Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday he will not follow President Donald Trump's demand that he overturn the election, vowing he will heed to the constitution, adding 'So Help Me God.'
Pence sent a letter to the 535 senators and representatives on Capitol Hill ahead of his presiding over the Joint Session that will certify Joe Biden's victory.
In it, he outlined his belief in his role in the proceedings, which he notes is 'ceremonial' and adds that it doesn't include the authority to 'determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.'
His declaration came as President Trump has repeatedly pressured him to overthrow the electoral college results, which Biden won 306 to Trump's 232. Trump has tried to put the blame on Pence for his expected loss on Wednesday but the president also lacks support among the majority of senators in his own party, which dooms his efforts for a congressional overthrow of the results.
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Vice President Mike Pence has refused to follow Donald Trump's demand to overturn the electoral college results and certify Joe Biden's election victory
President Donald Trump threatened Vice President Mike Pence telling him to overturn the general election results shortly before Congress s was to begin counting the electoral votes that will make Joe Biden the next president
In a letter Wednesday, Pence said, 'It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution contains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not'
Trump addressed his thousands of his supporters near the White House Wednesday at his 'Save America' rally and declared war on his own party, calling Republicans who opposed him 'weak'
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Hours after a humiliating defeat in one Georgia Senate race and the prospect of losing another, Team Trump showed no sign of conceding
Pence acknowledged Trump's allegations the election was rigged, which there has been no proof and no court has upheld, in a likely peace offering to the president.
'I share the concerns of millions of Americans about the integrity of this election,' he wrote.
But he noted as vice president he does not have the power from the constitution to decide which electoral votes are counted and which are not.
'As a student of history who loves the constitution and reveres its Framers, I do not believe that the Founds 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,' Pence noted.
He added vice presidents in the past have conducted 'the proceedings in an orderly manner even where the count resulted in the defeat of their party or their own candidacy.'
'It is my considered judgement that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,' he saidHe concluded his letter with a prayer to God: 'When the Joint Session of Congress convenes today, I will do my duty to see to it that we open the certificates of electors of the several states, we hear objections raised by Senators and Representatives, and we count the votes of the Electoral College for President and Vice President in a manner consistent with our Constitution, laws and history. So Help Me God.'
This came after President Donald Trump excoriated 'weak' Republicans and demanded fealty from Pence to a rally crowd near the White House Wednesday where he demanded Pence and Congress overturn the election results that lead to his defeat.
In an extraordinary speech, Trump once again called his election 'rigged' just minutes before a joint meeting of Congress was to begin counting the certified electoral votes that have him losing to Democrat Joe Biden.
A stand was being erected at the base of the US Capitol as a pro-Trump supporter holds a flag, hours before Congress meets to certify the electoral college vote for Biden
A crowd of Trump supporters started gathering outside of the White House for a rally on Wednesday
Trump referred to votes that came in after 10pm election night – which consisted of in-person and mail-in ballots and denied him the lead he said he and his pollsters anticipated – as 'these explosions of bullsh*t.'
Members of the crowd immediately chanted 'Bullshi*t!' in response.
'Our election was over at 10:00 in the evening,' Trump said.
Trump mocked his party's 2012 Republican presidential nominee, now-Sen. Mitt Romney, for conceded his own race back then.
'We will never concede. It doesn't happen,' he said – although losing candidates have conceded for generations. 'There's never been anything like this. It's a pure theft.'
Trump's comments amounted to a declaration of war on elements of his party, after his lawyer Rudy Giuliani demanded 'trial by combat' against opponents of his claims of election fraud.
Trump spoke to a crowd of several thousand – but referred to them as consisting of 'hundreds of thousands' of supporters fathered on a lawn south of the White House that doesn't hold that many.
He said his election was 'stolen by the fake news media. That's what they've done and that's what they're doing.'
He urged his supporters to march down to the Congress, which was to commence the count at 1 pm.
'We're going to walk down to the Capitol and we're going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women,' he said, speaking from behind a pane of bullet-proof material.
