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Image: President Trump campaigns in Newport News, Virginia
President Donald Trump accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence arrives at a campaign rally in Newport News, Virginia, on Sept. 25, 2020.Tom Brenner / Reuters file

Despite reality, Trump presses Pence to take actions he cannot take

After four years of consistent and sycophantic support for Trump, Mike Pence's reward is being set up as a villain by the president he tried to serve.


Vice President Mike Pence had his weekly presidential lunch yesterday, and according to the New York Times, the Indiana Republican told the president "that he did not believe he had the power to block congressional certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s victory in the presidential election despite Mr. Trump's baseless insistence that he did."

It appears the outgoing president didn't quite understand what he was told. Trump tweeted at 1 a.m. (eastern):

"If Vice President [Mike Pence] comes through for us, we will win the Presidency. Many States want to decertify the mistake they made in certifying incorrect [and] even fraudulent numbers in a process NOT approved by their State Legislatures (which it must be). Mike can send it back!"

In reality, Pence cannot "come through" for Trump; Trump will not win the presidency; no states want to decertify their election results; no states made a "mistake"; no certifications were "incorrect"; there were no "fraudulent" numbers; and the vice president cannot "send back" election results the White House doesn't like.

In other words, in a missive filled with claims, Trump got literally everything wrong.

And yet, he kept at it this morning, adding, "States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!"

Again, to the extent that facts matter, all of this is hysterically wrong -- not only in the president's assessment of what states "want," but also in his understanding of the process. The vice president simply does not have the unilateral authority to alter or reject election results he wishes were different. The idea is plainly bonkers.

But as notable as the president's ignorance and confusion are, what's arguably more interesting is the degree to which Trump is setting up Pence as some sort of villain.

At a rally on Monday night, the president insisted that the vice president must "come through" for him, a point Trump emphasized again yesterday with a tweet that read, "The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors."

Or put another way, if Pence honors his constitutionally prescribed role, Trump has already laid the groundwork: it means the vice president will have failed to use his "power," failed to "come through" for Team Trump; and failed to show "courage." For those looking for someone to blame, Trump has served up his vice president on a platter.

After four years of consistent and sycophantic support for the president, this is Mike Pence's reward.

The New York Times ran a headline this week that read, "Pence's Choice: Side With the Constitution or His Boss." Trump expects the vice president to choose the latter, not the former.

Update: Though Trump kept up the offensive against Pence at a right-wing rally this morning, the vice president issued a statement vowing to follow the law, not the president's directives.

Second Update: Trump responded to the vice president doing the obvious thing by tweeting that Pence "didn't have the courage to do" what the president wanted him to do.