Trump warned Pence certifying election results would be a ‘career killer,’ witness testified

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CNN
 — 

On the morning of January 6, 2021, in a last-ditch bid to overturn his election loss, then-President Donald Trump told then-Vice President Mike Pence that his decision to uphold his constitutional duty and certify the results later that day would be “a political career killer,” according to a witness who overheard part of the call.

The witness, a White House valet who was with Trump during most of that fateful day, described the phone call to the now-defunct House committee that investigated the January 6 insurrection. He could only recall Trump’s side of the conversation, but he recounted a direct threat delivered by the outgoing president to his own vice president.

“Mike, this is a political career killer if you do this,” Trump said. “Do what’s right.”

The transcript of the valet’s testimony, first obtained by the New York Times, wasn’t made public by the January 6 committee before they dissolved in early 2023, but House Republicans released it Friday. The valet was not identified by name.

The call between Trump and Pence was their last contact before Trump delivered his incendiary speech at the Ellipse, where he told thousands of his most ardent supporters to march to the US Capitol and “fight like hell” to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 election, during a joint session that Pence would be presiding over.

The valet told lawmakers he didn’t hear what Trump was referring to when he told Pence that he shouldn’t “do this.” But the context makes clear that Trump was trying one last time to convince Pence to overturn the results by throwing out Democratic electors and seating Republican electors instead while presiding over the joint session.

Before that call, Pence and his top advisers had repeatedly told Trump there was no legal basis to meddle in the electoral vote tally and that it would violate the Constitution. In a letter to lawmakers on January 6, Pence said what Trump wanted him to do would be “entirely antithetical” to “our Constitution, our laws, and our history.”

“I do not believe that the Founders of our country intended to invest the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the Joint Session of Congress, and no Vice President in American history has ever asserted such authority,” Pence wrote to lawmakers in his letter disavowing Trump’s theories.

Trump’s threat to Pence proved true. Pence declared his candidacy for the 2024 GOP nomination in June but never gained traction with the Trump-loving Republican base. He dropped out in October and announced last week that he would not endorse Trump.

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