Pence: Trump is ‘wrong’ to say election could be overturned

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Former Vice President Mike Pence has directly rebutted Donald Trump’s false claims that he somehow could have overturned the results of the 2020 election, saying that the former president was simply “wrong.”

In a speech to a gathering of the conservative Federalist Society in Florida Friday, Pence addressed Trump’s intensifying efforts this week to advance the false narrative that, as vice president, he had the unilateral power to prevent President Joe Biden from taking office.

“President Trump is wrong,” said Pence, who was governor Indiana before he ran in 2016 for vice president on Trump’s ticket. “I had no right to overturn the election.”

Pence’s declaration marked his most forceful response yet to Trump, who has spent his post-presidency fueling the lie that the 2020 campaign was stolen from him. And it comes as Pence begins laying the groundwork for a potential run for president in 2024, which could put him in direct competition with his former boss, who is also teasing a comeback run.

The relationship between the two men took on a new dynamic this week as Trump escalated his attacks on Pence.

In a statement Tuesday, Trump said the committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol should instead probe “why Mike Pence did not send back the votes for recertification or approval.” And on Sunday, he blasted Pence, falsely declaring that “he could have overturned the Election!”

Vice presidents play only a ceremonial role in the the counting of Electoral College votes, and any attempt to interfere in the count would have represented an extraordinary violation of the law and an assault on the democratic process.

Vice President Mike Pence heads to the Senate chamber for the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021. (The Washington Post photo/Amanda Voisard)

Pence, in his remarks Friday to the group of lawyers in Lake Buena Vista, described Jan. 6, 2021 as “a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol” and framed his actions that day as in line with his duty as a constitutional conservative.

“The American people must know that we will always keep our oath to the Constitution, even when it would be politically expedient to do otherwise,” he told the group Friday. He noted that, under Article II Section One of the Constitution, “elections are conducted at the state level, not by the Congress” and that “the only role of Congress with respect to the Electoral College is to open and count votes submitted and certified by the states. No more, no less.”

He went on to call out those who have insisted that isn’t the case.

“Frankly there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” he added. “Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election. And Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.”

The audience applauded Pence’s line about beating the Democrats in the upcoming presidential election but remained silent when Pence said earlier that “Trump is wrong.”

As Pence countered Trump in Florida, Republican officials gathered in Utah to align themselves even more closely with the former president. The Republican National Committee censured Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois for participating on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. The GOP also assailed the panel for leading a “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

Pence was inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, presiding over the joint session of Congress to certify the presidential election, when a mob of Trump’s supporters violently smashed inside, assaulting police officers and hunting down lawmakers. Pence, who released a letter moments before the session got underway that made clear he had no authority to overturn the will of the voters, was rushed to safety as some rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence!”

The former vice president, in his remarks Friday, acknowledged the lingering anger among many in Trump’s base, even as he said it was time “to focus on the future.”

“The truth is, there’s more at stake than our party or political fortunes,” he said. “Men and women, if we lose faith in the Constitution, we won’t just lose elections — we’ll lose our country.”

Trump aides did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the speech. Trump released a statement shortly after that slammed the Jan. 6 committee, but notably made no mention of Pence.

Trump’s escalating rhetoric comes as he is under growing scrutiny from the committee, which has now interviewed hundreds of witnesses, issued dozens of subpoenas and obtained reams of government documents that Trump tried to keep hidden.

It also comes as a bipartisan group of lawmakers push to update the Electoral Count Act to eliminate any ambiguity about the vice president’s role.

Pence has so far tried to thread a needle on his actions Jan. 6, which continue to enrage large portions of Trump’s base, posing a potential complication if he runs for president in 2024.

In recent months, he has generally refrained from voluntarily raising the events of that day but has defended his actions when pressed, saying he was abiding by his constitutional role. Last year, he said in a speech that he will “always be proud that we did our part on that tragic day to reconvene the Congress and fulfilled our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States.”

He has also accused Democrats and the media of continuing to focus on the insurrection to score political points against Republicans and divert attention from Biden’s agenda.

While a basic declaration of fact, Pence’s decision to describe Trump as “wrong” was especially significant given Pence’s posture in the White House. As Trump’s vice president, Pence was exceptionally deferential to him, never publicly voicing disagreement and defending even his most controversial actions.

After spending several months laying low after leaving the White House, Pence has returned to the public spotlight. He launched his own political advocacy group and has been traveling the country, visiting early voting states, delivering speeches and hosting fundraisers for midterm candidates. Pence, unlike some possible 2024 presidential contenders, has notably declined to rule out running against Trump. He is also working on a book.

Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the chair of the Jan. 6 committee, and Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California have both said they plan to call Pence to testify as part of their investigation. It is so far unclear what Pence will do.

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5 thoughts on “Pence: Trump is ‘wrong’ to say election could be overturned

  1. “The GOP also assailed the panel for leading a “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”“

    Sure, because sending in fake Electoral College paperwork is legitimate political discourse. For all those talking about the 2020 election fraud, I agree with you, here is fraud that would have changed the result of the election. So, how do we punish these folks?

    (At least the folks in Pennsylvania were smart enough to admit theirs were provisional signatures.)

  2. Saying there was fraud over and over doesn’t make it true, I’ve yet to see any compelling evidence to this point. I can not like the result, but accept it and move on because its best for the country. A world where every election is contested is going to bring this country to its knees. Let’s say that the election was overturned and Trump remains president, taking that through to its conclusion is going to be incredibly poisonous for this nation. Biden is unpopular… fine… he can be voted out next. All the finger pointing, whataboutism, and demonization of any idea someone doesn’t agree with has gotten old.

    I’m in favor of bipartisan legislation to set a national election standard to make them more secure and end gerrymandering. I don’t trust either side in this fight. Political platforms change over time, I’m more interested in the USA continuing to be the best example of capitalism and democracy in the world for the next 300 years.

    I realize this is all going to be way too pragmatic for many.

    1. Quote: Saying there was fraud over and over doesn’t make it true, I’ve yet to see any compelling evidence to this point.

      Dinesh d’Souza has a good movie coming out that may help change your mind, Ryan, if anyone can.

    2. Different Ryan S. : There are some good points made by both of you, voter fraud MUST be stopped and all this political posturing that Republicans are making it difficult to vote for minorities is just that…. wordsmithing to try and convince the general public and get their way.
      Moving on and getting Trump out of the picture would also be best…. and I voted for him. As republicans we need leadership from someone else who can get the job done without igniting the fires as Trump did. He’s not a politician and he called it like it is. It’s now time to move on.

    3. d’Souza is a fraud just like the MyPillow guy. I hope Lindell loses everything to Dominion. He deserves it.

      They counted Georgia three times. Nothing changed.

      The Republicans brought in their “experts” to count Arizona. They found more votes for Biden.

      Ohio, out of millions of votes, found like 30 cases of potential fraud to look into. That’s a rounding error.

      Trump’s people lost 60 court cases and the lawyers got sanctioned for how garbage their claims were.

      The only election fraud is the Big Lie, peddled by the same people who claimed there was fraud in 2016 in an election that they won. Why anyone believes them at this point is beyond me.

      The problem hotspot in the 2020 election was The Villages in Florida. Go crack down on those folks, maybe take away their right to vote, and get back to me about election fraud.