Under normal circumstances, a White House meeting between a sitting president and sitting vice president wouldn't be especially notable. Of course, nothing about the current circumstances is normal, which is why officials alerted the media last night to the fact that Donald Trump and Mike Pence spoke in the Oval Office late yesterday.
"The two had a good conversation, discussing the week ahead and reflecting on the last four years of the administration's work and accomplishments," [a senior administration official] said. "They reiterated that those who broke the law and stormed the Capitol last week do not represent the America First movement backed by 75 million Americans and pledged to continue the work on behalf of the country for the remainder of their term."
The context is itself striking: Trump encouraged his mob last week to blame Pence for his defeat, and many rioters chanted, "Hang Mike Pence" during the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The vice president was held in a secure location, but Trump never bothered to reach out -- during or after the riot -- to check on Pence's wellbeing.
Indeed, the two men had no contact at all, until late yesterday.
But it was the last 16 words of the official statement that stood out: Trump and Pence "pledged to continue the work on behalf of the country for the remainder of their term." Again, under normal circumstances, there'd be no need for a White House to alert the public to the fact that a president and a vice president intended to keep working until their term was up. That's what elected officials are always supposed to do.
Right now, however, it's a phrase with considerable meaning. Under the 25th Amendment, the vice president and a majority of the cabinet could remove the president from office, and the day after pro-Trump rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol, there were reportedly some "preliminary discussions" among administration officials about doing exactly that. We later learned that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, among others, was "personally involved" in such deliberations.
It's against this backdrop that the U.S. House will vote today on a resolution calling on Pence to "convene and mobilize" Trump's cabinet to activate the 25th Amendment to declare Trump "incapable of executing the duties of his office and to immediately exercise powers as acting president."
But with eight days remaining in Trump's term, that window now appears to be closing. If Pence is prepared to work with Trump "for the remainder of their term," then he doesn't intend to work with cabinet members to remove Trump from office.
Remember, as of late last week, Trump was left with three options: resign, be removed through the 25th Amendment, or face impeachment. Pence seems to be taking one of these options off the table, making impeachment all but certain.