Mr. Trump was enraged that Mr. Pence was refusing to try to overturn the election. In a series of meetings, the president had pressed relentlessly, alternately cajoling and browbeating him. Finally, just before Mr. Pence headed to the Capitol to oversee the electoral vote count last Wednesday, Mr. Trump called the vice president’s residence to push one last time.

“You can either go down in history as a patriot,” Mr. Trump told him, according to two people briefed on the conversation, “or you can go down in history as a pussy.”…

Not angering Mr. Trump “was a key objective of his,” observed David J. Shulkin, the former secretary of veterans affairs. “He tried very hard to straddle a very tough line.” But that meant Mr. Pence’s own views were often opaque.

“Were the policies and the statements being put out, were they ones that he completely agreed with?” Dr. Shulkin asked. “Or was it his strategy that it is better to be in the room, it is better to be a trusted party to help moderate some of those strategies and the way to do that is not to publicly disagree? I think that was a really hard one to figure out, exactly where he stood.”