Pence: My last days with Trump

Source: Hot Air

Former VP Mike Pence has a memoir coming out next week titled “So Help Me God.” Today the Wall Street Journal published a excerpt from it dealing with the events leading up to and following January 6. Pence outlines some of the pressure he was under to attempt to change the outcome of the election by refusing to certify the vote from a handful of states.

On Dec. 23, my family boarded Air Force Two to spend Christmas with friends. As we flew across America, President Trump retweeted an obscure article titled “Operation Pence Card.” It alluded to the theory that if all else failed, I could alter the outcome of the election on Jan. 6. I showed it to Karen, my wife, and rolled my eyes…

Early on New Year’s Day, the phone rang. Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert and other Republicans had filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to declare that I had “exclusive authority and sole discretion” to decide which electoral votes should count. “I don’t want to see ‘Pence Opposes Gohmert Suit’ as a headline this morning,” the president said. I told him I did oppose it. “If it gives you the power,” he asked, “why would you oppose it?” I told him, as I had many times, that I didn’t believe I possessed that power under the Constitution.

“You’re too honest,” he chided. “Hundreds of thousands are gonna hate your guts. . . . People are gonna think you’re stupid.”

On January 4, Pence was summoned to the White House where attorney John Eastman attempted to sell him on the idea that he could “return the votes to the states.” But when Pence pushed back it became clear that even Eastman didn’t really believe it.

I asked, “Do you think I have the authority to reject or return votes?”

He stammered, “Well, it’s never been tested in the courts, so I think it is an open question.”

At that I turned to the president, who was distracted, and said, “Mr. President, did you hear that? Even your lawyer doesn’t think I have the authority to return electoral votes.”

By the next day, Pence got a call from the White House saying the president’s lawyers wanted him to simply reject the electors from states where Trump had fallen short. Pence later found out that Eastman had conceded to his own attorney that any attempt to reject the electors would have immediately been overturned by the Supreme Court. In other words, he knew this was a dead end even as he was apparently going along with it.

On the morning of Jan. 6, Pence got another call from the president again urging him to not be a “wimp.” Pence once again told him he didn’t have the power to decide which electoral votes would count.

The session to certify the vote started a couple hours later around 1 pm. Forty minutes into it Pence learned from Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough that rioters had breached the building. Secret Service arrived not long after and told Pence he had to move. He agreed to wait in an office reserved for the VP. But not long after that his detail informed him that the rioters were headed for the Senate. The Secret Service wanted Pence to leave the building but he refused on the grounds that it would send the wrong message if rioters saw his motorcade fleeing the Capitol.

Pence did agree to move to a more defensible loading dock downstairs. When he arrived his motorcade was waiting just outside. Secret Service wanted him to get in his car but again he refused, fearing that once he was in the car the driver might be ordered to take off and he wouldn’t be able to stop them. So he waited in the loading dock getting information from Twitter.

My unflappable assistant Zach Bauer walked up sheepishly and handed me his phone. The president had sent a tweet at 2:24 p.m.: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

Rioters were ransacking the Capitol. Some of them, I was later told, were chanting, “Hang Mike Pence!”

At 7pm the Capitol was cleared and the session reconvened. Pence met with Trump again on Jan. 11th and suggests he seemed a little bit apologetic.

“How are you?” he began. “How are Karen and Charlotte?” I replied tersely that we were fine and told him that they had been at the Capitol on Jan. 6. He responded with a hint of regret, “I just learned that.” He then asked, “Were you scared?”

“No,” I replied, “I was angry. You and I had our differences that day, Mr. President, and seeing those people tearing up the Capitol infuriated me.”

He started to bring up the election, saying that people were angry, but his voice trailed off.

I told him he had to set that aside, and he responded quietly, “Yeah.”

On Jan 14, after the 2nd impeachment vote, Pence stopped by the Oval Office. As he was leaving Trump told him “It’s been fun.” When Pence promised to pray for him, Trump told him “Don’t bother” but Pence told the president he would keep doing so anyway. “That’s right— don’t ever change.” Trump told him.

Pence’s account confirms, for me at least, that Trump was eager to abandon the constitutional process or at least eager to have Pence abandon it for him. Fortunately, Pence is made of sterner stuff and didn’t go along with it. He deserves credit for that though I don’t think he’s likely to get much of it from either the left or the right.