Former President Donald Trump told Mike Pence that he was "too honest" when he balked at the idea he could unilaterally sway the outcome of the 2020 election as Trump mounted an intense pressure campaign to bend Pence to his will, the former vice president writes in his upcoming memoir.
In "So Help Me God," to be published Tuesday, Pence offers not only his first extensive comments about his experiences with Trump after the election and during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters, but also his first lengthy reflections on the 2016 campaign and the four years that followed.
Pence describes in detail Trump's efforts to pressure him into blocking congressional certification of Joe Biden's victory through the ceremonial role he would play on Jan. 6. Trump became preoccupied with the idea that Pence could do something, although Pence's chief lawyer had concluded that there was no legal authority for him to act on Trump's behalf.
He writes that questions about whether there had been election fraud were swirling around Trump's advisers early on. "Jared Kushner called me that day for advice," he writes about the Saturday after the election. "He asked if I thought that fraud had taken place in the election." Pence writes that he replied that there was likely some fraud in the election but he doubted it was why they lost.
Trump, Pence writes, tried various means of pressuring him, including mentioning that Pence was trending on Twitter in connection with speculation about what he would do. "If you want to be popular," Trump said, suggesting that he should not take part in the certification at all, "don't do it."
By the first days of 2021, when Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, sued to try to force Pence to declare the winner of the election, Trump was upset that his vice president opposed the suit.
"You're too honest," Trump said, according to Pence, who recounts Trump telling him that "hundreds of thousands are gonna hate your guts" and "people are gonna think you're stupid."
Pence describes in the book how Trump worked with lawyer John Eastman to press him into doing something that the vice president was clear that he could not and would not do. He writes that on the morning of Jan. 6, Trump twisted the knife again in a phone call.
"You'll go down as a wimp," the president told the vice president. "If you do that, I made a big mistake five years ago!"
The vice president also shares dramatic details about escaping the rioters who had entered the Capitol while he was presiding over the certification that day. He confirms that he refused to leave the building when his lead Secret Service agent, Tim Giebels, pushed for him to do so as protesters swarmed the building, some chanting, "Hang Mike Pence."
"I told my detail that I wasn't leaving my post," Pence writes. "Mr. Giebels pleaded for us to leave. The rioters had reached our floor. I pointed my finger at his chest and said: 'You're not hearing me, Tim, I'm not leaving! I'm not giving those people the sight of a 16-car motorcade speeding away from the Capitol.'"
Pence also confirms that Trump never reached out to him to check on his safety. But when Kushner and Ivanka Trump asked Pence to meet with the president five days after the riot, he agreed.
"He looked tired, and his voice seemed more faint than usual," Pence writes of Trump.
"'How are you?' he began. 'How are Karen and Charlotte?'"
Pence writes that he "replied tersely that we were fine" and told him that his wife and daughter had been at the Capitol on Jan. 6. "He responded with a hint of regret," Pence recounts. "'I just learned that.' He then asked, 'Were you scared?'"
Pence replied that he was angry.
"You and I had our differences that day, Mr. President, and seeing those people tearing up the Capitol infuriated me." Trump began to protest that "people were angry, but his voice trailed off," Pence writes, adding that he told Trump that he needed to let it go. "Yeah," Trump replied quietly.
As they talked, Pence writes, Trump said "with genuine sadness in his voice": "What if we hadn't had the rally? What if they hadn't gone to the Capitol?" He added, "It's too terrible to end like this."
Pence offers up views about key moments in the administration, such as relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, as well as the controversy over Trump's remarks regarding the march of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
He defended Trump, insisting that he thought the criticisms had been unfair. "Donald Trump is not antisemitic," Pence insists. "He's not a racist or a bigot. I would not have been his vice president if he was."
He also writes admiringly about Kushner and John Kelly, the second White House chief of staff, who he said brought a sense of order to the West Wing. However, he had much harsher words for Mark Meadows, the final chief of staff to Trump, who has been a focus of some of the investigations into what led to the Capitol riot.
"In the waning days of the administration, one of his successors, Mark Meadows, a congressman from North Carolina, would fling the doors to the Oval Office wide open, allowing people in who should not even have set foot on the White House grounds, let alone have access to Trump," Pence writes.