By Joseph Lord
Former President Donald Trump told Tucker Carlson on Aug. 23 that former Vice President Mike Pence “got very bad advice” about his role in the certification of electoral votes.
Though the two men long enjoyed a good relationship, that relationship fell apart in the aftermath of Congress’s certification of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021, due to a disagreement on the constitutional scope of Vice President Pence’s authority over the process.
President Trump and several of his lawyers contended that Vice President Pence had the authority to reject electoral votes from states where there were claims of widespread election fraud under the 12th Amendment and Electoral Count Act of 1887.
Vice President Pence’s lawyers agreed with Democrats, arguing that the vice president’s power to certify electoral votes was “purely ceremonial” and that the vice president could not choose to accept or reject electoral slates.
‘Human Conveyor Belt’
During his interview with Mr. Carlson, President Trump argued that Vice President Pence “got very bad advice” from his lawyers about the extent of his authority over the process.
“In my opinion, Mike Pence had the absolute right to send the votes back to the legislatures,” President Trump said, arguing that any other interpretation of vice presidential power would make him little more than a “human conveyor belt.”
“The Democrats … said, ‘You don’t have the right.’ In other words, I said, ‘Is he a human conveyor belt? You mean if he finds fraud in Pennsylvania, in Georgia, in any of these states, Arizona, he has to send them to Mitch McConnell, right?’ ‘That’s right, sir.’
“I said, ‘So he’s just—so he’s a conveyor belt?’ I said, ‘I don’t agree with that.'”
President Trump noted that this position was backed by several lawyers, who said that Vice President Pence could have returned electoral slates to contested states to be rechecked over fraud concerns.
Election of 1800
President Trump also noted that this authority had some corollary in the history of the early Republic.
During the election of 1800, one of the most contentious in American history, then-Vice President Thomas Jefferson presided over the certification of electoral results in a race where he was a candidate. Though there were procedural irregularities in Georgia’s electoral slate, Vice President Jefferson determined that the votes should be counted for himself.
John Eastman, one of the most prominent proponents of the expansive view of vice presidential power in certifying electoral results, cited this example as proof that Vice President Pence had the right to reject the certification of some electoral slates.
“I think Vice President Pence got very bad advice,” President Trump said. “I really do.
“Now, let me tell you what happened. I sat there with a few people. I think his lawyer was in the room. His lawyer was very much against it. There were other lawyers that felt you could do it. It was it was one of those things.
“I think you could have done it. I think you can always do something if you see fraud or if you see problems, but it’s very interesting.
“So after the election was over, the RINOs [Republicans in Name Only] got together with the Democrats, and they redid the election [law], so you couldn’t do it anymore,” President Trump said—a reference to the Electoral Count Act of 2022, passed by the lame duck 117th Congress, which explicitly defined the vice president’s role as purely ceremonial.
“In other words, they took the Voting Act and they redid it so the vice president no longer has the power to do what I said he could do,” he added.
“You know, you’d look some of these Democrats in the eye, and they say, ‘He has absolutely no right to do it.’ And immediately after the election, they met—RINOs and Democrats—and they approved legislation that takes away the right of the Vice President to do it. So I said, ‘Ah, so you’re saying I was right. The vice president did have the right to do it. And they said, ‘Yes, he did.’
President Trump argued that this change to the law was further evidence that Vice President Pence had the power to reject the electoral slates.
Despite their disagreement over the issue, which Vice President Pence has made a centerpiece of his presidential bid, President Trump says he has remained cordial with Vice President Pence.
However, President Trump said he hasn’t spoken to his former running mate much recently.
“Do you talk to him now?” Mr. Carlson asked.
“I haven’t spoken to him in a long time. I was very disappointed,” President Trump said.