US President Donald Trump tightens the screws on his most loyal soldier, trying to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to use powers he does not have to overturn the will of voters in a desperate and futile bid to undo President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the November election.
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 formality of the Trump-Pence team’s defeat.
Beginning at 1 p.m., Pence’s role is to open the certificates of the electoral votes from each state and present them to the appointed “tellers” from the House and Senate in alphabetical order. At the end of the count, Pence, seated on the House of Representatives’ rostrum, has the task of announcing who has won the majority of votes for both president and vice president.
Despite his largely ceremonial assignment, Pence is under intense pressure from the president and legions of supporters who want the vice president to use the moment to overturn the will of the voters in a handful of battleground states.
“All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN,” Trump tweets. “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”
Pence has no such unilateral power under the Constitution and congressional rules that govern the count. It is up to the House and Senate to voice objections, and states’ electors were chosen in accordance with state law, not fraudulently.
Pence told Trump during their weekly lunch in the West Wing on Tuesday that he did not believe he had the power to unilaterally overturn electoral votes, according to a person briefed on the one-on-one conversation. This person was not authorized to publicly discuss the private discussion, which was first reported by The New York Times, and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trump denied the report in a statement late Tuesday in which he continued to falsely assert Pence has powers he does not. But the vice president, whose office declined to discuss his plans, was not expected to deliver on Trump’s request to overturn the electors, acknowledging he has no such unilateral power.