For the first time since a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters stormed Capitol Hill — with some calling for Mike Pence’s lynching — the two men finally spoke late yesterday in the Oval Office. Both Bloomberg and ABC News report that the White House and Pence’s office want to project an air of calm and normalcy over the next eight days. And that means a lot of disappointment for those hoping to see Trump get an early exit, one way or the other.
Let’s start with Bloomberg, which connects the dots explicitly:
Vice President Mike Pence signaled he’ll spurn demands to immediately oust Donald Trump over a deadly riot by the president’s supporters as the two met and agreed to work together for the remainder of the term, according to a senior administration official.
The discussion adds to indications that Trump has no plans to resign before Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
It was the first time Trump and Pence have spoken since the president’s supporters stormed the Capitol while Pence was presiding over formal affirmation of his re-election defeat, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The two men, meeting in the Oval Office, agreed that people who broke into the Capitol don’t represent Trump’s “America First” movement and pledged to continue their work on behalf of the country for the remainder of their term, the official said. It was a good conversation in which Trump and Pence discussed the week ahead and reflected on the last four years of the administration’s work, the official added.House Democrats are seeking to hold Trump accountable for the riot if Pence fails to act against the president. Lawmakers pushed forward on Monday with their plans to impeach Trump for a second time, introducing a resolution accusing Trump of “incitement of an insurrection”
House Democrats are currently voting on a resolution to demand that Pence invoke the 25th Amendment, which is not just a stunt but a particularly dangerous precedent. The 25th Amendment is for cases of clear physical or mental incapacity, not for unpopularity, stupidity, or malfeasance. Elections resolve the first two, and impeachment is the proper mechanism for the third. Encouraging Pence to set a precedent for removing a president via incapacity for nothing other than malfeasance would not just create all sorts of bad incentives within the executive, it would be the ultimate punt of Congress’ responsibilities to the executive — a problem which has already grown to Leviathan proportions, thanks to agency law.
ABC doesn’t explicitly draw the same conclusions, but it’s clear that neither man anticipates any changes between now and January 20. They hint that Trump had to get shamed into holding the meeting, however:
President Donald Trump’s first meeting with Vice President Mike Pence since before last week’s deadly siege of the Capitol lasted 90 minutes and was friendly in nature, according to White House officials briefed on the meeting.
The Oval Office conversation Monday evening marked the first time Trump had even spoken with Pence since he called him Wednesday morning, hours before the president’s supporters stormed the Capitol at his urging.
Trump met with Pence after his advisers and allies, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, had urged him to do so. One senior adviser called it “unconscionable” that Trump had yet to talk to Pence after the vice president’s life was threatened at the Capitol. …
The Monday meeting, though, the two focused on their administration’s accomplishments, the officials said. A senior administration official said they also discussed “the week ahead” — their final in office — and “pledged to continue to work on behalf of the country for the remainder of their term.”
So what to make of this? Pence probably just hopes to get to January 20 in one piece. He’ll attend Joe Biden’s inauguration as the highest-ranking official from the previous administration, Pence has already announced. Biden followed up with a gracious and enthusiastic personal invitation to Pence while disdaining Trump’s refusal to attend. Anything else — impeachment or a 25th Amendment challenge — would destabilize a chaotic situation any further.
One does have to wonder just what Pence might have told Trump about the upcoming week, however. Did he just exchange warm regards and share some Trump-era nostalgia for 90 minutes, as the PR accounts would have us believe? Or did he warn Trump that any further incitement or conspiracy-theory nonsense could set off a series of consequences that Trump would live to regret? I’d like to believe the latter, especially after the MAGA goons came after Pence and his family last Wednesday. And I’d believe that of Pence before I’d believe it of Kevin McCarthy.
We’ll find out soon enough. Trump will speak later today in Texas, which Karen Townsend will preview in a little bit. If Trump starts going off about stolen elections and calling for people to push back again, all bets are off.