As President Trump concluded his address to a massive gathering in front of the White House on Wednesday in which he urged Mike Pence to reject electors in states where there is evidence of vote fraud, the vice president issued a letter contending he doesn’t have that authority.
“If Mike Pence does the right thing we win the election,” the president said in his speech.
However, Pence said in his three-page letter that it was “my considered judgment 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.”
Trump chastised his vice president in a tweet.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
The joint session of Congress on Wednesday to certify the 2020 election adjourned shortly after it began when Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, objected to Arizona’s slate of electors.
Pence, acting in his capacity as president of the Senate, followed the constitutional requirement that each chamber adjourn separately for two hours to debate the objection.
But the separate sessions themselves were both forced to adjourn when pro-Trump protesters breached the Capitol. The latest report is that Capitol Police have directed lawmakers to evacuate to the basement.
President Trump tweeted: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”
More than 100 House Republicans and a dozen senators plan to object to certifying the vote in several battleground states, claiming there is enough evidence of irregularities and fraud to cast doubt on the outcome. An objection from at least one senator and one House member requires that each chamber engage in two hours of debate over each slate of electors to which they object. Critics of the objectors, including many fellow Republicans, contend the exercise is futile because each chamber must vote on the objections, and Democrats control the House.
In the House session contesting the Arizona vote, the minority whip, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.,
“I rise today to object to a number of states that did not follow the constitutional requirements for selecting electors,” said Scalise.
He argued that nowhere in Article II, Section I of the Constitution does it give the secretary of state, the governor or courts the ability to choose electors.
“It exclusively gives that ability to the legislatures,” he said.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, charged that Democrats “did an end run around the Constitution in every state Republicans will object to today — every single one.”
“It was a pattern, it was their template, he said. “They did it in Arizona. They did it in Georgia, they did it in Michigan, they did it in Pennsylvania, they did it in Nevada, they did it in Wisconsin.
“And yet some of our members say, Don’t worry about it, we shouldn’t do anything, just let it go,” he said.
In the Senate, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued against rejecting any electors.
“The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken,” he said. “If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever.”
He argued the election was not “unusually close,” pointing to elections in 1976, 2000 and 2004 that were closer.
“If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would engter a death spiral,” the Kentucky senator said. “We’d never see the whole nation accept an election again. Every four years would be a scramble for power at any cost.”
McConnell said “shared government, my colleagues, requires a commitment to the truth and a shared respect for the ground rules of our system.”
“We cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes with a separate set of facts and separate realities, with nothing in common except for our hostility toward each other and mistrust for the few national institutions that we all still share,” he said.
The Senate leader noted that Democrats issued challenges to the vote after the 2000, 2004 and 2016 elections.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he’s not advocating for “setting aside the results of this election,” but, instead, seeks a “third option.
He cited the precedent of the 1876 election in which Congress appointed an electoral commission to examine claims of voter fraud. It was comprised of five senators, five House members and five Supreme Court justices.
Cruz called for a “10-day emergency audit” to “consider the evidence and resolve the claims.”
He argued that Democrats who insist there was no fraud should “rest in comfort,” because if they’re right, an electoral commission would reject those claims.
He began by arguing that nearly half the country believes the election was “rigged,” including 17% of Democrats.
“Even if you do not share that conviction, it is the responsibility, I believe, of this office to acknowledge that is a profound threat to this country and the legitimacy of any administration that will come in the future,” he said.
Late last night, Trump said on Twitter many states “want to decertify the mistake they made in certifying incorrect & even fraudulent numbers in a process NOT approved by their State Legislatures (which it must be). Mike can send it back!”
The president and his supporters argue Pence has “plenary power,” according to precedent (Thomas Jefferson and Richard Nixon asserted that power as vice presidents), to rule any objection as out of order, accepted, denied or entitled to more debate.
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted, “The vice president has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors.”
In October, constitutional scholars John Yoo of California-Berkeley and Robert J. Delahunty of St. Thomas University published an analysis by the Claremont Institute concluding Pence can refuse to count any votes he believes should not have been certified by the states.
On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal editorial board expressed its disagreement, insisting the Constitution “empowers the Vice President merely to open the Electoral College certificates, not to count them, to say nothing of rejecting any.”
The Journal board acknowledged that senators, among them Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, have a legal right to contest the vote but said “the effort looks as futile as it should be.”
Hawley was the first to announce he will object, declaring on Twitter: “Somebody has to stand up. 74 million Americans are not going to be told their voices don’t matter.”
However, New York Post reporter Steven Nelson said via Twitter on Wednesday that Hawley told him at the Capitol that his aim is not to overturn the outcome.
“No, I don’t think so. I think there’s no votes for that, I mean, at all,” the senator said, according to Nelson.
Eight of the nine members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation have stated they will object. Meanwhile, leaders of the commonwealth’s Senate have sent a letter to McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy contending the Pennsylvania election results should not have been certified. They’re asking for more time to hear the Trump campaign’s lawsuit against the secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar.
In all, more than 100 state legislators from six contested battleground states have asked Pence to delay by 10 days the congressional certification to give them more time to investigate irregularities and illegalities.
The case for decertifying the election has been made by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro in two reports. In December, he released a report providing evidence of what he described as election “theft by a thousand cuts,” titled “The Immaculate Deception.” He identified six major dimensions of alleged election irregularities across six states: “outright voter fraud, ballot mishandling, contestable process fouls, Equal Protection Clause violations, voting machine irregularities and significant statistical anomalies.” This week, he released a sequel, “The Art of the Steal,” that documented what he described as a coordinated strategy.
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