… is the hysteria over the fact that President Trump wanted Mike Pence, his VP, to refuse to perform his ministerial role of receiving the sealed Electoral College votes, opening them, and presiding over the joint session of Congress in which they are made official and the election result is certified. Pence had no power to do what Trump wanted, and he knew it, because the VP only has a few required duties and Pence had four long years to read up on them. So he said no, because he isn’t nuts. That may be the nicest thing I’ve ever written about Mike Pence, a bland, low-profile VP in the old mold of dozens of forgettable men you never heard of or have forgotten, like Henry Wilson and Thomas Hendricks.
Trump’s idea, like a lot of his crazy ideas, was based on bad information and poor impulse control, though I’m certain some creative lawyer told him the VP has the power to halt the election count, just like John Yoo told George Bush that water-boarding wasn’t torture. Trump sincerely believed that the voting had been marred by fraud, and yes, as an official who had pledged to protect and defend the Constitution, if that were the case, a President would have good cause to try to fix the problem.
However, there is no established precedent or procedure for what such a President should or could do. Whatever that might be, 1) it could only be triggered and justified by incontrovertible evidence, and not suspicion, however compelling, and 2) the Vice-President lacks the power to be part of it. Pence trying the stunt would trigger a Constitutional crisis momentarily, but he wouldn’t and couldn’t change the election results by himself. Pence is an anti-gay bigot and a political mediocrity, but he’s not a complete idiot.
Throughout his term, Trump “scandals” blaring from headlines included “reports” of Trump saying he wanted to do something that was outside his power, or something else that was objectively outrageous. His staff stopped him in these instances if they were real, which many might not have been, and nothing happened. Trump may have had more of these than other POTUSes—he definitely had more hostile staff working around him eager to report such incidents—but wanting to do something or suggesting something isn’t unethical or misconduct. I bet Bill Clinton wanted to strangle Linda Tripp. I bet William Howard Taft wanted to sit on Teddy Roosevelt. I bet Abraham Lincoln wanted to cut Robert E. Lee up into tiny pieces and feed him to Mary, but the point is that these things didn’t happen.
So Pence put out a statement this week factually saying that he did not have the authority to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, which he didn’t. He might as well have announced that he couldn’t fly to Venus by farting real hard. Trump then responded,
“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 for the Old Crow Mitch McConnell to get Biden elected President as quickly as possible. Well, the Vice President’s position is not an automatic conveyor if obvious signs of voter fraud or irregularities exist.”
Trump really believes this, because he’s either never read or doesn’t comprehend the relevant laws involved, the Twelfth Amendment and the 1887 Electoral Count Act. It’s not a lie, it’s just ignorance. Have YOU read those rules of the metaphorical road? Yeah, Trump should know what he’s talking about but he often doesn’t–the Julie Principle. It doesn’t mean that he was planning “an insurrection,’ as the New York Times claimed outright on yesterday’s front page.
As a related aside, the GOP has to find some way to get Trump to go away peacefully.