Pence rejects Trump stance on blocking Biden’s win

Pence rejects Trump stance on blocking Biden’s winJanuary 6, 2021

Vice President Mike Pence rejected President Donald Trump’s last-ditch pressure campaign to reverse the 2020 election results, delivering the fatal blow to the president’s attempt to subvert President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

Vice President Mike Pence rejected President Donald Trump’s last-ditch pressure campaign to attempt to reverse the 2020 election results, delivering the fatal blow to the president’s already-doomed attempt to subvert President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

Moments later, Pence launched the joint session of Congress at which Biden’s electoral votes will be counted, finalizing his victory ahead of his Jan. 20 inauguration. Pence, who is constitutionally required to preside over the joint session of Congress at which Biden’s electors will be counted, delivered his verdict while Trump was speaking at a neayby rally and declared he would be “very disappointed” in his vice president if he refused to attempt to block BIden’s victory.

But Pence has no authority, constitutionally or legally, to reject Biden’s electors, and he acknowledged as much in three-page letter to lawmakers he distributed moments before taking to the House floor alongside Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence wrote.

The development was followed quickly by a breach of the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters, instigated by the president earlier in the day. Trump issued a belated call for protests to be “peaceful,” but just minutes earlier, Trump supporters broke through Capitol entryways and forced the session to be shut down indefinitely. Pence was whisked from the Capitol amid increasingly dire security alerts, and lawmakers barricaded on the House floor reported harrowing danger and chaos inside the Capitol.

The eroding security situation delayed the certification of Biden’s victory, which is a certainty but has now been marred by mob violence that threatens to engulf the day.

Before the delay, Pence had hinted that he’ll operate in the traditional mold of vice presidents at these crucial transition-of-power sessions, despite Trump’s increasingly pointed entreaties, which continued Wednesday morning.

“If Vice President @Mike_Pence comes through for us, we will win the Presidency,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. He also used a rally at the White House to deride what he termed “weak Republicans” who refused to help him overturn the election. “We have to primary the hell out of the ones who don’t fight.”

Pence’s decision is likely to turn a potentially wild day into a more predictable, if lengthy, affair. Trump’s GOP loyalists are expected to mount formal challenges to Biden’s electors, a process envisioned in federal law, that will be easily rejected in both chambers but will force a series of two-hour debates that could plunge the ceremony deep into the night and possibly into Thursday. But the end result has never been in doubt: Biden’s victory will be officially sealed.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who intends to preside over each of the House debates, has encouraged Democrats to treat them as a chance to voice support for the democratic process rather than turn the session into a referendum on Trump. And she relied on some of the key architects of the House’s impeachment strategy to devise the pushback plan on the GOP challenges. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) delivered the first remarks for Democrats, urging colleagues to reject the assault on democratic instituttions.

The first challenge emerged when Pence introduced Arizona’s electors. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) stood up and said he and 60 House colleagues objected. The challenge was joined by several GOP senators, forcing the chambers to split up and debate. But the Democratically controlled House and the closely divided Senate are poised to overwhelmingly reject the challenges, with many Senate Republicans signaling they had no interest in joining with Trump’s allies.

In fact, no challenges to electors have ever been upheld. The last time objectors forced a debate came in 2005, when Democrats cited irregularities in Ohio’s election results. The challenge was easily swept aside in both chambers. House Democrats also objected to the results in 2001 and 2017 but no senators joined them.

The one remaining wildcard this week is the security environment in the capital. Trump’s pressure campaign, which has fractured the GOP, has also activated thousands of marchers to descend on D.C. — drawing acute security concerns. As the session got underway, two congressional office buildings were ordered evacuated. The House sergeant at arms has urged lawmakers to traverse the Capitol’s underground tunnel network rather than forge into the demonstrations, and the city has encouraged residents to remain at home and avoid any confrontations with those who show up.

Republicans also entered Wednesday in a deflated state after losing one — and likely both — Senate runoff races in Georgia, an outcome that seems poised to relegate them to minority status in the chamber and dash hopes of operating as a counterweight to the Biden presidency. It led some of Trump’s Republican detractors to question the wisdom of proceeding with a process aimed at delegitimizing the election results.

Inside the Capitol, the effort has splintered Trump’s party, with more than 100 House Republicans and at least a dozen Senate Republicans objecting to Biden’s victory while Senate GOP leadership warned their caucus against the effort. Already, senators are signaling they’ll challenge results in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Biden earned 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232, and a wave of legal challenges by Trump to reverse several states’ results failed at every level of state and federal court.

Pence foreshadowed his posture in recent days. He told Trump at a Tuesday lunch that he will simply follow procedures allowing GOP objections and possibly make a statement related to election fraud during the process, two White House sources told POLITICO. But late Tuesday, Trump denied the suggestion and went even further, alleging that he and Pence are in complete agreement that Pence has unilateral power to “decertify” election results in multiple states and deny Biden the presidency.

