Mike Pence defies Donald Trump's order to 'send votes back', says Constitution doesn't allow VPs to overrule EC

The vice president said in a letter to Congress members that the Constitution doesn't empower him to decide which electoral votes should be counted and which should not

                            Mike Pence defies Donald Trump's order to 'send votes back', says Constitution doesn't allow VPs to overrule EC
Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump (Getty Images)

Facing no relief from any quarters in his bid to reverse the 2020 presidential election results, President Donald Trump has become increasingly frustrated and one of the top officials to face the full force of his pressure is Vice President Mike Pence. 

The VP, who presided over Congress’ formal acceptance of the Electoral College (EC) votes affirming Joe Biden as the winner of the election, was under pressure by Trump and his team to turn the Congressional affair to the incumbent president’s favor. However, on Wednesday, January 6, the former Indiana governor made it evident that he was not fulfilling the expectations of Trump’s supporters and said only lawmakers could decide whether to accept or reject the EC votes.

His decision to abide by the rules was a rare occasion where he deviated from the loyalty he has shown to his boss over the past four years. 

US Capitol Hill (Getty Images)

'So Help Me God'

The 61-year-old Pence said on Wednesday, January 6, that he will defy Trump’s demand to overturn the election and heed to the Constitution. In a letter sent to Congressional members at the time when the president threatened him at a wild rally in Washington DC protesting the election results, Pence wrote “So Help Me God”. 

Trump told thousands of his supporters outside the White House that he wanted his deputy to “come through” for him and his supporters and sought that he reject the electoral votes to validate his claim that the election was compromised. He said “I am not hearing good stories” and asked Pence to have the “courage” to strike down the election results. 

However, minutes before reaching Capitol Hill to preside over the joint session of Congress to certify Biden’s victory, Pence made it clear to lawmakers that he was not going to meet the president’s expectations. He wrote a letter to 535 senators and representatives at the Capitol ahead of the joint session and noted that his role in the proceedings is nothing but “ceremonial” and that it doesn’t include the authority to “determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not”.


In a tweet on Wednesday, January 6, that was flagged by Twitter, Trump said: "States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!"


Trump was livid over Pence’s move and he tweeted later attacking the veep saying he did not have the courage to do “what should have been done to protect” the US and its Constitution. The tweet was removed on grounds of violating Twitter rules. Trump has been incorrectly asserting that Pence, as the chief of the Senate, can change the votes. 

The vice president had to be brought out of the Senate under security cover during the Congressional debate over the Republican Party’s challenge to the results as scores of his supporters breached the Capitol, leaving chaotic scenes inside. One woman supporter of the president, who was shot in the chest, succumbed to her injuries later. Three others died in medical emergencies later.

Trump recently said at a rally in Georgia, where two crucial Senate election runoffs took place, that he “won’t like” VP Pence if the latter didn’t “come through” when the Congress meets to certify Biden’s victory. 

GOP divided over backing Trump claim

But although Trump has put the blame on Pence for his expected blow in the Senate, his party itself was deeply divided over backing his claim which has now been universally invalidated. The vice president acknowledged the president’s allegations of a rigged election but he also conceded that the Constitution doesn’t empower him to decide which electoral votes are counted and which are not. 

Pence said he shared the concerns of millions of Americans about the integrity of this election but he wrote in the letter: “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.”

He also said in the past, vice presidents have conducted “the proceedings in an orderly manner even where the count resulted in the defeat of their party or their own candidacy”.

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