- President Donald Trump is urging Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election result when Congress meets to certify the Electoral College vote on January 6.
- But here's the thing: Pence doesn't have the authority to unilaterally overturn or object to the result.
- Trump has effectively set Pence up to be the fall guy for his election loss, as millions of the president's supporters reject President-elect Joe Biden's victory based on groundless assertions of mass voter fraud.
- Pence's political ambitions, including a 2024 run, could take a major hit from all this.
- The vice president has been extraordinarily loyal to Trump, and, in return, the president is throwing Pence under the bus.
- Pence in a statement on Wednesday signaled that he would adhere to the Constitution and not take steps to overturn the election.
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Vice President Mike Pence has been unflinchingly loyal to President Donald Trump throughout his tumultuous presidency - and Trump repaid Pence by throwing him under the bus with just two weeks left in office.
The president has in recent days falsely suggested that Pence can overturn the 2020 election results, saying at a rally in Georgia on Monday night, "I hope Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you."
"Of course, if he doesn't come through, I won't like him quite as much," Trump added of his vice president.
Trump continued to put pressure on Pence during a speech before thousands of supporters on Wednesday. "If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election ... He has the absolute right to do it," Trump said.
But Pence does not have unilateral authority to do so, despite facing mounting pressure from Trump and his allies.
By suggesting otherwise, Trump is turning Pence into a scapegoat for his election loss.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump attacked Pence for not having the "courage" to adhere to the president's impossible request to overturn the election result.
This could cost the vice president, who is thought to have ambitions of running for president in 2024, support within Trump's base.
—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 5, 2021
As vice president, it's Pence's job to preside over the certification of the Electoral College vote on January 6. But his role is largely ceremonial, and he's essentially supposed to read aloud the certificates of electoral votes from each state. He does not have a constitutional or legal pathway to singlehandedly upend President-elect Joe Biden's victory.
"Hope VP Pence understands that his Constitutional role tomorrow at U.S. Capitol is to be merely announcer, not decider," Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian, tweeted on Tuesday.
Or as Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, put it: "Pence has no power to 'come through' for Trump."
Even Jay Sekulow, the attorney who defended Trump during his impeachment trial, said what the president has urged Pence to do would be unconstitutional.
And Pence himself has also echoed the view that he does not have the constitutional authority to acquiesce to Trump's call for him to reject the election results.
In a statement on Wednesday ahead of the certification process in Congress, Pence said, "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's statement also referenced "significant allegations of voting irregularities," alluding to Trump's groundless assertions of voter fraud. The vice president said he shared the concerns of "millions of Americans about the integrity of this election." His careful language in the statement was indicative of the precarious position Trump put the vice president in by demanding Pence do something he can't.
Trump sets Pence up to be the fall guy
After weeks of consistently and baselessly saying that he lost the 2020 presidential race because of mass voter fraud, Trump's latest falsehood puts his defeat in a free and fair election on Pence's shoulders.
"The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors," Trump said in a Tuesday tweet.
Though there's no validity to the president's claims about Pence's authority to overturn the election, Trump supporters have seemingly been convinced otherwise. At the Georgia rally on Monday, voters chanted at Pence: "Stop the steal!"
With his political aspirations always at the forefront of his mind, Pence until Wednesday had been vague about what he planned to do. It's likely that Pence still wants to appear loyal to the president and his millions of supporters, even as Trump effectively abandons him.
"I know we all - we all got our doubts about the last election. And I want to assure you, I share the concerns of millions of Americans about voting irregularities," Pence said at Monday's rally in Georgia. "And I promise you, come this Wednesday, we'll have our day in Congress. We'll hear the objections. We'll hear the evidence."
Trump's move to put all this fallout on Pence means the vice president is likely to be vilified by the president's supporters. Polling shows that Trump supporters overwhelmingly (and falsely) believe that Biden is not the legitimate winner of the 2020 election.
When Trump doesn't get what he wants from someone - even if it's impossible to deliver - they're inevitably targeted by the president and, in turn, his supporters. Pence is poised to face the same fate, despite his years of unrelenting fealty to Trump.
Even if Pence took some sort of symbolic stance against the certification on January 6, Biden will still be inaugurated on January 20. Republicans in both chambers have signaled plans to object to certification in certain states, which Pence has expressed support for, but this will only delay and not change the outcome.
No matter what, Trump has set Pence up for failure.