Pence formalized his views in a letter to lawmakers, declaring that he had “no unilateral authority to decide on presidential contests” and could not alter election results.
He wrote, “My thoughtful assessment is that my oath to support and defend the constitution prevents me from demanding unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”
This was Pence’s last word before he presided over a joint session of Congress to count the Electoral College votes. Sources familiar with the conversation told CNN that he had conveyed similar views to the president at a meeting the day before.
But Trump, steeped in intrigue and improper legal advice, did not listen. It now appears that he is ready to unleash his anger on a man who has so far avoided that fate.
“I hope Mike does the right thing,” Trump said at an Ellipse rally at noon Wednesday. “If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.”
He later added: “If he does not, it will be a sad day for our country.”
Even after Pence issued his statement, Trump said he hoped his vice president would ignore “stupid people” and undergo an arm-twisting operation.
It is a painful position for a loyal lieutenant Trump, who has his own political ambitions that, for the time being, appear to conflict with his constitutional responsibilities. Pence has stuck with Trump through countless scandals, including ambiguous statements about white supremacy and his prosecution. He has sought to defend and support Trump with his skeptical foreign allies and traditional Republican groups. His loyalty has earned him scorn, but – so far – he has helped him avoid Trump’s wrath.
Even advisers closely allied with Trump describe the upcoming attack on Pence as despicable.
It is an obligation that he tried, unsuccessfully, to explain to Trump over several hours of meetings, starting in the middle of last month. During a final rally in the Oval Office on Tuesday, Pence made clear again that his powers did not allow him to block the endorsement of Biden’s victory.
But Trump either heard something different or decided to ignore what Pence had said. He issued a statement late in the evening saying that he and his deputy were “in full agreement” that he had the power to withdraw votes.
On Wednesday morning, Trump made a false claim on Twitter that Pence had the power to refuse to believe countries, delay the process and ultimately win him.
“Do it Mike, this is a time of extreme courage!” Trump Books.
Later, at a gathering of his supporters as he criticized “weak Republicans” and complained about “bullshit bombings,” Trump continued to pressure Pence, describing a recent conversation with his deputy.
He said, “I just spoke to Mike. And I said, ‘Mike, it doesn’t take courage. What takes courage is to do nothing. “
A senior White House official, whose views closely align with Trump’s, told CNN that what President Pence is doing in his last days in office is “shameful.” This official indicated that Pence is stuck in front of the president even amid the “Access Hollywood” scandal only to witness him turning on him in the end.
Meanwhile, Pence is preparing for Wednesday’s actions and has agreed that tough days lie ahead, people familiar with his thinking told CNN.
He has thought of ways to signal his support for the president while he is performing his role in the form of him by pointing to Trump’s concerns about voter fraud during the pre-ratification debate, according to people familiar with the matter. But after lengthy meetings with the Senator, the White House Counselor’s office, and other experts, Pence was left to conclude that he could not derail the bottom line.
Although Pence tried to soften the blow on Trump by carefully placing what he could expect of him on Capitol Hill, the president has presented his own theories that emerge based on advice he received from an increasingly marginal group of attorneys and advisers, including his personal attorney. Rudy Giuliani, conservative attorney John Eastman and trade advisor Peter Navarro.
Trump’s main wish is for Pence to delay ratification further by rejecting state electoral lists, in the hope that he will end up again in the courts.
Some of Trump’s advisers told him, “Let them prosecute.”
The president hopes that by creating chaos and lending credence to his false claims that the election was riddled with fraud, he can at least leave office with his supporters believing he was the legitimate winner whose victory was stolen.
People around Pence say he has no intention of following Trump’s orders. As a result, the president criticized one of his most loyal aides with increasing enthusiasm.
Sources said Trump’s criticism in private was more flagrant than his public pleas. The President told people that he saved Pence’s career by being elected Vice President and that Pence would be nothing without Trump.
A close associate of him said, however, Pence and those around him believe there is nothing he can do.
A few Trump employees said they were surprised by the president’s role over Pence, as he showed a willingness to attack other loyal officials, although many were particularly critical.
“Nobody was more loyal than (Pence),” one official said. “Trump turns on everyone in the end.”
This story has been updated with Pence’s letter to Congress.