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Trump Told Pence They Wouldn’t Be Friends Anymore If the V.P. Didn’t Overturn the Election, Because He’s a 5-Year-Old

In the days following the January 6 attack on the Capitol, a narrative emerged in which Donald Trump’s longtime footstool, Mike Pence, was hailed as something of a hero for refusing to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Despite relentless pressure from the then president to block Joe Biden’s electoral win, which entailed “alternately cajoling and browbeating” the V.P. and telling him, “You can either go down in history as a patriot, or you can go down in history as a pussy,” Pence officially certified the results following a short interlude in which Trump’s supporters threatened to kill him.

But as it turns out, Pence came much closer to overthrowing democracy on his boss’s behalf. According to Peril, a new book out next week by veteran reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Pence, in his own telling, did “everything” he could to try and stop the certification of a free and fair election. Per CNN:

Even though Pence stood up to Trump in the end, Peril reveals that after four years of abject loyalty, he struggled with the decision. Woodward and Costa write that Pence reached out to Dan Quayle, who had been the vice president to George H.W. Bush, seeking his advice.

Over and over, Pence asked if there was anything he could do. “Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away,” Quayle told him. Pence pressed again. “You don’t know the position I’m in,” he said, according to the authors. “I do know the position you’re in,” Quayle responded. “I also know what the law is. You listen to the parliamentarian. That’s all you do. You have no power.”

When it apparently became clear to Pence that he couldn’t, in fact, overturn the election results, he still reportedly went to great lengths to explain to Trump that he very much wanted to be a good little solider, saying, “I’ve done everything I could and then some to find a way around this.” That obsequiousness, sans action, was obviously not good enough for Trump, who had also tried to convince Pence by appealing to what he believed was everyone’s secret desire to be an authoritarian dictator. “If these people say you had the power, wouldn’t you want to?” Trump asked, apparently referring to the MAGA crowd assembled on Pennsylvania Avenue. “I wouldn’t want any one person to have that authority,” Pence responded. “But wouldn’t it be almost cool to have that power?” Trump asked, again betraying his admiration for autocrats.

It was after Pence remained firm, according to Woodward and Costa, that Trump resorted to schoolyard threats. “You don’t understand, Mike,” Trump said. “You can do this. I don’t want to be your friend anymore if you don’t do this.” The following day, on the morning of January 6, he reportedly called Pence and taunted, “If you don’t do it, I picked the wrong man four years ago,” adding, “You’re going to wimp out.” It was apparently some time after that that Trump tried the “pussy” line on Pence, which obviously didn’t have the effect he’d hoped.

The Washington Post reports that Peril also contains the news that General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was legitimately terrified that the president was crazy enough to start a war with China just for shits.

In a pair of secret phone calls, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army, that the United States would not strike…The first call was prompted by Milley’s review of intelligence suggesting the Chinese believed the United States was preparing to attack. That belief, the authors write, was based on tensions over military exercises in the South China Sea, and deepened by Trump’s belligerent rhetoric toward China.

“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley told him. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.” In the book’s account, Milley went so far as to pledge he would alert his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack, stressing the rapport they’d established through a backchannel. “General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”

In the second call, placed to address Chinese fears about the events of Jan. 6, Li wasn’t as easily assuaged, even after Milley promised him, “We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.” Li remained rattled, and Milley, who did not relay the conversation to Trump, according to the book, understood why. The chairman, 62 at the time and chosen by Trump in 2018, believed the president had suffered a mental decline after the election, the authors write, a view he communicated to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a phone call on Jan. 8. He agreed with her evaluation that Trump was unstable, according to a call transcript obtained by the authors.

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