Quiet part loud: Trump says Pence ‘could have overturned the election’
Donald Trump was accused of “saying the quiet part loud” on Sunday night, when he protested that Mike Pence, his former vice-president, could have overturned his election defeat by Joe Biden.
Though he has appeared to admit Biden won before, Trump usually insists he won and his opponent stole the election through voter fraud – the “big lie” which animates rallies like one in Conroe, Texas, on Saturday.
On Sunday Trump attempted to seize on moves by a bipartisan group of senators to reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which Trump tried to use to have Pence refuse to certify Biden’s victory.
Pence concluded he did not have the authority to do so. On the same day, 6 January 2021, supporters Trump told to “fight like hell” attacked the US Capitol.
Seven people died and more than 100 police officers were hurt. More than 700 people have been charged, 11 with seditious conspiracy. Trump and his aides are the target of congressional investigation.
But Trump survived impeachment when enough Senate Republicans stayed loyal and he is is free to run for office.
On Saturday, he promised pardons for 6 January rioters if re-elected and exhorted followers to protest against investigations of his business and political affairs in New York and Georgia.
In a statement on Sunday, Trump claimed “fraud and many other irregularities” in the 2020 election – no large-scale fraud has been found – and asked: “How come the Democrats and … Republicans, like Wacky Susan Collins, are desperately trying to pass legislation that will not allow the vice-president to change the results of the election?
“Actually, what they are saying, is that Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome, and they now want to take that right away. Unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power. He could have overturned the election!”
Collins, of Maine, was one of seven Republicans to vote to convict Trump over the Capitol attack. Such is his grip on her party, on Sunday she would not say she would not support him if he ran again. But she did tell ABC why she wanted to reform the Electoral Count Act.
“We saw, on 6 January 2021, how ambiguities, simple law, were exploited. We need to prevent that from happening again. I’m hopeful that we can come up with a bipartisan bill that will make very clear that the vice-president’s role is simply ministerial, that he has no ability to halt the count.”
Dick Durbin of Illinois, a member of Democratic Senate leadership, said reform to the electoral college process was merited because Trump gambits including false slates of electors “really raise a question about the integrity of that process. It hasn’t been looked at for 150 years. Now’s the time.”
Pundits seized on Trump’s latest apparent blunder into the truth.
Bill Kristol, a conservative writer, said: “Talk about saying the quiet part loud. Trump here admits or rather boasts [about] what he wanted Mike Pence to do.”
Chris Krebs, fired as head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency under Trump but who pronounced the 2020 election “the most secure in US history”, said: “In the last 24 hours the former president: (1) floated pardons for [January 6] defendants, (2) encouraged civil unrest if he’s indicted in [Georgia or New York], (3) once again confirmed he pressured Pence to overturn a lawful election.
“He’s radicalizing his base to be his personal Brown Shirts.”
Olivia Troye, a former Pence aide, wrote: “Every Republican candidate and official should go on record with their answer: Do you support sedition and pardoning domestic terrorists?”
On Monday, Liz Cheney, one of only two Republicans on the House committee investigating Trump’s attempt to overturn the election, said: “Trump uses language he knows caused the January 6 violence; suggests he’d pardon the January 6 defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy; threatens prosecutors; and admits he was attempting to overturn the election.
“He’d do it all again if given the chance.”