Pence never had that authority, either under the Constitution or the laws governing the counting of electoral votes, but Trump’s attempt to box him in suggests he’s seeking to pin his defeat on Pence’s required actions.

“All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.

Pence has spent the weeks leading up to this moment poring over legal opinions related to the 133-year-old Electoral Count Act, which governs the proceedings, and consulting with chief of staff Marc Short and General Counsel Greg Jacob about his role. Part of his intense preparation included a Sunday night visit to the Senate parliamentarian to discuss his statutory obligations. In years past, the vice president’s ceremonial role has barely merited a mention — except for the awkwardness of 2001 and 2017, when Al Gore and Joe Biden were required to certify their rivals’ victories.

Lawmakers in both parties spent much of this week strategizing over the floor antics, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has worked with key state delegation leaders on details such as the order of speeches on the floor. Congressional leaders also have discussed how to keep another threat — the coronavirus — at bay, while hundreds of lawmakers are on the floor Wednesday and likely into Thursday morning. On Tuesday afternoon, the Capitol physician issued a memo urging lawmakers to maintain distance in the chamber — a difficult task with the entire Congress forced to spend at least some time in the House chamber at the same time.

To help manage his conference, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has worked to ensure Republicans on both sides of the issue can deliver some of the five-minute floor speeches permitted during Wednesday’s debate, according to GOP sources.

But debate on this raged into Wednesday morning, with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) indicating the thinking had changed and those opposed to challenging the election results would now only be permitted to speak if Democrats allowed them to. It’s unclear if Democrats intend to incorporate any Republicans into their floor time.

McCarthy, who has defended Trump’s push to subvert the election, has not said how he plans to vote or whether he will join any of the objections. And sources familiar with McCarthy’s thinking don’t expect him to announce his position ahead of time.

Meanwhile, Democrats are preparing an impeachment-like strategy for countering the GOP challenges. Pelosi — who intends to preside for the entirety of the House debates — has tapped two of her trusted impeachment managers, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), along with Reps. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) to coordinate strategy.

Democrats are also going to lean on delegations from the challenged states to push back on GOP talking points about fraud and misconduct, for which there is no substantial evidence. Pennsylvania Democrats held a conference call Tuesday to develop a pushback plan.

For Trump, who has pressed his Hill allies to challenge Biden’s victory for weeks, the effort to remain in power comes as he and his company face increasing legal peril in expanding investigations led by the Manhattan district attorney and the state of New York. For the lawmakers backing his effort, it’s a reflection of Trump’s grip on the base of the Republican Party who view efforts to overturn the 2020 election results as the ultimate loyalty test.

Trump supporters amassed Wednesday morning by the White House for a rally that featured speeches from Trump, his adult sons and other loyalists. The unpredictable turnout has already led Mayor Muriel Bowser to urge local residents to remain at home amid the demonstrations and avoid confrontation. D.C. officials even called in the National Guard to help maintain security in the capital. The city’s police chief, Robert Contee III, has cited information that some protesters have intended to come armed, and Bowser has issued public reminders about the city’s strict firearm laws.

Lawmakers have been urged to gather inside the Capitol at least four hours before proceedings begin to avoid crowds. The House sergeant at arms also urged lawmakers to use the Capitol’s underground tunnel networks, rather than risk forging into the crowd of marchers.

Wednesday’s session “is about guaranteeing trust in our democratic system,” Pelosi said in a letter to Democratic colleagues Tuesday night. “As Members of Congress, we all have a responsibility to uphold the principle: the people are sovereign and that they hold the power to choose their leaders through the ballot box.”


Moments after informing lawmakers that he was rebuffing Trump, Pence launched the joint session of Congress at which Biden’s electoral votes will be counted, finalizing his victory ahead of his Jan. 20 inauguration. Pence, who is constitutionally required to preside over the bicameral session of Congress at which Biden’s electors will be counted, delivered his verdict while Trump was speaking at a nearby rally. Trump had declared he would be “very disappointed” in his vice president if he refused to attempt to block BIden’s victory.

But Pence has no authority, constitutionally or legally, to reject Biden’s electors, and he acknowledged as much in three-page letter to lawmakers he distributed moments before taking to the House floor alongside Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence wrote.

Pence had hinted that he’ll operate in the traditional mold of vice presidents at these crucial transition-of-power sessions, despite Trump’s increasingly pointed entreaties, which continued Wednesday morning.

“If Vice President @Mike_Pence comes through for us, we will win the Presidency,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. He also used a rally at the White House to deride what he termed “weak Republicans” who refused to help him overturn the election. “We have to primary the hell out of the ones who don’t fight.”

Pence’s decision is likely to turn a potentially wild day into a more predictable, if lengthy, affair. Trump’s GOP loyalists are mounting formal challenges to Biden’s electors, a process envisioned in federal law, that will be rejected in both chambers but will force a series of two-hour debates that could push the ceremony deep into the night and possibly into Thursday. But the end result has never been in doubt: Biden’s victory will be officially sealed.

