Vice President Mike Pence, in a bold statement on Wednesday afternoon, rejected President Trump’s pressure to block congressional certification of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the presidential election, claiming that he lacked the “unilateral authority” to decide the outcome of the presidential election, New York Times reports.
“As a student of history who loves the Constitution and reveres its Framers,” Mr. Pence wrote in a two-page letter, “I do not believe that the Founders of our country intended to invest the vice president with unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the Joint Session of Congress, and no vice president in American history has ever asserted such authority.”
The letter was released by the White House as Mr. Trump was speaking to a group of supporters at the Ellipse, where over and over he implored Mr. Pence to have “the courage to do what he has to do.”
Mr. Pence does not have the unilateral power to alter the results sent by the states to Congress.
But Mr. Trump, listening to the advice of allies like Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer, has been convinced that the vice president could do his bidding. “If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday, claiming inaccurately that the vice president has “the absolute right to” throw out the election results.
Mr. Pence’s defiance — the first in his four years as a deferential No. 2 — created a remarkable and uncomfortable split screen, as the president continued the public pressure campaign even as Mr. Pence arrived at the Capitol to preside over a joint session of Congress where the Electoral College vote will be certified.
On Tuesday night, after The New York Times reported that the vice president in a private meeting had informed Mr. Trump he did not have the authority to change the results of the election, Mr. Trump released a statement disputing the story. “He never said that,” the statement said. “The Vice President and I are in total agreement that the vice president has the power to act.”
The vice president’s advisers have been eager to find some middle ground where Mr. Pence could mollify Mr. Trump by acknowledging some of his concerns. In the letter, Mr. Pence indicated that he shared the president’s concerns about “integrity of this election” and would make sure that challenges received a “fair and open hearing” in Congress.
Releasing the letter ahead of his arrival at the Capitol took some of the drama and suspense out of Mr. Pence’s largely ceremonial role, and the swirling questions about how he would play the awkward moment. But his aides expected him to be on the receiving end of the president’s ire for not complying with his wishes. They expected him to underscore his loyalty to the Trump agenda in other ways, over the coming days.
On Wednesday, Kelli Ward, who chairs the Arizona Republican Party, also joined a group of far-right Republicans that petitioned the Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to grant Mr. Pence the authority to reject some state electors, after lower courts rejected the request. One of the attorneys who wrote the petition is Sidney Powell, a longtime member of Mr. Trump’s legal team.