Donald Trump wants his vice president to prevent Biden from being appointed the new US president. Pence is supposed to reject electors – this would violate the constitution.
The US election has been decided. Joe Biden becomes the next US president. There is no evidence of any type of fraud or irregularity in the US election. It is a fact. However, not for the incumbent president, who still believes in some kind of conspiracy against himself – even if he cannot provide any solid evidence for it. Now Donald Trump wants to use his Vice President Mike Pence to prevent Biden’s appointment.
The problem: Pence can’t do that at all.
On Tuesday, Trump posted a tweet that initially made people sit up and take notice: “The Vice President has the power to prevent fraudulently elected voters.” That is simply wrong. According to the American Constitution, the Vice President does not have that power. In addition, there is no evidence that any of the electorate was elected “fraudulently”. US courts have confirmed this several times.
However, Trump continued to put his vice under pressure. Speaking at an event, he said, “I hope our great vice president will stand up for us. He’s a great guy. If he doesn’t stand up, I won’t like him that much, of course.”
The background: When electing a new president, US citizens vote in their states. The winner receives a fixed number of voters who are bound by the vote of the citizens. So if Biden wins in Georgia, for example, he will also get the 16 voters from Georgia. The electorate in the USA vote on behalf of the people on the president. They did that on December 14th. They confirmed Biden’s clear victory – in line with the vote of the voters. The Democrat got 306 of the 538 votes – 36 more than required. 232 electorates voted for Trump.
Pence has to officially announce Trump’s defeat
In the formal post-election procedure in the USA, the election results from the individual states must now be certified in Congress. This Wednesday (from 7 p.m.) both chambers of congress will meet for a joint session to read the votes from the states, count them and officially announce the final result. Then it is official who has won the election – Joe Biden.
What Trump is now demanding of his Vice President – to reject individual electors on the basis of unproven allegations – Pence cannot and must not do. According to the law, when the final result is read out, Pence, who chairs the meeting, has only a ceremonial role. He leads the meeting and announces the result. Pence has the uncomfortable task of officially announcing Trump’s defeat. Pence seems to know that too – unlike his boss.
Republicans can delay Biden’s affirmation, but not prevent it
Last week, a Texas Republican MP attempted an idiosyncratic lawsuit to legally urge Pence to go beyond the ceremonial role so that Pence himself could annul results from the states. However, the US Vice President had the Justice Department petitioned the responsible judge to dismiss this lawsuit – on the grounds that the lawsuit was directed against the wrong person. To achieve more powers for the Vice President by filing a lawsuit against him is a legal contradiction, it was said to justify.
Pence will therefore not be able to meet Trump’s demand. However, that does not mean that everything will go smoothly. Republicans from the House of Representatives and the Senate have announced that they will appeal against the results of individual states during the procedure. According to internal estimates, more than 100 MPs from the House of Representatives could participate, followed by a dozen Republicans from the Senate.
Disruptive actions have no prospect of success
Such an objection can be used to force both chambers of congress to withdraw to separate sessions in order to debate the objections and, in the end, to vote whether they should follow them or not. Should objections be raised from both chambers for several states, which is likely, and each objection should be debated and voted individually in separate sessions, the procedure could drag on well into Thursday.
The disruptive action has no prospect of changing the outcome of the election. Both chambers of congress would have to approve an objection to a result from the states, which is considered impossible in view of the majority of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. The action will immensely disrupt operations and create a lot of attention for Trump’s unsubstantiated fraud allegations. There is only one thing it will not do: it will not prevent Joe Biden from being appointed US President.