Donald Trump has torn into the January 6 Committee testimony on Truth Social, his personal social media platform. Trump proclaimed that he did not order former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election — in direct contradiction of the evidence presented by multiple witnesses.
“Such LIES & MISREPRESENTATION by the Unselects,” Trump wrote, childishly referring to the Select Committee as the Unselects, “and absolutely nobody allowed to challenge what is being said. As an example, I never asked V.P. Pence to ‘overturn’ the election (although Thomas Jefferson ‘took’ the Georgia votes), but that he send the votes back to the Legislatures so that they could determine if the irregularities and Fraud were as widespread and significant as they seemed.”
In other words, Trump is suggesting that he wasn’t trying to overturn the election but merely trying to encourage Pence to procedurally uncover irregularities or possible fraud. But what is this stuff he’s saying about Thomas Jefferson?
Back in the election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson, then Vice President, presided over electoral-vote counts for the presidential election in which he himself was running. That sometimes still happens. For example, Nixon presided over such a count in 1961 in which he was the loser and JFK the winner.
This meant that John Adams in 1796 (when he was Washington’s Vice President and he was running against Jefferson) and Thomas Jefferson in 1800 (when he was Adams’s Vice President and was running against Adams) were in a position to preside over their own election results, putting them in a situation where they might have been tempted to elect themselves to the presidency by manipulating the vote count.
I don’t fully understand the complicated machinations of the electoral count of 1800. Which probably means that Trump doesn’t understand it fully either. But to put it simply, something was irregular about the Georgia ballot back then, which elected Jefferson as president and Aaron Burr as vice president. In other words, it was in Jefferson’s best interest to accept the ballot. And so he did.
What Trump is supposedly suggesting is that Jefferson didn’t do the right thing by returning the votes to the state legislators and instead reached out with both hands and grabbed those “funny” Georgia votes for himself. This is all well and good in theory, but Trump is going to have a hard time squaring that justification with why he rang up the Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, just four days prior to the January 6th insurrection, telling him “I just want to find 11,780 votes” to surpass Biden’s total.
In any case, unlike the election of 1800, there was nothing wrong or funny or suspicious about the electoral votes for the election of 2020. Pence was helpless to do anything at all except preside over the count. And that’s what he did. In Trump’s worldview, Pence committed the ultimate sin by not challenging the outcome of the count.
Needless to say Trump’s attack on the Committee is a tactical legal blunder. If Trump is ever charged with sedition, it will look like a deliberate attempt on his part to cover his tracks. It is hardly surprising that once again Trump’s biggest enemy is his own stupid mouth. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.