Vice President Mike Pence told President Trump over lunch on Tuesday that he does not have the power to block Congress from formalizing President-elect Joe Biden's victory on Wednesday, The New York Times reports. Earlier Tuesday, Trump had tweeted, incorrectly, that the "the vice president has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors," as president of the Senate. Pence does not believe that, his aides say, but he has not stated so publicly. He also did not deny the Times report, but Trump did Tuesday night, in a statement dated Jan. 5, 2020.
The Times report is "fake news," Trump insisted. "The vice president and I are in total agreement that the vice president has the power to act."
Trump has been privately and publicly cajoling Pence "to find a way to use his role on Wednesday to give credence to his unfounded claims — rejected by the states and in scores of court cases and backed by no evidence — that the election was stolen from him through widespread fraud," the Times reports. "The president has told several people privately that he would rather lose with people thinking it was stolen from him than that he simply lost."
Pence absolutely cannot make Trump president, but he can add some "drama to the theater" of Wednesday's proceedings, Ohio State University law professor Edward Foley told the Times. "We know the end result," he added, "we just don't know when we will get there or what procedure we will take to get there."
Pence has been meeting with parliamentarians and lawyers to figure out the parameter of his role. And while he is expected to stay in his lane, he is also "desperate to find some middle ground" by "placating the president to avoid a rift that could torpedo" Pence's political hopes while also following the law, the Times reports. Pence "indicated to the president that he would keep studying the issue up until the final hours before the joint session of Congress begins," for example, and he may acknowledge Trump's fraud claims during the Senate debates, the Times adds. Some Pence allies "conceded that he would have benefited from telegraphing more aggressively over the past few days that he was not going to be able to rescue the president from defeat."