Vice President Mike Pence, following in his boss’ footsteps, refused to commit to stepping down if he and President Donald Trump lose the election.
Instead, he dipped into a right-wing grab bag of conspiracy theories.
“But when you talk about accepting the outcome of the election, I must tell you, senator, your party has spent the last three and a half years trying to overturn the results of the last election. It’s amazing,” he said, after dodging the question about a transfer of power by expressing faith that his ticket will win the election.
“When Joe Biden was Vice President of the United States, the FBI actually spied on President Trump and my campaign,” he continued.
This is beating an old drum, and it’s not true. During the 2016 campaign, Trump aides had contacts with Russian operatives, and the FBI investigated those relationships. As even the Republican-led Senate Intel Committee found in their report, those contacts were a “grave” threat.
But Pence, and Trump, have long used the specious accusation as a stand-in for their greater deep state conspiracy theorizing about the Obama administration trying to undermine Trump’s candidacy.
Instead of promising he'd step down if he loses, Pence spouts conspiracy theories. pic.twitter.com/BUs06VZk1p
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) October 8, 2020
“And we’ve all seen the avalanche, what you put the country through for the better part of three years until it was found there was no obstruction, no collusion, case closed,” Pence continued, misrepresenting the findings of the Mueller report. In reality, former special counsel Robert Mueller explicitly did “not exonerate” Trump from obstruction of justice.
“And Senator Harris, you and your colleagues in the Congress tried to impeach the President of the United States over a phone call,” he concluded.
Obviously, Trump’s impeachment was about more than a phone call: It was about Trump trying to strongarm the Ukrainian President into manufacturing a Biden scandal in exchange for military aid and a White House visit. Which, okay fine, did happen over the phone.
Pence was aided in slipping away from this critical question by the moderator: USA Today’s Susan Page oddly asked this question to Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) first — what she’d do if Trump refuses to step down. It has the effect of both sides-ing a question that’s very premise is Pence refusing to respect American democracy.
For her part, Harris echoed Biden’s line from last week’s debate, urging people to vote.
“We have in our power in the next 27 days to make the decision about what will be the course of our country for the next four years,” she said. “And it is within our power and if we use our vote and our voice, we will win. And we will not let anyone subvert our democracy with what Donald Trump has been doing, as he did on the debate stage last week, when in front of 70 million people, he openly attempted to suppress the vote.”
Refusing to commit to a smooth transfer of power and splashing around in the fever swamps of conspiracy theories is old hat for the Trump administration at this point. But it’s notable that the weakness of our system in addressing that hostility has left the Biden/Harris campaign with one option: imploring people to vote in big enough numbers that the election is decided the night of, depriving Trump and Pence of the uncertainty they’d need to hijack the election.
And now we have them both on the record in a public forum — if they lose, that’s what they intend to do.