In a memo not made public until now, then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows emailed to Vice President Mike Pence’s top aide, on New Year’s Eve, a detailed plan for undoing President Joe Biden’s election victory, ABC News’ Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl reports.
The memo, written by former President Donald Trump’s campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis, is reported for the first time in Karl’s upcoming book, “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show” — demonstrating how Pence was under even more pressure than previously known to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Ellis, in the memo, outlined a multi-step strategy: On Jan. 6, the day Congress was to certify the 2020 election results, Pence was to send back the electoral votes from six battleground states that Trump falsely claimed he had won.
The memo said that Pence would give the states a deadline of “7pm eastern standard time on January 15th” to send back a new set of votes, according to Karl.
Then, Ellis wrote, if any state legislature missed that deadline, “no electoral votes can be opened and counted from that state.”
Such a scenario would leave neither Biden nor Trump with a majority of votes, Ellis wrote, which would mean “Congress shall vote by state delegation” — which, Ellis said, would in turn lead to Trump being declared the winner due to Republicans controlling the majority of state delegations with 26.
The day after Meadows sent Ellis’ memo to Pence’s aide, on Jan. 1, Trump aide John McEntee sent another memo to Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, titled, “Jefferson used his position as VP to win.”
Although McEntee’s memo was historically incorrect, Karl says, his message was clear: Jefferson took advantage of his position, and Pence must do the same.
What followed during that first week of January was an effort by Trump, both personally and publicly, to push his vice president to take away Biden’s victory.
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“I hope Mike Pence comes through for us,” Trump said at a roaring Georgia rally on Jan. 4, a day before Republicans would also lose their Senate majority. “I have to tell you I hope that our great vice president comes through for us. He’s a great guy. Of course, if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him quite as much.”
At a March 18 sit-down interview with Trump for the upcoming book, Karl asked the former president about a report from The New York Times that on the morning of Jan. 6, Trump pressured Pence with a crude phone call, reportedly telling his vice president, “You can be a patriot or you can be a p****.”
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“I wouldn’t dispute it,” Trump said to Karl.
“Really?” Karl responded.
“I wouldn’t dispute it,” Trump repeated.
Later on the morning of Jan. 6, as Trump took the stage for his rally at the Ellipse prior to the Capitol attack, he publicly called on Pence to take action.
“If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election,” Trump told the roaring crowd. “Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us, and if he doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country.”
Hours later, after rioters had attacked the Capitol and the building was being evacuated, rioters were heard shouting “Hang Mike Pence” as they left the complex. But Trump told Karl that he never contacted his vice president to check on his safety.
“No, I thought he was well-protected, and I had heard that he was in good shape,” Trump told Karl. “No, because I had heard he was in very good shape.”
Pressed about the chants, Trump told Karl that Pence made a mistake in certifying the vote.
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“He could have — well, the people were very angry,” Trump said. “If you know a vote is fraudulent, right, how can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress? How can you do that?” Trump said.
Asked by Karl if, had Pence done as Trump wanted, Trump would still be in the White House, Trump replied, “I think we would have won — yeah.”
Trump also couldn’t say if he would ever forgive Pence for certifying the election — a rare act of dissent from an otherwise loyal vice president.
“I don’t know,” Trump said. “Because I picked him. I like him, I still like him, but I don’t know that I can forgive him.”
And asked by Karl if Pence was on his shortlist for vice president should Trump run again in 2024, Trump wouldn’t say.
“He did the wrong thing,” Trump said of Pence. “A very nice man. I like him a lot. I like his family so much. But … it was a tragic mistake.”