WASHINGTON ― Former Vice President Mike Pence briefly considered not presiding over the ceremony that formalized his coup-attempting boss’s 2020 election loss, once again raising questions about the contemporaneous scheming about Iowa’s Chuck Grassley presiding in his stead.
In his daily planner, in which he also took journal-like notes, Pence on Christmas Eve in 2020 wrote it might be better to abdicate his constitutionally proscribed role overseeing the Electoral College tally to avoid bruising then-President Donald Trump’s ego.
“Not feeling like I should attend electoral count,” he wrote, according to a report Tuesday by ABC News. “Too many questions, too many doubts, too hurtful to my friend. Therefore I’m not going to participate in certification of election.”
But Pence soon abandoned that notion and returned to his previous plan to preside over the Jan. 6, 2021, ceremony, citing a conversation with his son, an active-duty Marine, who reminded him that both had taken an oath to protect and uphold the U.S. Constitution.
Former aides to Pence declined to comment on ABC’s report, which offers new details about Pence’s testimony before the federal grand jury that ultimately indicted Trump on four felony counts based on his attempt to remain in power despite having lost reelection.
Trump’s lawyers ― Trump is entitled to receive grand jury testimony of witnesses that special counsel Jack Smith may call at trial ― are legally permitted to release that testimony, absent a gag order. They did not respond to HuffPost queries Tuesday.
Trump began pressuring Pence to use his role as Senate president to rule that the electoral ballots from a number of states were invalid because of “massive voter fraud” and to simply declare Trump the winner instead of Joe Biden. Pence, though, repeatedly told Trump that he had seen no evidence of fraud widespread enough to have affected the outcome and that, in any event, he did not have the authority to do as Trump demanded.
In the weeks following the election, Pence did discuss with his staff but decided against the option of not showing up for the Jan. 6, 2021, certification ― much as Vice President Hubert Humphrey in 1969 had not shown up for the vote certification of the man who had defeated him for president, Richard Nixon.
Trump and his aides, nevertheless, continued pushing for the “Pence Card” option, as they described it, with two of Trump’s lawyers actually mentioning the possibility of Grassley, a Republican and at the time the president pro tempore of the Senate, potentially being in the chair on Jan. 6.
One of the lawyers, John Eastman, in September cited the Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself and declined to answer questions about Grassley during his disbarment proceeding in California.
Grassley, on Jan. 5, 2021, told reporters, “If the vice president isn’t there, and we don’t expect him to be there, I will be presiding over the Senate and obviously listening to the debate without saying anything.”
But his office quickly sent out a clarification that he was referring only to the Senate session that day pertaining to possible challenges to elector slates from particular states, not to the joint session in which the votes would be counted.
Grassley spokesperson Taylor Foy on Tuesday said Grassley had no knowledge of Trump’s plot. “As he’s said in the past, he only learned of those schemes when they were publicly reported many months later,” Foy said.
Jack Smith’s Jan. 6-related case is just one of four criminal prosecutions Trump currently faces. Smith also indicted the former president in South Florida for withholding and refusing to turn over secret documents taken from the White House to his Palm Beach country club at the end of his term. A Georgia grand jury separately indicted him for attempts to overturn his election loss in that state. In New York state, a grand jury charged Trump with falsifying business records to hide a $130,000 hush money payment to a porn star just ahead of the 2016 election.
If convicted on any of the more serious charges, Trump could receive decades in prison. He nevertheless is seeking a return to the White House and is currently the polling front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
Pence until last month was also a candidate for that nomination, but he dropped out because of weak polling and fundraising ― at least in part because a large swath of GOP primary voters are still angry with him for refusing to do Trump’s bidding and overturn the 2020 election.