He turned up the heat on Pence, a potential 2024 contender who will preside over the count. His role is set in the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act, and is largely ceremonial.
'Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us, and if he doesn't that will be a sad day for our country because you're sworn to uphold our Constitution,' he said.
Trump acknowledged that he has tried to pressure Pence into rejecting votes from states he lost, quoting from a conversation he has denied happened.
'All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to re-certify and we become president and you are the happiest people,' he told his fans, who cheered 'Stop the Steal!' at times.
'I said Mike, that doesn't take courage. What takes courage is to do nothing. That takes courage. And then we're stuck with a president who lost the election by a lot and we have to live with that,' he said of Biden.
Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani once again raised allegations of widespread election fraud – which he said also occurred in the Georgia Senate runoff elections
'If we're wrong we will be made fools of, but if we're right a lot of them will go to jail. Let's have trial by combat,' he said, without explaining exactly what he meant by combat
Donald Trump Jr, the president's eldest son, demanded that Republican Party lawmakers in Congress 'be the hero, not the zero' and refuse to certify President-elect Joe Biden's victory
Thousands of supporters of President Trump are seen above near the Washington Monument for the 'Save America' rally on Wednesday
Trump touted his own vote total, but denied Biden's was real.
His mention of the pandemic came in terms of his own race, where millions voted by mail as thousands battled infections in a year more than 300,000 Americans died of COVID-19.
'They've used the pandemic as a way of defrauding the people in a proper election,' Trump said.
'Eight weeks. I want to go back eight weeks. Let's go back eight weeks,' he mused at one point, as he described a conversation with an unnamed official who told him that he would be lock to win in 2024.
Trump repeatedly couched his demands not as an effort to overturn the votes of the people, but as a legal effort.
'Somebody says: Well we have to obey the Constitution,' Trump said. 'And you are, because you're protecting our country and you're protecting the Constitution so you are,' he said.
He said it would protect the country from having what he called 'an illegitimate president.'
'The states were defrauded. They were given false information,' Trump claimed.
During various tangents, he complained about how he is treated on social media, such as when 'I get a flag' on his tweets. 'I don't care about Twitter, Twitter's bad news, he said afterward.
He went after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell several times, including for not going along with his proposal to change communications laws.
'I helped Mitch get elected,' he said of the longtime incumbent.
'And then all of a sudden you have something like this,' he said, going after 'weak Republicans' and 'pathetic Republicans' – despite a top official in Georgia blaming him for the likely defeats of two Senate Republican incumbents.
He also called out Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) after her comment that failing to accept the electors certified by states would violate the Constitution.
'The Liz Cheneys of the world, we've got to get rid of them,' Trump said.
'Brian Kemp – vote him the hell out of office please,' Trump said of the Georgia governor.
He said Georgia's secretary of state Brad Raffensperger had 'no clue' what was going on, but then said 'maybe' he was with the other side – the Democrats.
'I can't believe this guy was a Republican,' said Trump. 'He loves recording telephone conversations,' Trump said – mentioning a leaked call where Trump can be heard asking him to 'find' 11,780 votes to make him the winner.
'People love that conversation, because it says what's going on,' Trump said.
Donald Trump Jr (left), the president's eldest son, kisses his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle (right), before addressing the rally on Wednesday
Donald Trump Jr., claimed there were 100,000 people there but images showed far fewer and he bashed elected Republicans who have refused to go along with his father's claims of frau
Trump also complained about the Supreme Court, which failed to take up a Texas lawsuit he sought to join, and even his former attorney general Bill Barr, who said before leaving his post there wasn't sufficient fraud to change the outcome.
'I'm not happy with the Supreme Court. They look to rule against me. I picked three people. I fought like hell for one in particular,' Trump inveighed.
'You know I read a story in one of the newspapers recently, how I control the three Supreme Court Justices. I control them. They're puppets. I read it about Bill Barr - that he's my personal attorney, that he'll do anything for me.
