Mike Pence became public enemy No. 1 to supporters of then-President Trump when he certified the 2020 election results on Jan. 6, 2021. But a report from ABC News suggests the former vice president came close to skipping the proceedings altogether. Days before the certification, Pence wrote in his personal notes that he had decided not to attend the certification because there were "too many questions" and it would be "too hurtful to my friend," per ABC. (Mediaite credits the scoop to ABC's Jonathan Karl, author of the new book Tired of Winning.) However, Pence changed his mind, deciding he had a duty to show up.
Pence's notes were obtained by special counsel Jack Smith's team, who also questioned Pence about a comma in his memoir, So Help Me God. In the book, Pence wrote that he spoke with Trump on Christmas Day of 2020 and told him, "You know, I don't think I have the authority to change the outcome" of the election. But Pence told Smith's team that the comma should not have been there. He said it should have read, "You know I don't think I have the authority to change the outcome." The subtle difference suggests "Trump was well aware of the limitations of Pence's authority days before Jan. 6," per ABC, which adds that the latter interpretation could strengthen Smith's case.
"Commas matter," says CNN legal analyst Elie Honig. "It may seem trivial but it makes a big difference in the meaning of the sentence." In regard to Pence's decision to ultimately attend the Jan. 6 certification process, he reportedly told Smith's team that his Marine son played a role, per Insider. While on vacation in Colorado, Lt. Michael J. Pence told his father, "You took the same oath I took" to uphold the Constitution, the elder Pence told investigators, according to ABC. That was the moment he changed his mind about attending, he said. (More Mike Pence stories.)