Sen. JD Vance on Sunday defended Donald Trump as the former president faces a litany of legal issues amid his comeback campaign for the White House.
In a contentious interview with ABC News "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos, Vance -- a onetime Trump critic -- also doubled down on his views of the 2020 election, saying the results shouldn't have been immediately certified, and he went on to suggest Trump should ignore "illegitimate" U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
Vance, an Ohio Republican who has been floated in the media as a potential running mate for Trump, was asked by Stephanopoulos if he would have certified the 2020 election results as vice president, as required by the Constitution and as then-Vice President Mike Pence did.
Vance called it a "ridiculous question" and claimed Stephanopoulos was "obsessed with talking about this" but went on to say he would have liked to see the certification of the 2020 election handled differently.
"Do I think there were problems in 2020? Yes, I do," he said citing a list of issues, including social media restrictions on some content about Hunter Biden and changes in state election laws to accommodate for health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"If I had been vice president, I would have told the states, like Pennsylvania, Georgia and so many others, that we needed to have multiple slates of electors and I think the U.S. Congress should have fought over it from there," he continued. "That is the legitimate way to deal with an election that a lot of folks, including me, think had a lot of problems in 2020. I think that's what we should have done."
The Constitution makes no such provisions for this. There has been no confirmed evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 race, and the results were affirmed by local officials across the country, including many Republicans.
Stephanopoulos also asked Vance about a September 2021 podcast interview where he said that if Trump is reelected in 2024, he would advise the former president to "fire every single mid-level bureaucrat, every civil servant in the administrative state, replace them with our people" -- and, if and when the courts tried to stop him, "stand before the country like Andrew Jackson did, and say, 'The chief justice has made his ruling. Now let him enforce it.'"
"Fire everyone in the government, then defy the Supreme Court? You think it's OK for the president to defy the Supreme Court?" Stephanopoulos asked.
Vance asserted that he "did not say fire everyone in government," but Stephanopoulos pushed back, repeating that Vance said in the podcast Trump should replace "every civil servant in the administrative state."
Vance, however, continued, arguing, "We have a major problem here with administrators and bureaucrats in the government who don't respond to the elected branches. ... If those people aren't following the rules, then of course you've got to fire them, and of course, the president has to be able to run the government as he thinks he should. That's the way the Constitution works."
"The Constitution also says the president must abide by legitimate Supreme Court rulings, doesn't it?" Stephanopoulos pressed.
"The Constitution says that the Supreme Court can make rulings ... but if the Supreme Court said the president of the United States can't fire a general, that would be an illegitimate ruling," Vance said.
Vance separately cast the civil and criminal cases against Trump as biased, including a jury in New York finding the former president liable for sexual assault and another New York jury awarding $83 million in defamation damages to E. Jean Carroll, who says she was assaulted by Trump -- which has been spotlighted in anti-Trump advertising.
Trump denies wrongdoing and has vowed to appeal.
"I think it's actually very unfair to the victims of sexual assault to say that somehow their lives are being worse by electing Donald Trump for president when what he's trying to do, I think, is restore prosperity," Vance told Stephanopoulos when asked to respond to the argument that backing Trump meant tacitly supporting abusers.
"If you actually look at so many of the court cases against Donald Trump, George, this is not about prosecuting Trump for something that he did. It's about throwing him off the ballot because Democrats feel that they can't beat him at the ballot box. And so, they're trying to defeat him in court," Vance argued, though Republicans and non-Democrats have brought some of the complaints against Trump.
"I think most Americans recognize that this is not what we want to fight the 2024 election on. Let's fight it over issues," the senator added.
He sought to dismiss the findings of the New York juries, saying there are in "extremely left-wing jurisdictions" and contending that politics played a role in some of the accusations being brought.
"So juries in New York City are not legitimate when they find someone liable for ... defamation and assault?" Stephanopoulos asked.
"Well, when the cases are funded by left-wing donors and when the case has absolute left-wing bias all over it, George, absolutely I think that we should call into question that particular conclusion," Vance replied.