Pence formalized his comments in a letter to lawmakers, declaring that “the president has no unilateral authority to determine the race” and that the election results cannot be changed.
“My considered verdict is that the oath I made to support and defend the Constitution prevents me from seeking unilateral power to decide which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” he wrote.
This was Pence’s final word before he presided over a joint sitting of Congress to count election college votes. He made similar remarks to the president at a meeting a day earlier, sources close to the conversation told CNN.
But Trump, consumed with conspiracies and unsubstantiated legal advice, did not listen. It now appears that he is ready to unleash his wrath on a man who has so far successfully avoided that fate.
“I believe Mike is going to do the right thing,” Trump said at a rally in Ellipses Wednesday afternoon. “If Mike Pence does the right thing, we will win the election.”
“If he does not do so, it will be a sad day for our country,” he said later.
Even after Pence released his statement, Trump said he hoped his vice president would ignore “stupid people” and submit to his arm twist.
This is a tragic position for Trump’s loyal lieutenant, who has his own political ambitions and, for now, seems to be running contrary to his constitutional responsibilities. Trump Pence has been embroiled in numerous scandals, including white supremacy and equivalent statements regarding his indictment. He sought to protect and elevate Trump with dubious foreign allies and traditional Republican groups. His hatred humiliated him, but – until now – helped him avoid Trump’s anger.
Even advisers close to Trump describe the forthcoming attack on Pence as hateful.
He failed to explain to Trump until several meetings, starting in the middle of last month. During a final chase at the Oval Office on Tuesday, Pence reiterated that his powers did not allow him to withhold a certificate of Fiden’s success.
But Trump either asked something different or decided to ignore what Pence said. He issued a statement late in the evening saying he and his vice president were in “total agreement” on the power to determine the vote.
On Wednesday morning, Trump made a false claim on Twitter that Pence has the power to reject states certification, delaying the process and ultimately giving him victory.
“Mike do, it’s time for extreme courage!” Trump wrote.
Later, at a rally of his supporters, he spoke out against “weak Republicans” and complained of “bullshit explosions.” Trump continued to press Benz and describe his recent conversation with his vice president.
“I talked to Mike and I said, ‘Mike, it doesn’t take courage. Nothing that takes courage needs to be done,’ he said.
A senior White House official who is closely associated with Trump told CNN that what President Pence is doing in his final days in office is “shameful.” The official noted how Benz is trapped by the president in the midst of the “access Hollywood” scandal.
Pence, meanwhile, devotes himself to Wednesday’s activities, and acknowledges that he has a few days ahead of him.
He has gathered ways to signal his support for the president by mentioning Trump’s concerns about voter fraud during the debate before the certification was issued, say those familiar with the matter. But after lengthy meetings with members of the Senate, the White House’s adviser’s office and other experts, Pence decided that the final decision could not be an obstacle.
Although Trump has tried to soften Benz’s blow by carefully placing what he expects from him on Capitol Hill, the president has put forward his own principles, which appear to be largely based on advice from a group of lawyers and advisers, including a personal lawyer. Rudy Giuliani, Conservative lawyer John Eastman and business consultant Peter Navarro.
Trump’s primary option is to further delay Benz certification by denying states election seats, in the hope that it will end again in the courts.
Some of Trump’s advisers have told him, “Let them sue.”
By confusing and giving credibility to his false claims that the election was rigged, the president hopes he can at least leave office with his supporters, believing he is the rightful winner who stole the victory.
People around Pence say they have no plans to carry out Trump’s orders. As a result, the president is increasingly becoming one of his most loyal aides.
Personally, sources said Trump’s criticism is more blatant than his public plea. The president has told the people that he saved Pence’s life by electing Pence as vice president, and that Pence is nothing without Trump.
Still, Benz and everyone around him believe he can do nothing, said someone close to him.
Despite many personal criticisms, some Trump staffers said they were surprised by the president’s return to Pence because he was willing to attack other loyal officials.
“No one is more loyal than (Benz),” an official said. “Trump is ultimately directing everyone.”
The story is updated with a letter Benz wrote to Congress.