'But he denied pulling Barr's strings'And I said, you know, it really is genius, because what they do is that, and it makes it really impossible for them to ever give you a victory, because all of a sudden Bill Barr changed if you hadn't noticed. I like Bill Barr but he changed because he didn't want to be considered my personal attorney, and the Supreme Court. They ruled against me so much you know why? Because the story is, I haven't spoken to any of them. Any since virtually they got in, but the story is that they're my puppet, right, that they're puppets. And now that the only way they can get out of that - because they hate that it's not good on the social circuit. And the only way they get out is to rule against Trump. So let's rule against Trump and they do.'
'You know I read a story in one of the newspapers recently, how I control the three Supreme Court Justices. I control them. They're puppets. I read it about Bill Barr - that he's my personal attorney, that he'll do anything for me.'
But he denied pulling Barr's strings'And I said, you know, it really is genius, because what they do is that, and it makes it really impossible for them to ever give you a victory, because all of a sudden Bill Barr changed if you hadn't noticed. I like Bill Barr but he changed because he didn't want to be considered my personal attorney, and the Supreme Court. They ruled against me so much you know why? Because the story is, I haven't spoken to any of them. Any since virtually they got in, but the story is that they're my puppet, right, that they're puppets. And now that the only way they can get out of that - because they hate that it's not good on the social circuit. And the only way they get out is to rule against Trump. So let's rule against Trump and they do.'
Giuliani said, 'If we're wrong we will be made fools of, but if we're right a lot of them will go to jail. Let's have trial by combat,' he said, without explaining exactly what he meant by combat.
'I'm willing to stake my reputation, the president is willing to stake his reputation on the fact that we're going to find criminality there,' said the former New York mayor. Trump and his allies have suffered dozens of losses in state and federal courts with suits charging election fraud.
He spoke to thousands of cheering supporters on the Ellipse south of the White House. A permit was for 30,000 people.
The president's son, Donald Trump Jr., claimed there were 100,000 people there but images showed far fewer.
He bashed elected Republicans who have refused to go along with his father's claims of fraud.
'The people who did nothing to stop the steal -- this gathering should send a message to them. This isn't their Republican Party anymore. This is Donald Trump's Republican Party. This is the Republican Party that will put America first,' he said.
His girlfriend, former Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, also spoke.
After claiming fraud in Trump's election, John Eastman claimed fraud in the count Tuesday night, which allowed Rev. Raphael Warnock to be called as the winner in one runoff and has Democrat Jon Ossoff leading in another.
Explaining how the fraud he claims occurred happened, Eastman said: 'You know the old way was to have a bunch of ballots sitting in a box under the floor … They put those ballots in a secret folder in the machines, sitting there waiting until they know how many they need … I can now in that machine match those unvoted ballots with an unvoted voter and put them together in the machine. How do we know that happened last night in real time? You saw when it went to 99 per cent of the vote total, and it stopped.'
He pointed to a point late in the vote count while counties were still tabulating votes – a version of Trump's complaint that he led in early returns on election night in November. Last night, Republicans led until addition in-person votes came in in populous Democratic-leaning counties.
'That means they were unloading the ballots from that secret folder,' he claimed.
A militia-like group is seen making their way to Trump's rally on Wednesday morning
Trump supporters gather near the White House and watch the rally on a big screen set up nearby
A woman is seen holding a sign that reads 'Trump is the party' as the president's supporters gather on the Washington Monument grounds
Trump supporters braved cold temperatures in Washington, DC, on Wednesday hours before the start of planned demonstrations
At least 10 people were arrested for gun possession crimes and other violations and others were seen clashing with counter-demonstrators.
One man from North Carolina was detained after he was caught carrying a gun without a license.
The man rode into the capital on a bus which was stopped by police near Ninth Street and Constitution Avenue NW.
Police boarded the bus and confiscated a rifle and a handgun as well as a drum magazine that holds additional ammunition.
