Trump suggests Pence should have 'overturned' 2020 election

Trump made his Jan. 6 intention clear in a new statement Sunday.

January 31, 2022, 4:21 PM

In arguably his most explicit public statement yet of his intent on Jan. 6, former President Donald Trump on Sunday suggested wanting then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, making clear Trump's goal was not to resolve disputes over electoral votes he alleged but to hand the election back to himself.

In the new statement, Trump repeated the false claim that Pence had the power to hand the election to Trump and blasted bipartisan efforts to reform an election law Trump sought to exploit.

Trump was apparently set off after Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" that "ambiguities" in the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which governs the counting and the certification of the presidential vote, were "exploited" on Jan. 6, and that lawmakers "need to prevent that from happening again." She's leading a group of 16 senators meeting on Monday to discuss reforms -- an effort Trump slammed.

"If the Vice President (Mike Pence) had 'absolutely no right' to change the Presidential Election results in the Senate, despite fraud and many other irregularities, how come the Democrats and RINO Republicans, like Wacky Susan Collins, are desperately trying to pass legislation that will not allow the Vice President to change the results of the election?" Trump said in a statement.

PHOTO: Former president Donald Trump speaks at a Save America Rally, held outdoors at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Conroe, Texas, Jan. 29, 2022.
Former president Donald Trump speaks at a Save America Rally, held outdoors at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Conroe, Texas, Jan. 29, 2022.
Michael Wyke/EPA via Shutterstock

"Actually, what they are saying, is that Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome, and they now want to take that right away," he falsely claimed. "Unfortunately, he didn't exercise that power, he could have overturned the Election!"

Trump's false claim that bipartisan efforts to reform the law proves that vice presidents have the power to overturn elections wouldn't make sense, experts told ABC News, and that, in fact, Trump and his allies sought to expand the role of the vice president beyond ceremonial and to have Pence essentially disregard millions of Americans' votes.

"There has never been the kind of pressure that Mike Pence experienced on Jan. 6, 2021, before," Rebecca Green, co-director of the election law program at William and Mary Law School, also told ABC News. "But it would be extremely illogical for the system to instill that much power in sitting vice presidents, particularly since sitting vice presidents are so regularly on the presidential ballot."

In the modern era, electors "are supposed to now be almost like computers and mechanically do the bidding of the popular vote" in their states, said Edward Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University and the director of the school's election law program.

PHOTO: Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi preside over a joint session of Congress to count the Electoral College votes of the 2020 presidential election in the House Chamber in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.
Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi preside over a joint session of Congress to count the Electoral College votes of the 2020 presidential election in the House Chamber in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.
Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

ABC News Senior Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl reported in his book "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show" that then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows emailed to Pence's top aide a detailed plan penned by Trump's campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis outlining how Pence was to send back the electoral votes from six battleground states that Trump falsely claimed he had won.

In an interview with Karl last March, Trump couldn't say if he would ever forgive Pence for certifying the election and defended those who chanted "Hang Mike Pence" as rightfully "angry."

"I think we would have won -- yeah," Trump told Karl, had Pence followed the plot.

Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa also revealed in their book, "Peril," a memo written by John Eastman, whom Trump introduced at the Jan. 6 rally as "one of the most brilliant lawyers in the country," outlined another plan for how Pence would hand the election back to Trump on Jan. 6.

According to their reporting, Eastman instructed Pence to say, at the conclusion of counting, "because of the ongoing disputes in the 7 States, there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed in those States." Then, Pence "gavels President Trump as reelected."

This, despite the fact that the duplicate slates of electors were forged documents.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Dec. 7, 2020.
President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Dec. 7, 2020.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

The morning of the congressional counting and attack on the Capitol, Trump tweeted that Pence needed to show "extreme courage" -- a sentiment he's kept alive.

However, Pence rejected the pressure to do so, sticking to his strictly ceremonial role -- and infuriating Trump -- and the National Archives never accepted the uncertified documents for congressional counting.

"I only wish that my friend, Mike Pence, had that additional courage to send the results back to the legislatures because it all happened so quickly," Trump said last July at a conservative conference.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the ranking Republican serving on the House select committee investigating Jan. 6, warned Monday that Trump would "do it all again if given the chance."

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., the other Republican on the panel, also called attention to Trump's alarming statement as a majority of Republicans have yet to weigh in.

"This is an admission, and a massively un-American statement. It is time for every Republican leader to pick a side… Trump or the Constitution, there is no middle on defending our nation anymore," Kinzinger tweeted.

Trump's own appointed Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department uncovered no evidence of voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election. Additionally, state and federal judges dismissed more than 60 lawsuits brought by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election results, with multiple judges -- including some appointed by Trump himself -- pointing to a lack of evidence.

ABC News' Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

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