US Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday, January 5, reportedly told President Donald Trump that he does not have the authority to decertify President-elect Joe Biden’s win when Congress meets to count electoral votes.
Pence finds himself in the most precarious position of his tenure as he prepares to preside over Wednesday’s congressional tally of Electoral College votes, bearing witness to the formalization of Trump’s election defeat.
At the end of the count, seated on the House of Representatives’ rostrum, Pence has the task of announcing who has won the majority of votes for both president and vice president.
Despite the pro forma nature of Pence’s role, he is under intense pressure from the president and legions of supporters to overturn Biden’s win.
New York Times reported that Mr. Pence has spent the past several days in a delicate dance, seeking at once to convey to the president that he does not have the authority to overturn the results of the election, while also placating the president to avoid a rift that could torpedo any hope of him running in 2024 as Trump’s loyal heir.
Even as he sought to make clear that he does not have the power, Trump seems to think he has. Pence also reportedly told the president that he would keep studying the issue up until the final hours before the joint session of Congress begins at 1 p.m. Wednesday, January 6.
Despite this, Trump tweeted;
“If Vice President @Mike_Pence comes through for us, we will win the Presidency. Many States want to decertify the mistake they made in certifying incorrect & even fraudulent numbers in a process NOT approved by their State Legislatures (which it must be).
“Mike can send it back!”
CNN reported that while Trump said it would be politically “damaging” for Pence to refuse to block certification, Pence gently informed Trump during the meeting that the power doesn’t exist for him to derail the process.
The vice president went on to tell Trump there are outliers saying that the authority exists, but Pence has been told by the White House Counsel’s Office he doesn’t have that authority, according to a source who was briefed on the conversation.
The meeting at the White House came after Pence met with the Senate parliamentarian earlier this week to go over his role in the proceedings. In a statement released through his campaign, the President disputed the story.
“The New York Times report regarding comments Vice President Pence supposedly made to me today is fake news. He never said that. The Vice President and I are in total agreement that the Vice President has the power to act.”
It was also reported that the President is now angry with Pence following their meeting, a source close to the White House said.
AP reported that neither the Constitution nor congressional statute grants the vice president any such powers. It is up to the House and Senate to voice objections, and states’ electors were chosen in accordance with state law, not fraudulently.
Trump’s renewed pressure on Pence comes as he has repeatedly charged for two months that the presidential election was “rigged” and has claimed that there was “massive voter fraud” in a handful of battleground states where Biden narrowly edged the president, to score a 306-232 Electoral College victory over the GOP incumbent.
The Trump campaign has launched a number of legal challenges, while Trump himself has urged states with Republican governors and legislatures to overturn Joe Biden’s victories.
More Republican senators came out on Tuesday against attempts to undermine the results, including Tim Scott of South Carolina and James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, who said he viewed challenging any state’s certification as “a violation of my oath of office.”