By Steve Holland and Heather Timmons
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Former Vice President Mike Pence, who confounded attempts by then-President Donald Trump to remain in power after losing the 2020 election, features prominently in the indictment charging Trump with orchestrating a plot to overturn the result.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Pence’s role was to take part in a ceremonial duty at the U.S. Capitol: Certify the presidential election results from November 2020 that showed Democrat Joe Biden defeated the Republican Trump.
Trump, working with six co-conspirators, pushed Pence to refuse to certify the results based on his accusations of voter fraud on multiple occasions, the indictment alleges.
But the vice president who had stood at Trump’s side for four stormy years refused.
In special counsel Jack Smith’s 45-page indictment of Trump handed down on Tuesday, Pence is a frequent participant in a narrative that includes detailed recollections of private calls and conversations and mentions Pence’s “contemporaneous notes.”
The indictment describes Trump pressuring Pence to overturn or otherwise tamper with 2020 election results on a number of occasions in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6, including on Christmas Day 2020.
“When the Vice President called the defendant to wish him a Merry Christmas, the defendant quickly turned the conversations to Jan. 6 and his request that the Vice President reject electoral votes that day,” the indictment says.
Pence told him, “You know I don’t think I have the authority to change the outcome,” it says.
Then, on New Year’s Day, Trump “called the Vice President and berated him” after learning Pence had opposed a lawsuit that sought to give the vice President the ability to reject or return votes to the states at the Jan. 6 certification, the indictment says.
Pence “responded that he thought there was no constitutional base for such authority and that it was improper,” the indictment reads. In response, it says, Trump told him “You’re too honest.”
Angry Trump supporters launched a violent uprising on Jan. 6, forcing an hours-long delay in the certification. But Pence and congressional leaders eventually went ahead with declaring Biden the winner.
Pence, a candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, said in a statement on Tuesday that the indictment against Trump “serves as an important reminder: anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be president of the United States.”
“The former president is entitled to the presumption of innocence but with this indictment, his candidacy means more talk about January 6th and more distractions,” he said.
Pence is one of few Republican candidates for 2024 who has criticized Trump’s actions leading up to the Jan. 6 attack, a stand that has not endeared him to the party’s base.
He was polling at 5% and trailing Trump by 44 percentage points, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll in May.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Heather Timmons and Michael Perry)