The first challenge emerged when Pence introduced Arizona’s electors. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) stood up and said he and 60 House colleagues objected. The challenge was joined by several GOP senators, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), forcing the chambers to split up and debate. But the Democratically controlled House and the closely divided Senate are poised to overwhelmingly reject the challenges, with many Senate Republicans signaling they had no interest in joining with Trump’s allies.

In fact, no challenges to electors have ever been upheld. The last time objectors forced a debate came in 2005, when Democrats cited irregularities in Ohio’s election results. The challenge was easily swept aside in both chambers. House Democrats also objected to the results in 2001 and 2017 but no senators joined them.

Pelosi, who will preside over each of the House debates, has encouraged Democrats to treat them as a chance to voice support for the democratic process rather than turn the session into a referendum on Trump. And she relied on some of the key architects of the House’s impeachment strategy to devise the pushback plan on the GOP challenges. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) delivered the first remarks for Democrats, urging colleagues to reject the assault on democratic institutions.

The one remaining wildcard this week is the security environment in the capital. Trump’s pressure campaign, which has fractured the GOP, has also activated thousands of marchers to descend on D.C. — drawing acute security concerns. As the session got underway, two congressional office buildings were ordered evacuated. The House sergeant at arms has urged lawmakers to traverse the Capitol’s underground tunnel network rather than forge into the demonstrations, and the city has encouraged residents to remain at home and avoid any confrontations with those who show up.


Republicans also entered Wednesday in a deflated state after losing one — and likely both — Senate runoff races in Georgia, an outcome that seems poised to relegate them to minority status in the chamber and dash hopes of operating as a counterweight to the Biden presidency. It led some of Trump’s Republican detractors to question the wisdom of proceeding with a process aimed at delegitimizing the election results.

Inside the Capitol, the effort has splintered Trump’s party, with more than 100 House Republicans and at least a dozen Senate Republicans objecting to Biden’s victory while Senate GOP leadership warned their caucus against the effort. Already, senators are signaling they’ll challenge results in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Biden earned 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232, and a wave of legal challenges by Trump to reverse several states’ results failed at every level of state and federal court.

Pence foreshadowed his posture in recent days. He told Trump at a Tuesday lunch that he will simply follow procedures allowing GOP objections and possibly make a statement related to election fraud during the process, two White House sources told POLITICO. But late Tuesday, Trump denied the suggestion and went even further, alleging that he and Pence are in complete agreement that Pence has unilateral power to “decertify” election results in multiple states and deny Biden the presidency.

Pence never had that authority, either under the Constitution or the laws governing the counting of electoral votes, but Trump’s attempt to box him in suggests he’s seeking to pin his defeat on Pence’s required actions.

“All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.

Lawmakers in both parties spent much of this week strategizing over the floor antics, including Pelosi, who has worked with key state delegation leaders on details such as the order of speeches on the floor. Congressional leaders also have discussed how to keep another threat — the coronavirus — at bay, while hundreds of lawmakers are on the floor Wednesday and likely into Thursday morning. On Tuesday afternoon, the Capitol physician issued a memo urging lawmakers to maintain distance in the chamber — a difficult task with the entire Congress forced to spend at least some time in the House chamber at the same time.

To help manage his conference, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has worked to ensure Republicans on both sides of the issue can deliver some of the five-minute floor speeches permitted during Wednesday’s debate, according to GOP sources.

But debate on this raged into Wednesday morning, with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) indicating the thinking had changed and those opposed to challenging the election results would now only be permitted to speak if Democrats allowed them to. It’s unclear if Democrats intend to incorporate any Republicans into their floor time.

Meanwhile, Democrats are preparing an impeachment-like strategy for countering the GOP challenges. Pelosi — who intends to preside for the entirety of the House debates — has tapped two of her trusted impeachment managers, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Lofgren, along with Reps. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) to coordinate strategy.

Democrats are also going to lean on delegations from the challenged states to push back on GOP talking points about fraud and misconduct, for which there is no substantial evidence. Pennsylvania Democrats held a conference call Tuesday to develop a pushback plan.


For Trump, who has pressed his Hill allies to challenge Biden’s victory for weeks, the effort to remain in power comes as he and his company face increasing legal peril in expanding investigations led by the Manhattan district attorney and the state of New York. For the lawmakers backing his effort, it’s a reflection of Trump’s grip on the base of the Republican Party who view efforts to overturn the 2020 election results as the ultimate loyalty test.

Trump supporters amassed Wednesday morning by the White House for a rally that featured speeches from Trump, his adult sons and other loyalists. The unpredictable turnout has already led Mayor Muriel Bowser to urge local residents to remain at home amid the demonstrations and avoid confrontation. D.C. officials even called in the National Guard to help maintain security in the capital. The city’s police chief, Robert Contee III, has cited information that some protesters have intended to come armed, and Bowser has issued public reminders about the city’s strict firearm laws.

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