National Committee donor retreat and a Young America's Foundation event, according to aides.
Among other prominent Republicans, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley said in April that she would stand down if Mr Trump decided to run in 2024. Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo is following an aggressive schedule, visiting states that will play a pivotal role in the 2024 primaries and signing a contract with Fox News Channel.