ORLANDO, Fla. ― Former Vice President Mike Pence on Friday is expected to rebut, again, claims by Donald Trump that Pence “could have overturned the election” to let Trump remain in power despite having lost in 2020 by more than 7 million votes.
Pence had already been scheduled to speak at the conservative Federalist Society’s conference in Florida, and advisers have indicated in recent days that he is likely to respond there to Trump’s latest attacks.
Trump, who has long claimed that all he wanted Pence to do was send several electoral slates Democrat Joe Biden had won back to states to “correct” their mistakes, early this week stated clearly what his true goal had been all along: for Pence to unilaterally award Trump a second term.
On Sunday, Trump claimed in a statement that a bipartisan consensus in Congress to reform the 1887 Electoral Count Act to clarify the role of the vice president during the vote certification ceremony, held every four years, proves that Pence did have the authority to reinstall Trump as president if he’d wanted to do so.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power, he could have overturned the election!” Trump wrote.
Two days later, Trump said the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that he’d incited should instead be investigating Pence for not doing what Trump wanted.
Pence, who is laying the groundwork for a presidential run in 2024, over the past year has only infrequently countered Trump’s false claims that he could have, on his own, kept Trump in office.
He first addressed the issue in a speech to New Hampshire Republicans early last June, telling his audience that though he and Trump may never see “eye to eye” about Jan. 6, he did what he had to do that day. “Thanks to swift action by Capitol Police and federal law enforcement, the violence was quelled, the Capitol was secured, and that same day we reconvened the Congress and did our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States,” he said.
Three weeks later, Pence was more explicit on the topic at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California. “Now, there are those in our party who believe that in my position as presiding officer over the joint session, that I possessed the authority to reject or return electoral votes certified by states,” he said. “But the Constitution provides the vice president with no such authority before the joint session of Congress. And the truth is, there’s almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”
Trump stopped speaking to Pence at that point and gradually began repeating his false assertion, that he first made on the afternoon of Jan. 6 and which inflamed his mob even further, that Pence had the authority but “lacked the courage” to keep Trump in power.
Pence became the linchpin in Trump’s scheme to nullify the election after the Electoral College formally voted on Dec. 14, 2020, sealing Biden’s 306-232 victory. Trump’s White House and campaign aides had pushed for their supporters in several of the states that Biden won to send up slates of Trump “electors” anyway.
Pence would then be able to cite these “competing” slates of electors to ignore the electoral votes coming from those states entirely and then, with Trump holding a lead in the remaining states, rule him the winner.
Pence, though, made sure to sabotage that plan by crafting language that allowed him to ignore Trump’s fake slates from the outset.
Instead of asking the designated tally-keepers to “count and make a list of the votes cast by the electors of the several states,” as then-Vice President Biden had instructed four years earlier, Pence told them to “announce the votes cast by the electors for each state, beginning with Alabama, which the parliamentarian has advised me is the only certificate of vote from that state and purports to be a return from that state that has annexed to it a certificate from an authority of that state purporting to appoint or ascertain electors.”
Because only the true electors had such a certificate attached, that language necessarily excluded the fraudulent Trump slates.
Trump a year ago became the first president in more than two centuries of elections to refuse to hand over power peacefully. His incitement of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol ― his last-ditch attempt to remain in office ― killed five, including one police officer, injured 140 more officers and led to four police suicides.
He is now under investigation by federal and state officials in multiple jurisdictions.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has been conducting a civil probe of his family business, while the district attorney in Manhattan has been running a criminal investigation.
Meanwhile, the district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, has impaneled a special grand jury just to focus on Trump’s attempt to coerce state officials to “find” enough votes to overturn his loss of that state to Biden in 2020.
And the House Jan. 6 committee has been subpoenaing more and more former and current Trump aides to determine his precise role in that day’s events, while the Department of Justice has confirmed that it is investigating at least one element of Trump’s scheme to remain in power: the submission of fake Trump “electors” in states that Biden won.
At a rally last weekend, Trump asked his followers to stage “the biggest protests we have ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere” if prosecutors come after him, “because our country and our elections are corrupt.”
Despite this, Trump remains the dominant figure in the Republican Party and is openly speaking about running for the presidency again in 2024.