WASHINGTON — Infuriating President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged Wednesday he does not have the power to throw out the electoral votes that will make Democrat Joe Biden the next president, dashing Trump’s baseless hopes that Pence somehow could find a way to keep them in office.
Pence, under intense pressure from Trump and his allies to overturn the election results, issued a lengthy statement laying out his conclusion that a vice president cannot claim “unilateral authority” to reject states’ electoral votes.
“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,” Pence wrote in a letter to members of Congress before he gaveled in the joint session of Congress.
In a remarkable moment underscoring the dramatic split between Trump and his once most loyal lieutenant, Pence released the statement just after he arrived at the Capitol to tally the electoral votes and even as the president was telling thousands of supporters gathered near the White House that Pence could overturn those results.
“If Mike Pence does the right thing we win the election,” Trump told supporters, who later marched through Washington and stormed the Capitol.
Trump tweeted his disapproval of Pence after returning to the White House.
“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,” he wrote. “USA demands the truth!”
After losing court case after court case, and with no further options at hand, Trump and his allies had spent days in a futile bid to convince Pence — and his legion of supporters — that the vice president had the power to reject electors from battleground states that voted for Biden.
He doesn’t. The Constitution makes clear that the vice president’s role in the joint session is largely ceremonial, much like a master of ceremonies.