Election 2020

Today Mike Pence May Find That All His Temporizing and Obfuscation About the Election Sacrificed His Integrity for Nothing

The vice president can no longer avoid acknowledging Joe Biden's victory.


Mike Pence reportedly had a difficult conversation with President Donald Trump yesterday. According to "people briefed on the conversation," The New York Times reports, the vice president questioned the president's belief that Pence has the unilateral power to reject electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden when Congress officially tallies the results today. "Even as he sought to make clear that he does not have the power Mr. Trump seems to think he has," the Times says, "Mr. Pence also indicated to the president that he would keep studying the issue."

That description gives you a sense of the gymnastics required to stay on Trump's good side and avoid alienating his supporters without endorsing his wild claims about the election. Pence, whose presidential aspirations depend on the support of Republicans who still think Trump won the election, has a lot of experience in that area. More than two months after the election, he still has neither conceded nor denied that Biden won.

Consider Pence's stance on the objections that Republican lawmakers plan to lodge against electoral votes for Biden today. Last week, Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short, said the vice president "shares the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud and irregularities in the last election." Does Pence think there was enough "voter fraud and irregularities" to change the outcome, as Trump has been insisting for two months? He won't say. Short added that Pence "welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on Jan. 6th." Does Pence think those efforts will or should succeed? He won't say.

But today, in his role as president of the Senate, Pence will be forced to end this charade. His legally mandated participation in affirming Biden's victory could make all his efforts to placate Trump a useless sacrifice of whatever integrity he had left.

Under the 12th Amendment, Pence's function in today's joint session of Congress is to receive certified election results from the states and "open all the certificates." The amendment adds that "the votes shall then be counted." It does not actually say that it's the vice president who does the counting. The Electoral Count Act of 1887 assigns that role to four "tellers" representing the House and Senate. After tallying the electoral votes, the tellers deliver the results to the vice president, who is then required to "announce" them, declaring the victor. So as much as he might like to do so, Pence cannot avoid recognizing that Biden is the man who will be sworn into office in two weeks.

Last week, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R–Texas), one of the House members who plans to challenge electoral votes for Biden today, filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the ceremonial role assigned to the vice president by the Electoral Count Act is inconsistent with the 12th Amendment. Gohmert argued that the Constitution gives the vice president exclusive, unreviewable authority to decide which electoral votes will be counted. His lawsuit, which named Pence himself as the defendant, was quickly dismissed by a Trump-appointed judge, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld that decision on Saturday. But Trump has taken up Gohmert's argument, claiming that Pence has the power to overturn Biden's victory, keeping Trump (and himself) in office.

"I hope Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you," Trump said at a rally in Georgia on Monday. "I hope that our great vice president comes through for us. He's a great guy. Of course, if he doesn't come through, I won't like him quite as much." Yesterday Trump reiterated his hope that Pence will save him, tweeting that "the Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors."

Pence's position was already delicate. In response to Gohmert's lawsuit, he argued that the congressman had sued the wrong defendant. "The Vice President is not the proper defendant to this lawsuit," said the response brief filed on Pence's behalf by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark, who added:

Plaintiffs' suit seeks to empower the Vice President to unilaterally and unreviewably decide objections to the validity of electoral votes, notwithstanding the Electoral Count Act. Plaintiffs are thus not sufficiently adverse to the legal interests of the Vice President to ground a case or controversy under Article III….To the extent any of these particular plaintiffs have a judicially cognizable claim, it would be against the Senate and the House of Representatives….A suit to establish that the Vice President has discretion over the count, filed against the Vice President, is a walking legal contradiction.

Pence's brief did not address Gohmert's highly implausible constitutional claim. But he can no longer dodge that issue.

Today Republicans in the House, joined by several senators, plan to lodge objections against electoral votes for Biden from Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. The targeted states may also include Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin. Under the procedures laid out in the Electoral Count Act (the same procedures that Gohmert and Trump claim are unconstitutional), any objection backed by at least one representative and at least one senator will be considered separately by the House and the Senate. Electoral votes can be rejected only by a majority vote of both chambers.

Depending on the number of objections and the amount of debate on each, this process could drag on into late tonight or early tomorrow morning. But the end result is not hard to predict, since the House is controlled by Democrats and enough Republicans in the Senate oppose these challenges to ensure their defeat.

The lengthy, pointless exercise will give Pence plenty of time to "keep studying the issue." Maybe if he squints really hard at the 12th Amendment, he can see the same power that Gohmert and Trump perceive, a power that no one else seems to have noticed in the 217 years since the amendment was ratified.

