- Nov 10, 2006
I supported legitimate challenges to the 2020 vote counts. I also recognized that the Constitution didn’t give me authority to override the voters—and I followed my conscience on Jan. 6.
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 Saturday, Jan. 2, I instructed my chief of staff to issue a statement supporting the right of lawmakers to bring objections under the Electoral Count Act. By Sunday morning, the headline "Pence Welcomes Congressional Republicans' Bid to Challenge Electoral Votes" was everywhere. When the president called me that morning, his mood had brightened. "You have gone from very unpopular to popular!" he exclaimed. But then he pressed me again to reject electoral votes unilaterally. "You can be a historic figure," he said, "but if you wimp out, you're just another somebody."
Click to shrink...
[/URL]Mr. Eastman repeatedly qualified his argument, saying it was only a legal theory. 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." The president nodded. As Mr. Eastman struggled to explain, the president replied, "I like the other thing better," presumably meaning that I could simply reject electoral votes.
On Jan. 5, I got an urgent call that the president was asking to see me in the Oval Office. The president's lawyers, including Mr. Eastman, were now requesting that I simply reject the electors. I later learned that Mr. Eastman had conceded to my general counsel that rejecting electoral votes was a bad idea and any attempt to do so would be quickly overturned by a unanimous Supreme Court. This guy didn't even believe what he was telling the president.
The president laid into me. "You'll go down as a wimp," he said. "If you do that, I made a big mistake five years ago!"
But when he said, "You're not protecting our country, you're supposed to support and defend our country!" I calmly reminded him, "We both took an oath to support and defend the Constitution."
Click to shrink...