Pence Breaks Silence on Election Integrity But Ignores His Role in Events of Jan. 6

March 4, 2021 Updated: March 4, 2021

News Analysis

After more than a month, Mike Pence broke his silence on the events of Jan. 6, stating that “I share the concerns of millions of Americans about the integrity of the 2020 election.”

Pence’s comments came from a March 3, 2021, op-ed for the Daily Signal in which Pence expressed concerns over the integrity of the 2020 presidential election and argued against the passage of H.R. 1, a Democrat-backed bill known as the For the People Act, which essentially federalizes national elections, in part through the restriction and elimination of voter identity verification procedures.

Pence noted that the 2020 election was “marked by significant voting irregularities and numerous instances of officials setting aside state election law.” Indeed, a number of states enacted sweeping changes to election laws that unconstitutionally bypassed state legislators in favor of changes ordered by governors and secretaries of state. As Pence correctly observed, “under the Constitution, elections are governed at the state level.”

Looking back to the days leading up to his certification of electoral votes, Pence said that he had “pledged to ensure that all objections properly raised” during the electoral count process “would be given a full hearing before Congress and the American people,” but admitted that his promise remained unfulfilled, claiming, “The tragic events of Jan. 6—the most significant being the loss of life and violence at our nation’s capital—also deprived the American people of a substantive discussion in Congress about election integrity in America.”

Although President Donald Trump has received blame for events on Jan 6, the role of Pence in the period leading up to the Capitol breach has remained largely undiscussed.

Pence, who was fairly active in post-election events, attended several rallies and gave several speeches discussing or looking toward the Jan. 6 official counting of electoral votes.

On Dec. 22, 2020, Pence spoke at a Turning Point USA event in West Palm Beach where he told the crowd that “as our election contest continues, I’ll make you a promise. We’re going to keep fighting until every legal vote is counted. We’re going to keep fighting until every illegal vote is thrown out. we’re going to win Georgia, we’re going to save America, and we’ll never stop fighting to make America great again. You watch.”

Two days prior to the events at the Capitol, during an impassioned speech on Monday, Jan. 4, Pence urged Georgia Republicans to vote for Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler while reassuring the enthusiastic crowd that he stands “with President Donald Trump.” Pence continued, telling the cheering crowd, “We’ve all got out doubts about the last election. I want to assure you, I share the concerns of millions of Americans about voting irregularities. And I promise you, come this Wednesday, we’ll have our day in Congress. We’ll hear the objections. We’ll hear the evidence.”

On the morning of Jan. 5, Trump sent a tweet stating that “The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors.” That afternoon, The New York Times ran a story alleging that Pence had told Trump at lunch that day that “he did not believe he had the power to block congressional certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.”

That evening, following publication of the story by the NY Times, Trump issued a statement claiming Pence had “never said that.” Trump continued, declaring, “The vice president and I are in total agreement that the vice president has the power to act.”

In his statement, Trump said that Pence had “several options under the U.S. Constitution. He can decertify the results or send them back to the states for change and certification. He can also decertify the illegal and corrupt results and send them to the House of Representatives for the one vote for one state tabulation.”

Neither Pence nor his office made any statement refuting the President’s claim or restating Pence’s position—until the following day when Trump was nearly finished giving his Capitol speech, which began at noon on Jan. 6.

At 12:53 on the day of the election, Pence’s office released a letter to members of Congress stating his position on electoral certification for the first time publicly, saying, “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.”

Pence noted: “I will do my duty to ensure that these concerns receive a fair and open hearing in the Congress of the United States. Objections will be heard, evidence will be presented, and the elected representatives of the American people will make their decision.”

Pence wrote that those “who suggest that raising objections under the Electoral Count Act is improper or undemocratic ignore more than 130 years of history, and fail to acknowledge that Democrats raised objections in Congress each of the last three times that a Republican candidate for President prevailed.”

In the letter, Pence also claimed his adherence to the Electoral Count Act, a controversial and likely unconstitutional provision that violates the Electors Clause and the Twelfth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Although various interpretations of the Constitution exist, Pence’s position that he did not have unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted avoided setting a problematic precedent and was not an unreasonable position in and of itself. But Pence’s failure to clarify his position until Trump was near the end of his speech on Jan. 6th was an issue. To make matters potentially more inflammatory, Pence also sent his statement out broadly in a tweet at 1:02 EST, exactly 10 minutes before Trump wrapped up his speech before a huge crowd of tens of thousands of people.

Pence’s statement was first released at 12:53 p.m. Four minutes later, individuals began jumping fencing located at 1st Street and at 12:58 p.m. a crowd broke “through fencing near the Peace Monument.” At 1:02 p.m., fencing on the Capitol steps was breached. At this exact moment, Pence’s statement, this time via a tweet, was sent again. At 1:06 pm the joint session of Congress convened to count the electoral votes. At 1:12 pm Trump finished his speech at The Ellipse.

The situation at the Capitol continued to rapidly deteriorate and at 2:08 p.m. the Capitol was placed on lockdown. Between 2:11 and 2:18 p.m. the Capitol building was breached and at 2:18 p.m. the House called a recess during its debates over objections to the electoral votes from Arizona.

At 2:24, Trump sent a tweet stating that “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!”

Two minutes later, at 2:26 pm, the Senate called a recess over an objection to the electoral votes from Arizona.

Somewhere in this timeframe, Trump mistakenly called Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in an attempt to speak with Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) with regard to certifying the election. Trump’s conversation with Tuberville, who was handed the phone by Lee, lasted “five to 10 minutes.” Tuberville later stated that he told Trump at the end of the conversation, “Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I’ve got to go.”

Lee, who was standing nearby, said that “when he later asked Tuberville about the conversation, he got the impression that Trump didn’t know about the chaos going on in the Senate chamber.”

At 2:38, President Trump sent out a tweet calling for peace in the Capitol, asking that everyone “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”

By roughly 5:00 p.m., relative order was restored in the Capitol allowing the Senate to resume its proceedings at 8:06 p.m. and at 3:42 a.m. on Jan. 7, Pence certified the election results. Pence declared Biden the “President-Elect” with no further objections to the election results being heard. Following the certification of votes, Pence shared an “elbow bump” with speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Notably, Pence later said nothing in defense of conservative congressmen such as Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) when they were being demonized in the media for raising constitutional objections to the electoral votes—something that Democrats have done three times in the last two decades.

On Jan. 19, Pence sent out a tweet noting that it had been his privilege to serve as “your Vice President these past four years, it has been the greatest honor of my life. On behalf of our Wonderful Second Lady, Karen Pence, and our entire Family, Thank You and God Bless America.” No mention of Trump or his family was made nor was Trump included in any of the four pictures that Pence sent in the tweet.