Former Vice President Mike Pence recounts a conversation he had with Donald Trump in his memoir while in office.
Here are the highlights from an excerpt published in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday:
“Texas Congressman Louis Gohmert and other Republicans have asked a federal judge to declare that I have “exclusive power and sole discretion” to decide which electoral votes to take into account. filed a lawsuit seeking “I don’t want to see the headline ‘Pence Against Gohmert Lawsuit’ this morning,” the president said. I told him I objected. “If it gives you power,” he asked, “why are you against it?”
“If it gives you power, why are you against it?”
If there was just one quote for understanding Trump and how he sees the world, it would be a pretty good one.
For Trump, all that matters is power and how he uses it. He sees the world as a constant battle for power and control. The winners are those who seized power – at any cost. There is no “correct” answer to Trump’s worldview. There is only what you can do and who will try to stop you.
That’s exactly how Trump ran the presidency.
“When someone is president of the United States, authority is complete and that’s how it should be,” he said in April 2020 of efforts to lift restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Trump regularly treated government like his personal play. He became frustrated when the Justice Department refused to pursue his personal revenge.
In short, the presidency was a major power trip for someone who had spent his life gaining and holding just that kind of power.
This brings us back to the preparations by January 6, 2021 and the pressure Trump was putting on Pence.
The only question for Trump was whether anyone said Pence had the power to overrule the electoral college numbers. Not whether Pence actually had that power under a little thing called the Constitution.
From the book excerpt, witness Trump’s reaction to Pence’s claim that he had no power to disrupt the electoral votes.
“You are too honest,” Trump told Pence. “Hundreds of thousands of people will hate your guts. … People will think you are stupid.
In Trump’s view, those who do not seize power when the opportunity presents itself are not smart.
Of course, a peaceful transfer of power in a democracy is not the same as a power play in the business world. The stakes are infinitely higher.
Trump doesn’t seem to understand that fact.