Former President Donald Trump won’t budge on his claim that former Vice President Mike Pence could have overturned the 2020 presidential election, despite Mr. Pence calling the assertion “wrong” and “un-American.”
Mr. Trump doubled down on his claim Friday and lambasted Mr. Pence and his “unwitting advisors” for acting as “an automatic conveyor belt for the Old Crow [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell to get Biden elected President as quickly as possible.”
“The Vice President’s position is not an automatic conveyor if obvious signs of voter fraud or irregularities exist,” Mr. Trump said. “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.”
Mr. Trump’s statement was in response to Mr. Pence’s remarks to the Federalist Society’s meeting in Orlando, Florida, in which Mr. Pence pushed back on comments Mr. Trump made this week in which he claimed that Mr. Pence could have “overturned” the election as he presided over the vote count in Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.
He told the audience of conservatives, “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.”
“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,” Mr. Pence said. “Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election.”
He also said, “And [Vice President] Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, agreed Sunday that “vice presidents can’t simply decide not to certify” the result of an election and also warned about Ms. Harris.
“I just don’t think a vice president has that power,” Mr. Rubio said on the CBS talk show “Face the Nation.”
“If President Trump runs for reelection, I believe he would defeat [President] Joe Biden — and I don’t want Kamala Harris to have the power as vice president to overturn that election,” he said. “That is the same thing that I concluded in January of 2021.”
For his part, the former vice president said he understands why Trump supporters were disappointed about the 2020 election results.
“But whatever the future holds, I know we did our duty that day,” Mr. Pence said. “John Quincy Adams reminds us duty is ours. Results are God’s. The truth is there’s more at stake than our party or political fortunes. Men and women, if we lose faith in the Constitution, we won’t just lose elections. We’ll lose our country.”
“So pathetic to watch the Unselect Committee of political hacks, liars, and traitors work so feverishly to alter the Electoral College Act so that a Vice President cannot ensure the honest results of the election[…],” Mr. Trump said. “[T]he Unselect Committee should be investigating why [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi did such a poor job of overseeing security and why Mike Pence did not send back the votes for recertification or approval, in that it has now been shown that he clearly had the right to do so!”
Mr. Pence called Jan. 6 “a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol.”
“Lives were lost and many were injured, but thanks to the courageous action of the Capitol police and federal law enforcement, violence was quelled, the Capitol was secured, and we reconvened the Congress to finish our work under the Constitution and the laws of the United States,” he said.
The former vice president said the Constitution is clear about the process of carrying out national elections. “Under Article II Section One, elections are conducted at the state level, not by Congress,” Mr. Pence said.
“The only role of Congress with respect to the electoral college is to open and count votes submitted and certified by the states. No more, no less. Our Founders were deeply suspicious of consolidated power in the nation’s capital and were rightly concerned with foreign interference if presidential elections were decided in the capital.”
Mr. Pence had resisted Mr. Trump’s lobbying prior to Jan. 6, 2021, to stop the counting of votes from several contested battleground states, a move that would have denied Mr. Biden the required number of electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
“In the meantime, our country is going to hell!” he said.
The back and forth further exposes the simmering tensions between the former president and his second in command.
Mr. Pence‘s recent round of speeches to conservative audiences has watchers anticipating he‘s laying the ground for a possible 2024 presidential run. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has been hinting broadly that he intends to run again.
Mr. Trump has become increasingly outspoken about the Capitol riot and the House committee charged with investigating the Jan. 6 attack.
Mr. Trump, like many Republicans, contends that the Democratic-led panel has weaponized the events of Jan. 6 and says that the committee serves as a political tool to target conservatives.
Democrats insist the sole aim of the probe is to uncover the truth about what led to the Capitol riot, to ensure a similar event never takes place again.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Mr. Watters’ last name.
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