Mike Pence reportedly decided to skip the congressional certification process for Joe Biden’s 2020 election win, because to preside over it as required by the constitution would be “too hurtful” to his “friend”, Donald Trump. He was then shamed into standing up to Trump by his son, a US marine.
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“Dad, you took the same oath I took,” the then vice-president’s son Michael Pence said, according to ABC News, adding that it was “an oath to support and defend the constitution”.
Ultimately, Pence did supervise certification, even as it was delayed by the deadly January 6 attack on Congress.
Trump incited the attack by telling supporters to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell” in his cause – the lie that Biden’s win was the result of electoral fraud.
Some chanted for Pence to be hanged. Nine deaths have been linked to the riot, more than a thousand arrests made and hundreds of convictions secured.
Throughout the investigation of January 6 by a House committee, Pence was praised for standing up to Trump and fulfilling his constitutional duty. He later released a memoir, So Help Me God, about his time as Trump’s No 2.
But according to ABC, which on Tuesday cited sources familiar with Pence’s testimony to the special counsel Jack Smith, investigating Trump’s election subversion, Pence offered details not included in his book, including how he had to be prodded into doing his duty.
“Not feeling like I should attend electoral count,” Pence reportedly wrote in contemporaneous notes in late December 2020, as Trump pressured him to help overturn Biden’s win.
“Too many questions, too many doubts, too hurtful to my friend. Therefore I’m not going to participate in certification of election.”
ABC reported that Pence told investigators, “Then, sitting across the table from his son, a [US] marine, while on vacation in Colorado, his son said to him, ‘Dad, you took the same oath I took’ – it was ‘an oath to support and defend the constitution’.
“That’s when Pence decided he would be at the Capitol on 6 January after all.”
Trump now faces four federal criminal counts regarding election subversion. He also faces 13 counts relating to election subversion in Georgia, 40 from Smith regarding his retention of classified information, and 34 in New York regarding hush-money payments to the adult film star Stormy Daniels. He also faces civil threats, including a defamation suit arising from a rape allegation a judge said was “substantially true”.
Nonetheless, Trump is the clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination next year.
Pence also described to investigators an Oval Office meeting on 21 December 2020, “as the campaign’s legal challenges across the country were failing but Trump was continuing to claim the election was stolen and had begun urging supporters to gather in Washington DC for a ‘big protest’ on 6 January”, per ABC.
Trump reportedly asked what he should do. Pence, according to ABC, said he “should simply accept the result … should take a bow”, should “travel the country to thank supporters … and then run again if you want”.
“And I’ll never forget, he pointed at me … as if to say, ‘That’s worth thinking about.’ And he walked” away.
Nearly three years on, Trump has not walked away. But Pence has. Last month, long before the first vote of a primary in which he and others grappled with how to oppose Trump without alienating his supporters, Pence dropped out of the Republican race.