A month ago, we were told this:
... the vice president and his team [want] to distance Pence from some of the president’s more outlandish claims about a conspiracy to undermine the election and illegally deny him a second term in office.
“It is an open secret [in Trumpworld] that Vice President Pence absolutely does not feel the same way about the legal effort as President Trump does,” said a senior administration official. “The vice president doesn’t want to go down with this ship... and believes much of the legal work has been unhelpful.”
That story was read as a sign that Pence didn't want anything whatsoever to do with Trump's efforts to overturn the election. But whatever Pence was thinking then, he's fully on board now:
Vice President Mike Pence signaled support on Saturday for a futile Republican bid to overturn the election in Congress next week, after 11 Republican senators and senators-elect said that they would vote to reject President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory when the House and Senate meet to formally certify it....
...on Saturday evening, Marc Short, [Pence's] chief of staff, issued a statement saying that Mr. Pence “shares the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud and irregularities in the last election.”
The vice president, the statement continued, “welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on Jan. 6th.”
We know this effort is doomed to defeat in both the House (which is Democratic) and the Senate (where a handful of Republicans are likely to join with Democrats to defeat it). So what happens after it fails? I predicted a few weeks ago that Pence would ackowledge Biden's win, but proclaim that the fight was ongoing:
I think Pence will read the numbers, confirm that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have won the votes of 306 electors, but dispense with the traditional language and make a speech saying that this is not over. He'll thread the needle, saying Biden and Harris have won, pending further legal appeals.
That might happen -- but I've started to believe that even an equivocal statement will make him a permanent pariah among Republican voters. So I think he just might declare that the votes aren't really there, or don't count. He might refuse to participate in the ratification of Biden's win in some other way. I think he and the vast majority of congressional Republicans -- whose ranks include quite a few very ambitious politicians -- need this ceremony to end in a declaration that Biden and Harris haven't won.
And if you think this is all playacting, as many people do, then they're doing it because they assume the courts will overrule them. I think they're going to make the courts announce that Biden won (yes, again) so none of them have to be part of a ceremony in which he's declared the winner.
We already know that Trump intends to fight past January 6:
Two people familiar with the matter say that in recent days, Trump has told advisers and close associates that he wants to keep fighting in court past Jan. 6 if members of Congress, as expected, end up certifying the electoral college results.
“The way he sees it is: Why should I ever let this go?… How would that benefit me?” said one of the sources, who’s spoken to Trump at length about the post-election activities to nullify his Democratic opponent’s decisive victory.
And now we have this:
... White House trade adviser Peter Navarro falsely insisted Saturday night that Vice President Mike Pence can arbitrarily postpone Inauguration Day....
Navarro in an interview on Fox News’ “Justice With Judge Jeanine” called for yet another investigation into the presidential election to probe baseless allegations of fraud, and appeared to refer to a demand Saturday for a 10-day audit of election returns by 11 GOP senators....
Pirro claimed that the “10-day window” can change the date for certification of electoral votes that’s supposed to happen Wednesday. But, she added: “January 20 cannot be changed; that’s constitutional.”
“It can be changed, actually,” Navarro insisted. “We can go past that date. We can go past that date, if we need to. And we have got to get this right … We need to take [the election] back for the people.”
Pirro piped up: “Oh! OK.”
Peter Navarro says Pence has the authority to give them a ten day window and also says the inauguration date can be rescheduled pic.twitter.com/ZU22bp622d
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) January 3, 2021
Section 1 of the Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is unambiguous: "The terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January." However, Section 3 of the amendment says (emphasis added):
If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.
That amendment was ratified in 1933. In 1947, the Presidential Succession Act was enacted, designating the Speaker of the House as the president in the event that no one is deemed to "have qualified" to be president or vice president.
But despite the certification of the popular vote in enough states to give Joe Biden 306 electoral votes and the actual casting of those electoral votes on December 14 and the transmission of those votes to Washington as required by law and the inevitable congressional ratification of those votes this week, I wouldn't put it past Trump and the Republicans to declare that we don't have a legally qualified president-elect or vice president-elect, because ... reasons, and to sue again (and again and again) in the futile hope of getting a court to accept their non-case based on non-evidence. Furthermore, I wouldn't put it past them to declare that the Presidential Succession Act is unconstitutional (I can image Louie Gohmert's staff working on legal briefs to that effect even as I type this), or to say that Congress, if it had the will to do the right thing, could simply declare that Trump and Pence should remain in office for a second term, as the "qualified" president and vice president.
None of this will work, as long as the courts hold firm. But Trump needs to do something to postpone for as long as possible the moment when he has to accept the unbearable shame of being a loser. And Pence and congressional Republicans will continue to benefit as long as they can keep this up -- they'll retain the support of Trump-worshippers (i.e., the majority of the GOP electorate) and they'll lay the groundwork for further erosion of Democrats' voting rights in the future.
But because Trump and his fellow Republicans can never allow themselves to be defeated -- the base will feel betrayed -- they'll have to keep dragging this out. Eventually I think this will take the form of vague promises that a future case will -- for real this time, they swear! -- elect Biden and Harris from office. In the meantime, though, they simply can't accept Biden's win.
So I don't believe Trump will leave the White House voluntarily on January 20 -- and I strongly doubt that the Secret Service or the military or the Capitol Police will make him vacate the premises by force. I can also imagine Trump demanding that the D.C. government rescind permits for Biden's inaugural. (That won't happen.) I can imagine him staging his own inaugural in the Oval Office. (Maybe Rudy Giuliani or Judge Jeanine will swear him in.) But mostly I can imagine him sitting behind the Resolute desk with a pouty look and his arms crossed, daring someone to drag him away. And I fear that no one will want to give the order to do that, or be involved in carrying it out. And Pence and congressional Republicans will back him up.
Republished with permission of No More Mister Nice Blog.