Trump was expected to address his supporters later in the morning during a rally on the Ellipse.
Many in the crowd were photographed not wearing masks and gathered in tight quarters, shoulder to shoulder, despite the raging pandemic and the nationwide surge in the number of coronavirus cases.
Trump was expected to address his supporters later in the morning during a rally on the Ellipse, just south of the White House
Donald Trump tweeted furiously at his own vice president Mike Pence Wednesday to demand he refuse to certify Joe Biden's election victory.
Pence has no such power to do so - and told Trump that over lunch on Tuesday, the New York Times reported - but Trump doubled down on his demands as thousands of his supporters, some in camouflage, gathered close to the White House.
'States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!' Trump tweeted.
At the White House there was shock that Trump would turn so publicly on his ultra-loyal VP.
that one aide called attacking the VP 'shameful,' amid fears from Pence's camp that worse was to come.
Yesterday a senior White House official (who is very Trump-y) said what he’s doing to Pence, who has remained loyal to him through Access Hollywood and all, is “shameful.” https://t.co/6QJtYVhoTg— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) January 6, 2021
The tweet was hours before Pence was due to preside over the joint session of Congress which will formally declare Biden the election victor - and as the Republican party adsorbed the shock of being on the brink of losing the Senate.
Trump appeared to concede that the Senate was lost in an all-capitals tweet claiming that Republicans need to keep 'the power of the veto.'
'THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, OUR COUNTRY, NEEDS THE PRESIDENCY MORE THAN EVER BEFORE - THE POWER OF THE VETO. STAY STRONG!THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, OUR COUNTRY, NEEDS THE PRESIDENCY MORE THAN EVER BEFORE - THE POWER OF THE VETO. STAY STRONG!' Trump tweeted.
A move to turn on Pence had been growing in inevitability for days. Axios reported that Trump had no idea that Pence oversaw the certification of the election results - until he learned about it from a television ad by the Lincoln Project, the never-Trump Republican group led by Kellyanne Conway's husband George.
Tweetstorm turning on Pence: Donald Trump went after his own VP in a tweetstorm
On Tuesday night ABC News' White House Correspondent Jon Karl reported that Trump was 'prepared to go after Pence and go after him hard' if he does not get in line and overturn the election at the special session of Congress which begins at 1pm Wednesday.
'Decertifying' the results would plunge the country into a constitutional crisis but Trump claimed that Pence was in 'total agreement' that he 'has the power to act.'
Trump's statement publicly turned the heat up on Pence after a pressure campaign which has been going on in private for weeks and exploded into the public on Monday night at Trump's Georgia rally, then on Twitter Tuesday.
'The New York Times report regarding comments Vice President Pence supposedly made to me today is fake news,' Trump said in a statement issued by the White House. It was dated 2020.
'He never said that. The Vice President and I are in total agreement that the Vice President has the power to act.
'The November 3rd election was corrupt in contested states, and in particular it was not in accordance with the Constitution in that they made large scale changes to election rules and regulations as dictated by local judges and politicians, not by state legislators. This means that it was illegal.
Delivering bad news: Mike Pence was spotted at the White House Tuesday after Trump had tweeted that the vice president could disqualify Electoral College votes. Pence was on his way to tell Trump that he could not
Trying to lighten the blow: Mike Pence told Trump he might attempt to 'acknowledge' his claims of fraud - partly driven by his own fear that confirming Joe Biden's victory will be used against him
Trump's tweet is false and Pence does not have the power to reject slates of electors
'Our Vice President has several options under the U.S. Constitution. 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.'
Significantly, however, the statement was not signed by Pence - and the legal claims Trump made appeared to be in line with plans outlined by Rudy Giuliani, not the Senate Parliamentarian who has advised Pence that his powers are limited to confirming the Electoral College votes read out on the floor of Congress.
Trump also tweeted 'big news from Pennsylvania' with a copy of a letter sent by Republican state lawmakers to Mitch McConnell and the Republican minority leader in the House asking for