NASHVILLE — Former President Donald Trump on Friday lambasted former Vice President Mike Pence for not having the courage to go along with a plan to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
"Mike Pence had a chance to be great," Trump told the crowd of more than 1,000 attending the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority conference at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville.
"He had a chance, frankly, to be a star," Trump said. "But like (former U.S. Attorney General) Bill Barr and the rest of these weak people, Mike — and I say this sadly because I like him — Mike did not have the courage to act."
Trump's speech comes as select committee of the House reviews the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by an angry mob galvanized by Trump's complaints of election fraud — complaints that had been rejected by the states, the courts, the Electoral College and Trump's own administration.
During that attack, the vice president sheltered in a safe place with his Secret Service detail. Rioters came within 40 feet of where he was at one point, according to congressional testimony.
The traditional tallying of electoral votes was disrupted for hours.
Trump told attendees in Nashville that he wanted Pence to simply send the electoral votes to states to investigate Trump's complaints of election fraud.
He said Barr, who left office in late December 2020, refused to act because he feared getting impeached. Trump said he wasn't concerned with that himself, having been through it.
Trump characterized the Jan. 6 committee as the "disgraceful unselect committee" and charged the panel won't delve into allegations he has previously made of massive fraud in states including Georgia.
During Trump's speech, which drew a number of standing ovations from audience members as he lit into issues such as transgender children and critical race theory, Trump several times teased a possible 2024 presidential bid.
Trump accused President Joe Biden, the Democrat who defeated him in 2020, of having "quickly created the biggest border disaster" by jettisoning his border policies.
The former president also alleged Biden has been going along with Democrats' wishes to target parents and Christians while ignoring violence in cities.
"They are turning our communities into war zones ... almost as if we lived in a third world nation," Trump said. "We are going to fight for this nation we love so much."
He said Republicans will win back the Senate and House.
"Would anybody like for me to run for president?" he asked, bringing the crowd to its feet, roaring and applauding.
The Democratic National Committee struck back at the former president and his "Make America Great Again" movement in a statement.
"Donald Trump took the stage at the Faith and Freedom Conference today (Friday) to double down on the same conspiracy theories that led to the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol," the statement said. "Instead of taking even an ounce of responsibility, Donald Trump unsurprisingly used his platform to push dangerous lies, downplay the violent attacks and spread his toxic MAGA agenda."
Democrats also noted that "the defeated former president did not mince words as he made clear that he is the leader of today's Republican Party."
Prior to Trump's speech, a number of senators and congressmen addressed the audience, among them U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee. Both voted to certify the 2020 election.
The Tennessee Lookout reported Blackburn accused the Biden administration and liberals of launching an all-out attack on people's faith, families, freedom and religious liberties.
And she emphasized the importance of a pending U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion.
Blackburn also accused tech companies of censoring her for saying transgender women should not be competing against women in athletics.
"Now they're being told to be inclusive and fair, you have to let biological males compete" in school and college sports, the Lookout reported her as saying, with Blackburn stressing the importance of the federal Title IX code in enabling girls and women to compete in sports.
"What do you expect from people who can't define the word 'woman'?" she said.
Earlier, Hagerty, Trump's former U.S. ambassador to Japan, said the former president's America First approach put to an end his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama's approach to leadership.
"Biden's approach has been America Last on every front," Hagerty said. "Since Day One, Biden has delivered failure after failure" while emboldening U.S. adversaries on everything, Hagerty said.
"On almost every issue, our nation is worse off under Joe Biden," Hagerty said, citing problems at the U.S. border with Mexico accompanied by what he called an explosion of fentanyl drug deaths.
Hagerty accused Biden and his administration of cozying up to Iran and Venezuela and said Biden's policies are driving up oil prices and benefitting Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also hit Biden on the abrupt withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, a topic also emphasized by Trump.
Hagerty also criticized Biden's approach to China, saying it has emboldened Chinese leaders.
"All of this is why we must set our sights on November, the stakes are high," Hagerty said, later adding "it's no understatement to say the future of our country hangs in the balance."