Trump denies NYT story on Pence, Electoral College

President Trump on Tuesday night denied a story in The New York Times that Vice President Pence informed him he does not have the power to block the certification of Electoral College results.

Trump called the report “fake news” and insisted he and Pence were “in total agreement that the Vice President has the power to act” to decertify results of the Electoral College.

In fact, Pence has no such power, and his role presiding over a joint session of Congress on Wednesday is almost entirely ceremonial. The results of the presidential contest will be challenged in some states by GOP lawmakers at the session, though their efforts will have no bearing in President-elect Joe Biden’s taking office in a little more than two weeks.

It is also not clear that Pence is in agreement with Trump, despite the president’s statement.

Pence has not publicly committed to intervening, and his staff has only said that he supports the right of lawmakers to raise objections and debate them. Those close to the vice president do not expect him to act outside the bounds of the Constitution.

“Vice President Pence shares the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud and irregularities in the last election,” Pence chief of staff Marc Short said in a statement. “The Vice President welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on January 6th.”

The New York Times reported earlier Tuesday that Pence told Trump when the two had lunch that he did not believe he has the power to block Congress from certifying Biden as the next president.

“Our Vice President has several options under the U.S. Constitution,” Trump said. “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.”

Pence has no powers to decertify the results and send them back to the House. He’ll open and present the Electoral College votes in alphabetical order, ask if there are any objections to each state and “preserve order,” according to a Congressional Research Service report on the joint session proceedings.

Trump’s comments further put the squeeze on Pence, who has faced pressure from the president’s supporters to do something he does not have the power to do by rejecting the election results. 

GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate are expected to object to the electors of at least three states. But the majority of both chambers must vote to reject those electors for them to be tossed out. Democrats control the House, and more than a dozen Republicans in the Senate have said they will not object, meaning the effort will fail.

Tags 2020 election Donald Trump Electoral College Joe Biden
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