OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion
Earlier in the day on Friday, former Vice President Mike Pence disagreed with former President Donald Trump about his role in the electoral vote certification process on Jan. 6. In response to that, Mr. Trump released a statement later in the day.
After Donald Trump said on Jan. 30 that Pence “did have the right to change the outcome of the election,” Vice President Pence said in a speech to the conservative Federalist Society in Lake Buena Vista, Florida that he was “wrong.”
In his capacity as vice president, Pence once served as the president of the Senate and presiding over a joint session of Congress to count Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021—the last step of the Electoral College system to certify a president-elect.
“If the Vice President [Mike Pence] had ‘absolutely no right’ to change the Presidential Election results in the Senate, despite fraud and many other irregularities, how come the Democrats and RINO Republicans … are desperately trying to pass legislation that will not allow the Vice President to change the results of the election?” Trump said in a statement.
“Actually, what they are saying, is that Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome, and they now want to take that right away. Unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power; he could have overturned the Election!” the 45th U.S. president said.
At an event in Orlando on Friday, Vice President Pence told the conservative legal group in attendance: “There are those in our party who believe that as the presiding officer over the joint session of Congress, I possessed unilateral authority to reject Electoral College votes. And I heard this week that President Trump said I had the right to ‘overturn the election.’
“President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election,” said the former vice president. “The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone. Frankly, there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”
He continued, “Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election. And Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.”
There was a great deal of applause for Pence’s statement that the Republicans would defeat the Democrats in the next election, but the audience remained silent when Pence said earlier that “Trump is wrong,” stated the Associated Press.
Through his political action committee, Save America, Donald Trump responded to Pence’s comments by issuing a statement at the end of Friday.
“Just saw Mike Pence’s statement on the fact that he had no right to do anything with respect to the Electoral Vote Count, other than being an automatic conveyor belt … to get Biden elected President as quickly as possible,” Trump said.
“Well, the Vice President’s position is not an automatic conveyor if obvious signs of voter fraud or irregularities exist. That’s why the Democrats and RINOs are working feverishly together to change the very law that Mike Pence and his unwitting advisors used on January 6 to say he had no choice.
“The reason they want it changed is because they now say they don’t want the Vice President to have the right to ensure an honest vote,” Trump continued. “In other words, I was right and everyone knows it.
“If there is fraud or large scale irregularities, it would have been appropriate to send those votes back to the legislatures to figure it out. The Dems and RINOs want to take that right away. A great opportunity lost, but not forever, in the meantime our Country is going to hell!”
Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), have been meeting behind closed doors to discuss how to change Electoral Count Act policies so challenges to future presidential elections would be more difficult. A draft of legislation is expected to be produced soon by the group.
According to Collins, Trump’s repeated assertion that Pence could have changed the outcome of the election “underscored the need for us to revise the Electoral Count Act, because they demonstrated the confusion in the law and the fact that it is ambiguous.”
According to Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Senate Republican leader, he is open to the effort, and he said the Electoral Count Bill in its current form “is flawed and it needs to be fixed.”
The Republican electors in seven states that voted for Trump in the days leading up to Jan. 6 had cast alternative votes for Trump in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico.
On Jan. 6, Vice President Pence presided over the joint session in which the electoral votes were read for all 50 states. The vice president failed to acknowledge the alternative ballots of voters for Trump from the seven states and read only Biden’s certificate.
Trump demanded on Jan. 6 that Pence return the electoral results of crucial battleground states to state legislatures and he said if Pence: “comes through for us, we will win the Presidency,” Trump said. Trump also said in a statement the day prior that Pence had “several options” under the U.S. Constitution. “He can decertify the results or send them back to the states for change and certification. He can also decertify the illegal and corrupt results and send them to the House of Representatives for the one vote for one state tabulation,” Trump wrote.
However, Pence indicated shortly before the joint session began that he would not invalidate any disputed electoral votes, saying it was not within his power to do so.
“Given the controversy surrounding this year’s election, some approach this year’s quadrennial tradition with great expectation, others with dismissive disdain,” Pence said in a statement at the time. “Some believe that as Vice President, I should be able to accept or reject electoral votes unilaterally. Others believe that electoral votes should never be challenged in a Joint Session of Congress.