Monday, January 18

Mike Pence breaks up with Trump over Electoral College function


(CNN) — US Vice President Mike Pence publicly broke up Wednesday with President Donald Trump, the boss he has served obsequiously for four years. Pence said in a letter to Congress that he cannot submit to demands to overthrow the election results.

Pence formalized his views in a letter to lawmakers, stating that he has “no unilateral authority to decide presidential races” and that he could not change the election results.

“It is my thoughtful judgment, my oath to support and defend the Constitution limits me to claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which ones should not,” he wrote.

And so he concluded his letter: “So help me God.”

It was Pence’s last word before presiding over a joint session of Congress to count Electoral College votes. The session was interrupted when a violent pro-Trump mob stormed the United States Capitol, forcing Pence’s closure and evacuation of the building.

Amid the chaos, Trump began tweeting his anger at Pence.

“Mike Pence did not have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution,” he tweeted.

He only made a passing reference to the mobs of his supporters who stormed the Capitol building, saying “support our Capitol Police” and “Keep your peace!” But he did not condemn the violence.

Biden’s first speech after Electoral College vote 14:00

Pence, tweeting from an undisclosed location after being evacuated, was more blunt.

“The violence and destruction taking place in the United States Capitol must stop and it must stop now. Everyone involved must respect law enforcement officials and leave the building immediate” he ”he wrote.

Pence had relayed his views to the president in a meeting Tuesday, sources familiar with the conversation told CNN. But Trump, consumed by conspiracies and unsound legal advice, did not listen. Now he seems ready to unleash his wrath on a man who has so far successfully avoided that fate.

“I hope Mike does the right thing,” Trump said at a rally at the Ellipse at noon Wednesday. “If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.”

“If you don’t,” he added later, “it will be a sad day for our country.”

Even after Pence issued his statement, Trump said he hoped his vice president would ignore “stupid people” and not bend over backwards.

Pence’s break with Trump

This is an overwhelming position for Trump’s loyal lieutenant, who has his own political ambitions that, for now, appear to run counter to his constitutional responsibilities. Pence has supported Trump through countless scandals, including misleading statements about white supremacy and his impeachment. He tried to defend and bolster Trump with skeptical foreign allies and traditional Republican groups. His loyalty has earned him disdain but, so far, helped him avoid Trump’s wrath.

Even advisers closely aligned with Trump describe the attack on Pence as despicable.

Pence arrived at the Capitol around 1 p.m. Miami time to preside over the joint session of Congress that will formalize President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump. As president of the Senate, your role is purely ceremonial: to open the envelopes, present them to the “scrutineers,” and finally announce the winner.

US Congress to certify Biden’s triumph 9:39

It is a duty that he has tried, unsuccessful” he to explain to Trump during several multi-hour meetings, beginning in the middle of last month. During a final meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday, Pence again made it clear that his powers do not allow him to block Biden’s certification of victory.

But Trump either heard something different or chose to ignore what Pence said. He released a statement late at night saying that he and his vice president “totally agreed” that he has the powcertifyertify votes.

And on Wednesday morning, Trump made the false claim on Twitter that Pence has the power to refuse certification from the states, delaying the process and ultimately giving him victory.

“Do it Mike, this is a moment of extreme courage!” Trump wrote.

Later, at his supporters’ rally where he criticized “weak Republicans” and complained about “shit blasts,” Trump continued to pressure Pence, describing a recent conversation with his vice president.

I just got off the phone with Mike. I said, ‘Mike, that doesn’t take courage. What takes courage is to do nothing, ‘”he said.

Trump to Pence is “shameful”

A senior White House official, whose views are closely aligned with Trump’s, told CNN that what the president does to Pence in his final days in office is “disgraceful.” This official noted how Pence has stood by the president’s side even amid the “Access Hollywood” scandal only to see him turn against him in the end.

Pence, meanwhile, is preparing for Wednesday’s proceedings and has accepted that some difficult days await him, people familiar with his thinking told CNN.

Pence has reflected on ways to show support for the president as he carries out his pro forma role by referencing Trump’s concerns about voter fraud during the pre-certification debate, people familiar with the matter said. But after lengthy meetings with Senate MPs, the White House attorney’s office, and other experts, Pence concluded that he cannot prevent the bottom line.

Though Pence tried to soften the blow for Trump by carefully laying out what to expect of him on Capitol Hill, the president has offered his own theories that appear to be based on advice he has received from an increasingly marginalized group of lawyers and advisers, including the Attorney Rudy Giuliani, Conservative Attorney John Eastman, and Business Consultant Peter Navarro.

Trump’s main wish is for Pence to further delay certification by rejecting the states’ electoral rolls, hoping to return to court.

Reactions in Congress to Trump’s call 4:54

Trump hopes to create chaos

“Sue,” some of Trump’s advisers have told him.

The president hopes that by creating chaos and giving credence to his false claims that the election was riddled with fraud, he can at least leave office with his supporters believing that he was the rightful winner whose victory was stolen.

Pence’s people say they have no plans to carry out Trump’s orders. As a result, the president has lashed out at one of his most loyal aides with growing fervor.

Private” he Trump’s criticism has been even more forceful than his public pleas, the sources said. The president has told people that he saved Pence’s career by selecting him vice president and that Pence would be nothing without Trump.

Still, Pencthe surrounding peoplend him believe there is nothing he can do, said a person close to him.

Few of Trump’s staff said they were surprised by the president’s turn to Pence, as he has shown a willingness to attack other loyal officials, although many were privately critical.

“No one has been more loyal than (Pence),” said one official. “Trump turns against everyone in the end.”

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