But probably not. In the end, Pence will be forced to declare Biden the next president of the United States, at which point Trump, being Trump, might very well turn against him, as he has when other loyal allies dared to defy his whims. And if the same Trump fans who still believe Biden stole the election also believe Trump when he says Pence failed him in his hour of need, the vice president may find that all his temporizing and obfuscation accomplished nothing but the obliteration of his reputation for honesty and decency.

Update: Today Pence released a statement confirming what he told Trump about his role in counting electoral votes. "Vesting the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide presidential contests would be entirely antithetical" to the constitutional design, he says. "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….It is 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."

Predictably, Trump responded by slamming Pence on Twitter: "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!"

NEXT: Republicans Got What They Deserved. America Will Now Have To Pay the Price.

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  1. According to "people briefed on the conversation," The New York Times reports

    talk about sacrificing integrity

    1. Sources familiar with the situation say, "Jacob swallows".

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  2. Jesus Fucking Christ Sullum, can't you just masterbate in peace like everyone else?

    Enjoy the free minds and free markets under socialism.

    Fuck off and die, Reason.

    1. He’s literally commenting on a very important current event that is happening right now. How is that not appropriate?

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        1. Jacob "Sullen Dick," Thinking he knows something about the constitution while wishing there was a clause in there protecting heroin use and prostitution, doesn't realize that Pence did have the authority to not count results that weren't certified, by simply rejecting them back to their certifying bodies. No Pence does not have the authority to simply reject certified electoral votes. However, while pondering this issue, and trying to think of any way possible he could slander Trump through that he hasn't previously thought of, Biden approached him from behind, dick in hand. "Can I sniff your hair?" whispered Biden with his well known smile and glimmering eyes. Sullen Dick smiled and replied in a playful manner, "What does it smell like?" "My Cock!" shouted Biden, smile instantly disappearing into rage, who then plunged his cock in Sullen Dick's mouth and start thrusting violently while mashing Sullen Dick's eyes into paste with this tips of his thumbs. Sullen Dick tried to let out a scream, but all that came out was a fart and some driblets of cum that dripped out of Sullen Dick's ass from the sheer volume of jizz that Biden exploded into him, which then dripped on the pages of Reason.com.

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      2. When the narrative and facts don't align with one's opinions, it must be the narrative and facts that are wrong.

        Seriously. Canada, Germany, the UK, and France are social democracies (aka: "socialist") and have "free minds and free markets." It's hard to take someone seriously that lives in their own alternative universe.

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  3. Trump would destroy our country and become a dictator. You think he would ever give up the office if he got away with stealing it one time? Fuck!

    1. Following the Constitution is violence, according to Lefties.

      Trump is officially ahead in EC votes. 12 to Biden's 0.

      1. You dummies should have objected in writing to the Alabama EC votes.


      2. Having the Vice President unilaterally decide which states’ votes are counted would be upholding the constitution? The one that you supposedly love?

      3. Storming the capital with guns and pepper spray, rioting, and forcing the joint session of Congress and the Vice President to flee is violence. Or, "freedom" to so-called "patriots."

  4. Meanwhile, while "principled libertarian" Sullum is flogging a dead horse into dog food, Biden is installing as Attorney General Merrick Garland, an idea that Reason previously noted "is... likely to trouble many criminal justice reform advocates. That is because Garland has the sort of judicial record that police and prosecutors are quite happy to see."

    Oh well, it will probably Reason with its fundraising.

    1. The very next post on this blog is about the appointment of Garland.


    I told you.

    Trump is officialy president as of right now for 2021-2025 because he has 12 EC votes to Biden's 0.


    1. Constitution strikes again!

  6. One thing seems likely to come out of all this post-election non-sense: by the time Trump is through alienating everybody who won't do his bidding, he may find a complete lack of support for any future political aspirations.

    It's too bad, really. Policy-wise, at least as far as policies actually implemented during this administration, while not all good, are, on balance, arguably better than the last two presidents. And probably a lot better than the next two years (at least), under Biden. But I think a whole bunch of people are tired of his post-election antics.

    1. Oh no! All the spineless traitors to constitutional law are upset. boo hoo.

      If only Democrats really felt screaming doesnt work.

    2. ^ This.

      Trump, being Trump, might very well turn against him

      What, in the next two weeks?

      Trump's loss of political power after these antics will rival Nixon's. After the headache he has given the Republican party, the minute he's out of office Trump and his entire family will be un-personed. Billionaires can still do things with money, but his personal political clout is headed to less than zero.

      1. Look at Lefties squirm.

        Trump is ahead in EC votes 12 to Biden's 0.


