Donald Trump’s brutal decision to throw one of his most loyal supporters under the bus yesterday ended up plunging the United States into one of its darkest days.
Almost 24 hours before the Capitol was gripped by violent chaos, Vice President Mike Pence publicly slapped down Mr Trump’s demands to overturn the Electoral College results.
In a last-ditch effort to remain in the White House following his crushing election defeat in November, the outgoing President had pushed Mr Pence to intervene on his behalf by rejecting Congress’ certification of Democrat victor Joe Biden.
But Mr Pence, tasked with overseeing the process of the count, sensationally defied his boss in a public statement, vowing not to give in to the President’s demands.
“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Mr Pence wrote, clearly implying he would not follow orders,” Mr Pence wrote.
“During the 130 years since the Electoral Count Act was passed, Congress has, without exception, used these formal procedures to count the electoral votes every four years.
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“Given the controversy surrounding this year’s election, some approach this year’s quadrennial tradition with great expectation, and others with dismissive disdain.
“Some believe that as Vice President, I should be able to accept or reject electoral votes unilaterally. Others believe that electoral votes should never be challenged in a joint session of Congress.
“After a careful study of our Constitution, our laws and our history, I believe neither view is correct.”
Mr Trump’s response was immediate and furious, and in a stunning act of betrayal, he took to Twitter to publicly condemn his own Vice President and lay the blame for his defeat squarely at his feet.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!” he posted.
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At the same time, masses of the President’s most diehard fans were swarming on Washington DC for a so-called “Save America” march – at the encouragement of the President himself – and unsurprisingly, the irate crowd pounced on the Vice President, chanting “Come Out Pence” as they stormed the Capitol.
Mr Pence’s defiant stance – and the President’s decision to stab him in the back, make him into a target and stoke the fires of rebellion – ended up being the powder keg moment that ignited one of the most shameful days in American history.
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Protesters soon breached the Capitol building, clashing with police and leaving multiple people injured and one civilian woman dead after she was shot in the chest in the mayhem.
The electoral vote count was suspended as a result of the chaos, with members of Congress initially locked inside the Senate chamber.
Mr Pence was swiftly evacuated from the scene while other politicians and staffers were forced to take cover under their desks.
Explosives were discovered by authorities, and a last-minute 6pm curfew was rolled out in DC in a bid to quell the violence and escalating tensions.
The unprecedented protests have been likened to “civil war” and a “coup attempt”, with world leaders expressing their shock at the attack against democracy.
With 13 days remaining of Mr Trump’s presidency, there are fears more violence could erupt in the days ahead, prompting critics to declare Mr Trump unfit for office.
MIKE PENCE’S DEFIANT ACT
Once order was restored and the count resumed, Mr Pence allowed congressional Republicans to object to the electoral votes from certain states, a move allowed under the Electoral Count Act.
Of course, it did not succeed and Mr Biden’s victory was confirmed, but not before taking another swipe at his boss, the man who had just thrown him under the bus and put him in the path of danger.
“Our founders were deeply sceptical of concentrations of power, and created a republic based on the separation of powers and checks and balances. Vesting the vice president with unilateral authority to decide presidential contests would be entirely antithetical to that design,” Mr Pence said in his extraordinary statement.
“As a student of history who loves the Constitution and reveres its framers, 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.
“Indeed, vice presidents presiding over joint sessions have uniformly followed the Electoral Count Act, conducting the proceedings in an orderly manner even where the count resulted in the defeat of their party or their own candidacy.”
Mr Pence finished up by sticking by the oath he made to the American people back in 2016.
“Four years ago, surrounded by my family, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, which ended with the words, ‘So help me God.’ Today I want to assure the American people that I will keep the oath I made to them and I will keep the oath I made to Almighty God,” Mr Pence wrote.
“I will do my duty to see to it that we open the certificates of the electors of the several states, we hear objections raised by senators and representatives, and we count the votes of the electoral college in a manner consistent with our Constitution, laws and history.
“So help me God.”