Recently published audio of a conversation between former President Donald Trump and ABC News journalist Jonathan Karl reveals that Trump was unconcerned about his loyalists’ calls to hang former Vice President Mike Pence on the day of the U.S Capitol breach.
The conversation between Karl and Trump, which took place in March of 2021, is detailed in Karl’s new book about the final days of the former president’s tenure, Betrayal: the Final Act of the Trump Show. An audio of the conversation was published on Axios Monday morning.
In the interview, Karl asked Trump whether he was concerned about Pence when it became apparent that Trump loyalists were violently overrunning the Capitol. Trump said that he wasn’t worried because Pence was “well-protected” and in “good shape.”
Karl then mentioned the chants against Pence, calling them “terrible.” Trump, in his reply to Karl, sympathized with his loyalists’ feelings, saying that “the people were very angry.”
Karl reiterated what the people were chanting, noting that they had said to “hang Mike Pence.”
“Because it’s common sense, Jon,” Trump responded, saying that Pence was “supposed to protect” the election from being won by Biden.
“How can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress? How can you do that?” he added.
As vice president at the time, Pence had the constitutional duty to oversee the certification of the Electoral College on January 6. However, Trump and his loyalists had been pushing Pence to illegally interfere in that process by refusing to count electors’ votes — a power the vice president isn’t even granted.
“The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors,” Trump wrongly asserted on Twitter during the week of the certification.
Of course, there has never been any evidence suggesting that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent. In the months after the election, the former president and his allies lost dozens of lawsuits when judges found that their allegations had no merit; some of these judges included Trump appointees.
Despite having no evidence to support his claims, Trump continued to blather on about election fraud in the interview, telling Karl that he had spoken with constitutional scholars who told him that Pence had the authority to overturn the outcome.
At the time, a plethora of reporters and fact-checkers had published articles indicating that Trump’s assertion was incorrect. Many of these articles included the opinions of constitutional scholars who disagreed with Trump’s claims.
The 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “the President of the Senate” — who is the vice president — “shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.” No other powers are granted to the vice president during the counting process.
The recently published interview is only the latest indication that Trump was concerned with “winning” the election at all costs — even if it was through inappropriate, illegitimate and disturbing means.
On the day of the attack, Trump told a crowd of his loyalists, gathered just outside the White House, to air their grievances in person at the Capitol building, saying that they’d “never take back our country with weakness.” At the same rally, Trump told his followers that they could win the election if Pence did “the right thing” — by this, he meant if Pence ignored the will of the American electorate.
Trump’s disregard for his former vice president’s life was also apparent on the day of the attack. As his loyalists were breaking into the Capitol building and threatening Pence’s life, Trump tweeted that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage” to interfere in the Electoral College’s certification process.