A longtime ally of Vice President Mike Pence says President Donald Trump’s push for a last-minute legal maneuver to help him win electoral votes put Pence in a difficult position that probably hurt his political future with conservatives in the Republican Party.
“I don't know what [Pence] could have done. He was in a box,” Micah Clark, who leads the American Family Association of Indiana, tells One News Now.
After last week’s riots in and around the Capitol building, Vice President Pence is being pressured by Democrats and some Republicans to invoke the 25th Amendment and forcibly remove his own boss. So far, however, the Vice President has refused to do so and House Democrats, blaming Pence's refusal, have announced they are moving ahead with impeachment proceedings this week despite only nine days before Joe Biden is sworn into office.
According to media reports, the Vice President has privately expressed surprise and frustration at President Trump’s behavior toward him, and the two men have not talked since last Wednesday.
Trump has also banned Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, from the White House grounds as retaliation for Pence’s decision. Short confirmed his ban to a RealClearPolitics reporter and said he was being punished for advising Pence.
Trump pressured Pence to help
Clark, who has known the former Indiana governor and congressman for years, and the rest of the country watched last week as the President’s loyal vice president was publicly pushed by his boss to help him when the U.S. Senate and U.S. House met to satisfy the U.S. Constitution’s directive for recognizing the electors from all 50 states. After totaling the votes, the next step is recognizing the president-elect which meant recognizing Joe Biden despite numerous allegations of election fraud.
Just minutes before that joint session began, Vice President Pence released a three-page letter documenting his legal conclusion that his constitutional role was limited.
“It is my considered judgment,” Pence wrote, “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.”
According to media reports, that letter was released after Vice President Pence advised President Trump directly that his hands were constitutionally tied. But the President continued to push Pence to act on his behalf anyway. He called for Pence to help him at the pro-Trump rally attended by tens of thousands of Trump supporters.
“I hope Mike has the courage to do what he has to do,” Trump told the crowd Wednesday as the joint session was meeting on Capitol Hill.
After the Electoral College votes were announced, President Trump complained in another Twitter post that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
According to social media reaction, many Trump supporters have sided with President Trump despite the Vice President’s plea that he was constrained by the Constitution, and those same angry voters are vowing to never forget Pence’s alleged betrayal of the President.
According to Clark, the President and Vice President were on “two different pages” about what should and could be done during the joint session, and he points out both men likely sought legal advice.
“It’s not as though, I would think, the President would not have legal advisors telling him this is what the Vice President can do,” Clark observes. “So the fact that they were out of sync was, I think, the most surprising thing. It seemed pretty clear that the President expected the Vice President to do something that he didn't do."