Despite pressure from Trump, Mike Pence won't interfere in Congress election count, say aides
WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – Despite growing pressure from President Donald Trump to help overturn his election loss, Vice-President Mike Pence plans to stick to his ceremonial duties when presiding in Congress on Wednesday, advisers said.
Trump ramped up pressure on Pence on Tuesday (Jan 5) to block Congress’ certification of the November election results in an ongoing attempt to stay in power, after dozens of lawsuits by his campaign challenging election results had failed in US courts.
But the vice-president, a loyal lieutenant during the four years of Trump’s often chaotic presidency, has no plans to attempt to do so, even as he seeks to show support for the Republican president’s quest.
Pence is set to preside over the US Senate on Wednesday as it receives the results of the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner of presidential elections.
President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, beat Trump 306-232 in the Electoral College and in the popular vote by more than seven million ballots.
Trump has declined to concede the election.
US states have already certified the results, and Pence’s role on Wednesday as president of the Senate is to “open all the Certificates,” in the presence of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the US Constitution says.
Trump has suggested Pence could do more than that.
“The Vice-President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors,” Trump wrote in a tweet on Tuesday, his latest unfounded suggestion that the election was marred by widespread fraud.
His tweet came after pointed and public remarks at a Senate campaign rally in Dalton, Georgia, on Monday night, in which he urged Pence to come through for him.
“If he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him quite as much,” Trump said.
Current and former White House aides said the vice-president plans to perform his ceremonial role.
Pence plans to make clear in his statements that he backs the president but will stick to the constraints of his role, a former White House official with regular contact with Pence’s team told Reuters.
“He will be very supportive of the president, but again he will stick to the Constitution,” the former adviser said.
“It is a ceremonial role. It is opening up envelopes and reading the contents of it,” he said. “That’s it. This is a ceremonial… position.”
Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, told Reuters on Monday that the vice-president “will uphold the Constitution and follow the statutory law.”
On Friday, a Trump-appointed judge rejected a lawsuit brought by Republican members of Congress asking Pence to reject Electoral College results, saying they had no standing for such a suit.
One Trump adviser told Reuters the president has told others he would like Pence to fight harder for him.
The vice-president has sought, so far, to express his support without repeating the president’s false claims about the election. On Monday, during his own trip to Georgia, Pence said that Republican objections to the election would be heard, but he did not commit to taking action on them.
“I share the concerns of millions of Americans about voting irregularities. And I promise you, come this Wednesday, we’ll have our day in Congress. We’ll hear the objections. We’ll hear the evidence,” he said.
Pence met with Trump in the Oval Office on Monday. The former adviser said Pence likely walked the president through the restrictions of his role, informed by a weekend meeting with a congressional parliamentarian.
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