Vice President Mike Pence has been a loyal second-in-command to President Trump for the past four years. He has never publicly criticized him and has defended him at every turn, even when lesser men might have turned their backs on the president.
That is why it was disappointing to see how VP Pence was treated this week by President Trump himself. Trump incorrectly claimed that Pence as presiding officer over the Senate could choose which electors were chosen and defy the states who submitted them.
Pence has no constitutional authority to do so, and to suggest otherwise is to perpetuate a legal falsehood.
Vice President Pence did the right thing and failed to bend to Trump. For that, he was publically rebuked by his boss, who tweeted, “Mike 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!”
[This tweet, along with several others from the president, has since been removed by Twitter for “community guideline violations”]
I, like many Trump supporters, was disappointed by the results of the election, but it was absurd to think that Congress would and should overturn the state electors.
Hypothetically, what would have happened had Pence done what President Trump wanted him to do?
He still would have lost the vote. Does anyone with a sound mind actually believe that the Democrats in the House, or even a majority of Senators—including Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse, who despise Trump—would have cast their votes for certifying a Trump victory?
The answer to that rhetorical question is self-evident.
After December 14, when the electoral college met in the states, the election was over. It doesn’t please me to say that, but it’s true.
Overturning the electoral college vote would have set a horrible precedent for the future.
The Democrats could in the future do the same thing to Republicans, and if we’re going to be consistent, we shouldn’t want Mike Pence doing anything we wouldn’t be comfortable having Kamala Harris do.
That’s why I think, for better or worse, Vice President Pence made the right decision.
Read the relevant portion of Vice President’s Letter announcing his decision below:
“Vesting the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide presidential contests would be entirely antithetical to that design. As a student of history who loves the Constitution and reveres its Framers, I do not believe that the Founders of our country intended to invest the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the Joint Session of Congress, and no Vice President in American history has ever asserted such authority. Instead, Vice Presidents presiding over Joint Sessions have uniformly followed the Electoral Count Act, conducting the proceedings in an orderly manner even where the count resulted in the defeat of their party or their own candidacy.
“As Supreme Court Justice Joseph Bradley wrote following the contentious election of 1876, ‘the powers of the President of the Senate are merely ministerial … He is not invested with any authority for making any investigation outside of the Joint Meeting of the two Houses … [I]f any examination at all is to be gone into, or any judgment exercised in relation to the votes received, it must be performed and exercised by the two Houses,’” Pence continued. “More recently, as the former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge J. Michael Luttig observed, ‘[t]he only responsibility and power of the Vice President under the Constitution is to faithfully count the Electoral College votes as they have been cast,’ adding ‘[t]he Constitution does not empower the Vice President to alter in any way the votes that have been cast, either by rejecting certain votes or otherwise.’
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.
While my role as presiding officer is largely ceremonial, the role of the Congress is much different, and the Electoral Count Act of 1887 establishes a clear procedure to address election controversies when they arise during the count of the vote of the Electoral College. Given the voting irregularities that took place in our November elections and the disregard of state election statutes by some officials, I welcome the efforts of Senate and House members who have stepped forward to use their authority under the law to raise objections and present evidence.”
“As presiding officer, I will ensure that any objections that are sponsored by both a Representative and a Senator are given proper consideration, and that all facts supporting those objections are brought before the Congress and the American people. Those who suggest that raising objections under the Electoral Count Act is improper or undemocratic ignore more than 130 years of history, and fail to acknowledge that Democrats raised objections in Congress each of the last three times that a Republican candidate for President prevailed.”
“Today it will be my duty to preside when the Congress convenes in Joint Session to count the votes of the Electoral College, and I will do so to the best of my ability,” Pence continued. “I ask only that Representatives and Senators who will assemble before me approach this moment with the same sense of duty and an open mind, selling politics and personal interests aside, and do our pan to faithfully discharge our duties under the Constitution. I also pray that we will do so with humility and faith, remembering the words of John Quincy Adams, who said, ‘Duty is ours; results are God’s.’”
“Four years ago, surrounded by my family, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, which ended with the words, ‘So help me God.’ Today I want to assure the American people that I will keep the oath I made to them and I will keep the oath I made to Almighty God. When the Joint Session of Congress convenes today, I will do my duty to see to it that we open the certificates of the Electors of the several states, we bear objections raised by Senators and Representatives, and we count the votes of the Electoral College for President and Vice President in a manner consistent with our Constitution, laws, and history. So Help Me God.”