In Brief: Mike Pence: My Last Days With Donald Trump
“The Constitution didn’t give me authority to override the voters — and I followed my conscience on Jan. 6.”
Donald Trump’s anger with Mike Pence on January 6 was never a secret — Trump made sure of that. For the most part, however, Pence has kept a low profile. Until now. His memoir, So Help Me God, comes out November 15, and he excerpted it for a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week. Here are excerpts of that excerpt:
Thirteen days after the 2020 election, I had lunch with President Trump. I told him that if his legal challenges came up short, he could simply accept the results, move forward with the transition, and start a political comeback, winning the Senate runoffs in Georgia, the 2021 Virginia governor’s race, and the House and Senate in 2022. Then he could run for president in 2024 and win. He seemed unmoved, even weary: “I don’t know, 2024 is so far off.”
In a Dec. 5 call, the president for the first time mentioned challenging the election results in Congress. By mid-December, the internet was filled with speculation about my role. An irresponsible TV ad by a group calling itself the Lincoln Project suggested that when I presided over the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes, it would prove that I knew “it’s over,” and that by doing my constitutional duty, I would be “putting the final nail in the coffin” of the president’s re-election. To my knowledge, it was the first time anyone implied I might be able to change the outcome. It was designed to annoy the president. It worked. During a December cabinet meeting, President Trump told me the ad “looked bad for you.” I replied that it wasn’t true: I had fully supported the legal challenges to the election and would continue to do so.
On Dec. 19, the president mentioned plans for a rally in Washington on Jan. 6. I thought that would be useful to call attention to the proceedings. I had just spoken with a senator about the importance of vetting concerns about the election before Congress and the American people. At the White House on Dec. 21, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan led lawmakers in a discussion about plans to bring objections. I promised that all properly submitted objections would be recognized and fully debated.
On Dec. 23, my family boarded Air Force Two to spend Christmas with friends. As we flew across America, President Trump retweeted an obscure article titled “Operation Pence Card.” It alluded to the theory that if all else failed, I could alter the outcome of the election on Jan. 6. I showed it to Karen, my wife, and rolled my eyes.
As January 6 approached and finally arrived, Pence says he remained firmly opposed to trying to overturn the election, believing he did not have the constitutional authority to do so. He relayed numerous conversations during those days, and summarized others. He also gave a detailed recounting of January 6 from his perspective. Days later, he recounted:
I met with the president on Jan. 11. He looked tired, and his voice seemed fainter than usual. “How are you?” he began. “How are Karen and Charlotte?” I replied tersely that we were fine and told him that they had been at the Capitol on Jan. 6. He responded with a hint of regret, “I just learned that.” He then asked, “Were you scared?”
“No,” I replied, “I was angry. You and I had our differences that day, Mr. President, and seeing those people tearing up the Capitol infuriated me.”
He started to bring up the election, saying that people were angry, but his voice trailed off.
I told him he had to set that aside, and he responded quietly, “Yeah.”
I said, “Those people who broke into the Capitol might’ve been supporters, but they are not our movement.” For five years, we had both spoken to crowds of the most patriotic, law-abiding, God-fearing people in the country.
With genuine sadness in his voice, the president mused: “What if we hadn’t had the rally? What if they hadn’t gone to the Capitol?” Then he said, “It’s too terrible to end like this.”
On Jan. 14, the day after President Trump was impeached for the second time, I stopped by the Oval Office. The night before, he had unequivocally denounced the violence at the Capitol and called for calm and national unity. I congratulated him on his address. “I knew you’d like it,” he said. He seemed discouraged, so I reminded him that I was praying for him.
“Don’t bother,” he said.
As I stood to leave, he said, “It’s been fun.”
“A privilege, Mr. President,” I answered.
“Yeah, with you.”
Walking toward the door leading to the hallway, I paused, looked the president in the eye, and said, “I guess we will just have to disagree on two things.”
I referred to our disagreement about Jan. 6 and then said, “I’m also never gonna stop praying for you.”
He smiled: “That’s right — don’t ever change.”
- Mike Pence
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