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Vice President Mike Pence doesn’t support removing President Donald Trump from office via the 25th Amendment despite the growing bipartisan chorus for a last-minute change at the very top of the American government, Pence advisors told Insider.
“Not happening,” said a Republican close to Pence when asked about growing calls for him to replace Trump.
The lame duck vice president’s apprehension to such a historic move comes in the immediate aftermath of an attempted violent coup by the president’s supporters at the US Capitol. Democratic leaders are threatening to open a second round of impeachment proceedings against Trump if Pence and the Cabinet do not immediately remove Trump from office, even though there’s less than two weeks left in the Republican’s term and the start of the new Democratic Biden administration.
Pence and his team are trying to avoid that very showdown. They’re worried that it could spiral the country even further into chaos and partisan divide while potentially putting into jeopardy Pence’s own political aspirations of running for the White House himself in 2024.
The vice president’s team has also been working overtime to tamp down talk of his performance Wednesday — both before and after the Trump-fueled riots in the Capitol — saying his work certifying the Electoral College results in President-elect Joe Biden’s favor was nothing more than him performing the duties of the office and upholding his oath to the Constitution.
But some Republicans saw presidential material in Pence’s actions, if for no other reason than he is well positioned to protect the country from any other attacks Trump might launch while he still has a bully pulpit for 13 more days. They also praised Pence’s leadership.
“Mr. vice president, thank you for the way you have fulfilled your constitutional duties and your oath of office today. Obviously it hasn’t been easy,” Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said Wednesday night, before voting to certify the election results in Biden’s favor.
A Category 5 hurricane
It’s no secret Pence has long had his eyes on the Oval Office and possibly making a run for the White House in 2024. Rumors have long swirled in Washington that he might either try helping push Trump out the door — whether for his own ambition or as part of a plan to pardon Trump of any federal crimes, akin to how Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon following his resignation amid the Watergate scandal.
But Pence and his team have regularly beaten back those rumors and requests that he replace Trump. In fact, they’ve been doing the same thing since October 2016. That’s when Republicans urged the then-Indiana governor to replace Trump atop the presidential ticket after the release of the Access Hollywood video showing the reality TV show star and future commander-in-chief bragging about molesting women.
Now the calls for Pence to assert himself have reached Category 5 hurricane level.
On Thursday, less than 24 hours after the pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol, a bipartisan chorus called for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, and a host of lawmakers, former Trump officials and others said Trump must resign. Pelosi and Schumer said if Trump doesn’t quit they would launch a second impeachment of him even though the days are quickly running out on the current administration.
“In calling for this seditious act, the president has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation,” Pelosi said Thursday.
The added pressure is something Pence and his team have been trying to avoid. They are not looking to stoke talk of politics or his personal ambitions in the current supersized moment. Two advisors to Pence told Insider there was no way he would even consider participating in a removal of Trump via the 25th Amendment. A spokesman for the vice president did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pence’s presidential performance at the Capitol
Pence’s performance Wednesday had the unmistakable ring of a president, especially when contrasted against Trump and his seclusion in the White House while inciting the mob until Twitter suspended his account.
In a crisp, 1,100-word letter issued shortly before the vote count started Wednesday, Pence said that no single person should ever have the “unilateral” power to overturn election results. Shortly after issuing that statement, and clearly breaking from Trump, a mob began marching to the Capitol from Trump’s rally near the White House. Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, egged on the group, with the former New York mayor telling the crowd to wage “trial by combat.”
Pence and his team hunkered down in a secure location after getting pulled from the dais amid the Capitol riots. The vice president began making calls to Pelosi, Schumer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to figure out how to finish the electoral vote count, Pence chief of staff Marc Short told Insider on Thursday.
“During the moment of the evacuation he was adamant about staying in the building and not being taken away,” Short said. “He didn’t want to feel like we would allow that to happen in our country.”
When trouble arose getting the National Guard deployed, Pence called the Pentagon to request their assistance, Short said.
It was an example of Pence leading in the moment. But Short and others close to the vice president said they did not want it to be viewed as an audition for higher office, in part because of the gravity of the situation.
After six harrowing hours, Congress reconvened. Pence delivered a brief, but stern message, similar to George W. Bush’s rallying cry after September 11.
“To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the People’s House,” Pence said from the dais of the House, where broken glass and debris from the earlier assault still littered the halls. Just feet away from where Pence sat, a woman had been shot hours earlier and ultimately died.
Senators and representatives, including some of Trump’s staunchest allies, praised Pence as they debated a Republican-led objection to certify Biden as the next president.
“Mr. vice president, just hang in there. They said, ‘We can count on Mike.’ All of us can count on the vice president,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who served two years alongside Pence when both men were House Republicans in the early 2000s.
“You’re going to do the right thing. You’re going to do the constitutional thing. You got a son who flies F-35s. You’ve got a son-in-law who flies F-18s. They’re out there flying so that we get it right here,” added Graham, a former Trump rival and critic from the 2016 campaign who later became one of the president’s most ardent supporters and regular golfing buddies.
Pence had spent weeks studying for Wednesday’s vote count, researching how other vice presidents executed the duty and working with parliamentarians on how to handle objections.
At the same time, Trump launched a behind-the-scenes pressure campaign against his own vice president in a failed attempt to have Pence side with him over the Constitution, according to Republicans close to the White House. Trump even lobbied Pence not to show up in the Capitol on Wednesday and instead have Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Grassley preside over the vote count.
“I’ve never seen Pence as angry as he was today,” Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe told the Tulsa World paper. “I had a long conversation with him,” Inhofe said. “He said, ‘After all the things I’ve done for (Trump).'”
In private, Trump’s own supporters and advisors said they were furious at the president for turning his fire on Pence after four years where the No. 2 served as a loyal supporter despite so much controversy.
“Calling out Pence? Gimme a break,” a former senior White House official told Insider. “You talk about a guy who has just eaten s— for four years and indefatigably goes around and tries to be uplifting.”
Darren Samuelsohn contributed to this report.
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