Mike Pence ‘has told Trump he cannot overturn election result’

Joint session of Congress set to ratify Joe Biden victory

Andrew Buncombe
Wednesday 06 January 2021 15:34
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Vice president Mike Pence is said to have told Donald Trump he does not have the power to overturn the 2020 presidential election result - just hours before he is scheduled to preside over Congress’s ratification of Joe Biden’s victory.

On Wednesday, Mr Pence is due, in his constitutional role, to oversee a joint session of Congress, in which the House and Senate will vote to formally confirm Mr Biden’s victory. It marks the final step in the process before his inauguration.

On Tuesday, as voters in Georgia cast ballots to select two senators, a move that will determine which party controls the US Senate when Mr Biden enters the White House, Mr Trump had tweeted that his vice president of the past four years, had the power “to reject fraudulently chosen electors”.

Observers pointed out the tweet was wrong on several counts; there is no evidence of fraud or corruption in the 2020 election, and Mr Pence’s powers at the joint session of the Congress are largely ceremonial. (In the Senate, by contrast, he has the power to cast a ballot if a vote is tied.)

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The New York Times reported that on Tuesday, Mr Pence told Mr Trump he did not have the authority or power to block Mr Biden’s passage to the Oval Office.

It said Mr Pence, an evangelical Christian and the former governor of Indiana, told the president over lunch, shortly after the president appeared to cajole him on Twitter.

CNN said the meeting was tense and that the president told Mr Pence it would be politically "damaging" if he did not seek to block Mr Biden’s path to victory.

On Wednesday, as many as 150 Republican members of the two chambers could oppose the ratification of each of the 50 state’s electoral college votes, an event that has until this presidential election cycle been a formality.

Among the 150 are 13 members of the Senate, including Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who appear to have calculated they need to retain Mr Trump’s goodwill and the backing his supporters for their political futures. 

The most recent to add their name to the list who will vote not to certify is Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler, who is involved in a knife-edge fight to retain her seat against a challenge from Democrat Raphael Warnock.

In the other Georgia race, Democrat Jon Ossof is seeking to defeat incumbent Republican David Perdue.

Even Mr Pence’s most ardent enemies might feel some sympathy for the situation he currently finds himself in, seeking to juggle maintaining both his own political credibility, as well as not being seen to be display disloyalty to Mr Trump.

At the weekend, his office announced he “welcomed” the congressional challenge being spearheaded by Mr Cruz, even though it has almost no chance of success.

"Vice President Pence shares the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud and irregularities in the last election,” Mr Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short, said in a statement

“The vice president welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on January 6th.”

But reports suggest Mr Pence has also sought to distance himself from getting too involved. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has urged his members not to take part in a protest vote.

Reuters said Mr Pence planned to make clear in his statements that he backed the president, but will stick to the constraints of his role, according to a former White House official.

 “He will be very supportive of the president, but again he'll stick to the constitution.” 

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