- President Donald Trump has long benefited from the loyalty of Vice President Mike Pence.
- But Trump may have pushed Pence too far this week by repeatedly demanding that Pence try to block the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win.
- That, combined with Trump’s move to rile up his supporters before they breached the US Capitol, seems to have exposed cracks within their partnership.
- Pence is said to be angry with Trump but has yet to agree with invoking the 25th Amendment, a possible but perhaps unlikely way to remove Trump from power.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Vice President Mike Pence has been between a rock and an increasingly angry commander in chief this week as President Donald Trump has finally turned on one of his most loyal allies over Pence’s refusal to try to overturn Trump’s election loss.
Top aides have said Trump has been spiraling out of control for weeks, but now he’s directed much of his ire toward his heretofore loyal vice president.
Earlier this week, Pence was said to have endured a lunch with Trump in which he tried to explain that he lacked the constitutional authority to block the certification of Joe Biden’s election win. Further, in a letter Wednesday, he told Trump: “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.”
A source told The Wall Street Journal that the president was furious, telling Pence: “I don’t want to be your friend — I want you to be the vice president.”
Overtures of friendship may not have mattered as much to Pence after Wednesday, when Trump seemed to try to turn his supporters on the vice president.
“Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us,” Trump told a crowd at the White House rally where he also told his supporters to march to the Capitol. “And if it doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country.”
Trump also jabbed at Pence on Twitter. “If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. He has the absolute right to do it,” he wrote in a tweet that was later blocked by Twitter. Pence had no power to reverse lawmakers’ certification of Biden’s victory, despite Trump’s claims to the contrary.
As Trump’s supporters made their way toward the Capitol, they erupted in a boisterous chant: “Where is Mike Pence?”
Pence was at the Capitol, where he had to be ferreted to a secure location as the protest deteriorated into a mob of people who stormed the building. Hours later, he went on to preside over Congress’ certification of Biden as president-elect and Sen. Kamala Harris as vice president-elect.
In the midst of the chaos, Trump also found time to bar Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, from the White House, seemingly blaming Short for giving Pence the advice to certify Biden’s win.
Trump is looking for anyone to blame but himself
Trump’s scapegoating of Pence was said to have deeply angered the normally even-keeled vice president.
Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma told the Tulsa World that he’d never seen the vice president so angry.
“I had a long conversation with him,” Inhofe said. “He said, ‘After all the things I’ve done for him.'”
A source close to Pence rhetorically asked CNN whether Trump was “concerned at all that an angry mob that he commanded to march on the Capitol might injure the vice president or his family.”
Pence had previously enjoyed what Tim Phillips, the president of the libertarian group Americans for Prosperity, described to The Washington Post as “a durable, close relationship with the president,” despite their clear stylistic differences and beliefs.
In the last days of his presidency, though, Trump appears to be struggling with retaining friends and colleagues. In just the past 24 hours, Education Secretary Betsy Devos; Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao; the Northern Ireland special envoy Mick Mulvaney, a former acting White House chief of staff; and officials from the Department of Commerce and the National Security Council have all resigned.
There have been demands from Democratic leadership to use the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office and have Pence temporarily take over the president’s duties. So far, Pence has refused to take part, as Insider reported. But while removing the president under the 25th Amendment seems unlikely, Trump, who also faces the prospect of a second impeachment, appears to be doing as much as possible to antagonize Pence and make him the scapegoat for his election loss.
“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!” he tweeted Wednesday afternoon before he was ultimately suspended from Twitter.
Pence also turned to Twitter.
“Peaceful protest is the right of every American,” he tweeted, “but this attack on our Capitol will not be tolerated and those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”