Vice President Mike Pence has tentative plans to skip town after overseeing the reaffirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory by Congress in January, Politico reported early Thursday.
As vice president, Pence is expected to partake in a joint session of Congress in early January that formalizes Biden’s victory after the Electoral College officially elected him on Monday. But the typically routine American democratic tradition is likely to elicit the fury of some of President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters amid a barrage of ongoing falsehoods that the election was stolen from him.
Three U.S. officials familiar with the planning told Politico that the vice president was considering a weeklong trip overseas that departed on Jan. 6, the same day that he expected to appear at the joint congressional session.
News of the well-timed trip comes after a handful of House Republicans signaled a desire to object to the results, but would need a senator to sign on to do so.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) privately asked his caucus not to do that, saying it would be a “terrible vote” for the Senate to have to take, two sources familiar with the meeting told the Associated Press.
Politico said that a U.S. government document showed an itinerary for trips that included Bahrain, Israel and Poland, with the potential for even more stops to be added to that schedule. According to the publication, a team of Pence aides and other U.S. officials made departures earlier this week to prepare for Pence’s anticipated trip which would be his first journey abroad since visiting Rome and Jerusalem before the coronavirus pandemic gained footing in the United States last January.
The trip is part of an effort to reinforce a glossy image of the Trump administration brokering peace in the Middle East by helping to establish diplomatic agreements between Israel and some Arab countries in the region.
But the timing of the visit appears to be more calculated — helping Pence to establish distance from Trump amid his election loss just hours after Congress affirms Biden’s win.
“I suspect the timing is anything but coincidental,” one Pence ally told Politico of the vice president’s tentative travel plans.
A senior administration official rebuffed any suggestion that the trip was strategic, saying Pence’s travels haven’t been confirmed and that its timing was proposed for early January because it was his first availability after the holidays and his other obligations.