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Why Trump's latest rhetorical shot at Mike Pence matters

Trump isn't done attacking Pence for having followed the law on Jan. 6. It's likely to carry consequences for the former vice president.

Donald Trump has concocted some ridiculous schemes, but his plan to use Mike Pence on Jan. 6 was among his most dangerous. Ahead of Jan. 6, when Congress finished certifying the results of the 2020 presidential race, Trump convinced himself that the then-vice president had the authority to help overturn the results.

Indeed, the then-president was reportedly "confused" at the time as to why Pence couldn't simply manufacture the authority to reject election results Trump didn't like.

It was hopelessly bonkers. As regular readers may recall, Pence, by constitutional mandate, oversaw the certification process in the Senate, though his role was largely a ceremonial formality. The Constitution's language on this is straightforward: "The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted."

There was no legal mechanism through which Pence could decide to ignore votes on a whim.

Trump nevertheless decided that the Indiana Republican was a villain for honoring the rule of law, and when the pro-Trump mob launched an insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol, the rioters, after listening to Trump's nonsense, hunted the former vice president, clearly intending to do him harm.

Nearly 24 weeks later, the former president not only refuses to accept the reality of his defeat, he's also still pretending that Mike Pence -- who did nothing but show unnerving loyalty toward Trump since Day One -- did the wrong thing by following the law.

During an interview on Real America's Voice, host David Brody pointed out that Trump's followers are "never going to forgive" Pence.... "Well, I've always liked Mike and I'm very disappointed that he didn't send it back to the legislatures when you have more votes than you have voters in some cases, and when you have the kind of things that were known then," Trump said.

The former president added, in reference to election results, "I felt that he had the right to send it back. He should have sent it back." He went on to say, "I think you may have found that you would have had a different president right now had [Pence] sent them back."

Again, to the extent that reality still has any meaning, Pence had no legal authority to "send back" election results that Trump disapproved of. That's not how our democracy works.

But this isn't just a story about Trump being confused about governmental details he ought to understand. The greater significance is that this months-long tantrum from the former president is likely to carry consequences for Pence for the indefinite future.

It was late last week, for example, when the former vice president appeared at a religious right gathering in Florida and faced hecklers who shouted calls of "traitor" as he began his remarks.

The right-wing outrage toward Pence was rooted in ridiculous lies -- ones that literally put the former vice president in harm's way on Jan. 6 -- but Trump appears determined to keep as many people confused as possible, for as long as possible.

As Pence eyes another national candidacy in 2024, this mind-numbing drama is unlikely to end anytime soon.