      2. That about sums it up. The only connection he’ll have to government will be his Secret Service accompaniment. Beyond that he will be blackballed.

        And it’s clear that lc1789 needs to take his meds.

        1. I have concluded that lc is a troll. I mean there's no way that someone as apparently stupid as him could operate a computer.

          Is he trying to claim that if it shuts down now that Trump would be president after the 21st? Because 12-0? Nope, that just means President Pelosi. No thank you very much.

      3. I think you underestimate the power of his warchest. Trump has spent the past 2 months convincing every Loveconstitution out there that if they sent him another $100 with 8x Match (!!!!) he would win. He has amassed a warchest that will make him a king maker for the next 10 years.

        The only way Trump is removed from the chessboard is if he and his family are prosecuted.

        1. Which is inevitable at this point.

          1. State prosecution, sure. But we know how rich people prosecuted for fraud and tax evasion rarely to never end up in jail. Hell, you can run a child sex ring and invite politicians and royalty to join in and only end up with home-detention in your Palm Beach mansion. As long as you're rich.

            Biden is going to avoid federal prosecution like the plague. His presidency will never move forward if he's focused on the last A-hole to sit in the oval office and it could have negative consequences for mid-term elections.

    3. Yes, I'd say he's done.

    4. He only has more VOTER support than any Republican...ever.

    5. "But I think a whole bunch of people are tired of his post-election antics which happens to be the exact same people that were opposed to his pre-election antics." FTFY

  7. RESIST!
    Not my president

  8. Poor Democrats.

  9. Trump isn't going to be around forever, and Republicans need to come up with issues they feel are important and can take a stand on.
    The current bunch is nothing more than a cult of personality, with pretty unpleasant personality to boot.

  10. Pence is actually trying to uphold the Constitution under very difficult circumstances (you may have noticed that his boss is a little unstable) and apparently at risk of his safety, and Sullum is giving him shit. He's showing as much integrity as anyone in Washington. Shame on you, Jacob.

    1. "He’s showing as much integrity as anyone in Washington."

      Well, isn't that a fucking low bar you constructed there.
      Certifying fraudulent votes that disenfranchise the country at large is not integrity.

      1. Well, gosh, I thought we libertarians wanted officials in Washington (and elsewhere) to stay within the bounds of their defined power. Now one is doing so and you're bitching about that.

        Make up your fucking mind.

    2. Pence's difficult circumstances?
      He knowingly agreed to be the VP to a guy that openly bragged about sexually assaulting women on tape. The man that won't even be in a room alone with another women because of his deeply held religious beliefs agreed to VP for a man who paid porn stars for sex while his 3rd wife was pregnant. Let's remember that when we try to drum up a pity party for Pence. He handcuffed himself to Trump knowing, in advance, what sort of man he was.

      Pence has tried to find a middle ground for keeping his political career alive without pissing off all the Trump voters he'd need to get elected to his next job. He could have just come out and said the election was fair and that he and Trump lost fair and square. But he equivocates and tries to play both sides against the middle in a vain hope to secure himself future income. There's no courage there. He's a sell-out looking for a way to claim that he was a victim all along. He's a weasel.

  11. That description gives you a sense of the gymnastics required to stay on Trump's good side and avoid alienating his supporters

    C'mon man!

    Sullum, Pence is the Vice President, you know that right?

    He doesn't need to stay on the 'good side' of Trump. Trump's a lame duck.

    And no, he doesn't need to do any gymnastics to stay in the good graces of Trump's supporters either. He's the fucking VP - and as relevant as . . . well, as the VP. There's no issue with him pointing out that he doesn't actually have the authority that some people say he has.

    And again, this seems to be 'anonymous reporting'. You're taking it seriously. FFS - you're supposed to be a journalist and here you are basically repeating something you heard on Twitter.

    1. Pence is looking towards his next job. He's only the VP until Jan 20, then he's unemployed. To stay in politics, he'd need to get elected which requires Republican voters and that means Trump's cultish supporters.

  12. What is the definition of someone that knowingly and willingly presides over a counting of fraudulent votes without protest and resistance.

    1. I dunno. When we have an actual fraudulent election we can come up with a term. For now, though, we're good.

      This protest and resistance is about overturning a fair election because your guy lost.

      All I ask is that you keep electing incompetent authoritarians. We couldn't survive as a country if the GOP started electing competent ones. Or, and this is just me spit-balling, you could elect conservatives who actually give a shit about our Constitution and democracy.

      1. Well put.

  13. At the end, Vice President Pence and a number of Senators are likely to find that they flew to close to Donald Trump and their wings have melted. Donald Trump will be gone in two weeks along with their political careers.

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