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Trump pushes false claims that Pence could ‘send back’ votes

February 1, 2022 GMT
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, in Conroe, Texas. (Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle via AP)
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, in Conroe, Texas. (Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle via AP)
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, in Conroe, Texas. (Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle via AP)
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Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, in Conroe, Texas. (Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle via AP)
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Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, in Conroe, Texas. (Jason Fochtman/Houston Chronicle via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump is intensifying his effort to advance the false narrative that his vice president, Mike Pence, could have done something to prevent Joe Biden from taking office.

In a statement on Tuesday, Trump said the committee investigating his role in sparking the violent Jan. 6 insurrection should instead probe “why Mike Pence did not send back the votes for recertification or approval.” In another statement on Sunday, he blasted Pence by falsely claiming that “he could have overturned the Election!”

The vice president does not have the authority to unilaterally overturn the results of an election, and doing so would have amounted to a profound break from precedent and democratic norms in the U.S.

Trump’s escalating rhetoric comes in response to at least two developments on Capitol Hill. He is under growing scrutiny from the committee investigating the insurrection for his role in sparking the attack. And a bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing changes to the Electoral Count Act to eliminate any ambiguity that a vice president could reject electors to prevent a future president from making the same threats.

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Vice presidents play only a ceremonial role in the counting, but Trump has long insisted that Pence could have overturned the election results by sending the results back to state legislatures, falsely citing mass voter fraud. Numerous state and federal election officials, as well as Trump’s own attorney general, have said the vote was fair.

The renewed attacks by Trump come as Pence has been traveling the country, visiting early voting states, delivering speeches and hosting fundraisers for midterm candidates as he mulls a run for president in 2024. Pence, unlike some possible contenders, has notably declined to rule out running against Trump, who has been teasing his own comeback campaign.

A Pence spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s attacks. Pence will be delivering a speech Friday at the conservative Federalist Society and may respond then.

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Pence has so far tried to thread a needle on his actions Jan. 6, which continue to enrage large portions of Trump’s base. Pence has said he and Trump will likely never see “eye to eye” on what happened that day, when a mob of Trump supporters violently smashed through the U.S. Capitol building, assaulting police officers and hunting down lawmakers, including Pence. But Pence has defended his actions, saying he was abiding by his constitutional role.

Pence said in an interview with Fox News host Jesse Watters last month that he and Trump hadn’t spoken since last summer, but insisted that they had “parted amicably.”

“You know, I’ve said many times we — it was difficult, Jan. 6th was difficult. It was a tragic day in the life of the nation. I know I did my duty under the Constitution of the United States. But the president and I sat down in the days that followed that. We spoke about it, talked through it. We parted amicably,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the chair of the Jan. 6 committee, and Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California have both said they plan to call Pence to testify as part of their investigation. But it’s unclear what Pence will do.

During a trip to New Hampshire in December, Pence declined to say how he would respond, telling The Associated Press that “we’ll evaluate any of those requests as they come.”