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Pence’s chief of staff says former VP rebuked Trump because it ‘merited a response’

<i>Drew Angerer/Getty Images</i><br/>Marc Short
Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Marc Short

By Annie Grayer, CNN

Marc Short, the former chief of staff for Mike Pence, said Sunday that the former vice president chose to rebuke former President Donald Trump in remarks last week because Trump’s comments about Pence’s ability to overturn the 2020 presidential election “merited response.”

Pence called out his former boss by name Friday, saying that “President Trump is wrong” in claiming that the then-vice president had the right to overturn the election on January 6, 2021.

“I think that, as you mentioned, the vice president has commented on January 6 on several occasions, including last summer at the Ronald Reagan Library,” Short said on NBC’s Meet the Press.” “And he extended those remarks a little bit this week at the Federalist Society primarily because the President’s comments about the vice president had the ability to overturn the election, I think merited response.”

Short also said he does not believe the riot on January 6 at the US Capitol can be described as “legitimate political discourse,” rebuking how the Republican National Committee recently framed that day in a statement.

“From my front row seat, I did not see a lot of legitimate political discourse,” Short said Sunday.

“In talking to some members of the RNC, I think that there is concern that there are people who were there peacefully protesting, who’ve been pulled into this, what I think is more become a prosecution by the January 6 committee and feel like they’re being unfairly treated.”

The House select committee investigating the January 6 attack does not have the ability to prosecute anyone; at most it can make a criminal referral to the Department of Justice.

Efforts to pressure Pence leading up to January 6

Although Short said that Pence had concerns about the election, he said Pence never wavered in that his role on January 6 was solely to certify the election.

“There’s nothing in the 12th amendment or the Electoral Count Act that would afford a vice president that authority,” Short said, outlining how Pence viewed his role in the process.

Short, however, said Pence ‘has significant concerns about the election,” but affirmed that the process for making challenges or changes to election results concluded with the Electoral College meeting on December 14.

Short specifically highlighted issues about the legitimacy of mail-in voting, despite there being no evidence of fraud. “The reality is that there was not enough significant fraud that was presented that would have overturned any of those states’ elections,” he said.

As for the result, Short stated, “I believe that Joe Biden is the duly elected president of the United States, yes.”

In the lead up to January 6, Short said that Pence never looked into delaying the certification, despite the massive pressure campaign from Trump and his allies. Short relayed that while at first the strategy from Trump and his advisers was to reject ballots, when Pence made clear that was not something he would do, the strategy shifted to asking whether Pence would send back votes to states.

Short also acknowledged that there were conversations about alternate slates of electors, which was a scheme to put forward illegitimate electors from certain states that Trump lost to subvert the Electoral College, but that that the plan didn’t carry much weight.

“There were discussions about alternate slates,” Short said. “Unless they’re certified by the state they’re candidly meaningless and so didn’t put much weight into that.”

Short put the onus on Trump’s advisers, and not the former President directly, for these schemes by saying, “I think unfortunately, the President had many bad advisers who were basically snake oil salesman giving him really random and novel ideas as to what the vice president could do.”

As the violence was unfolding, Short said that it took the Secret Service three tries before they were able to convince Pence to relocate to a secure location, and that there even was an attempt to put Pence in a motorcade, but that he wanted to stay and finish the certification process. Short said that Trump and Pence did not talk on January 6, but that Short spoke with Trump’s then-chief of staff Mark Meadows.

“There was a sense of tragic day, sense of loss, but also a sense of that pride and what we’d accomplished for four years and feeling that this was going to be an unfortunate taint on that record,” Short said of what he witnessed on January 6.

January 6 committee

Although Short has testified in front of the House select committee, he said he believes it would be an unprecedented step for the panel to subpoena Pence.

“I think that would be a pretty unprecedented step for the committee to take. It would be, I think, very difficult for me to see that scenario unfolding,” Short said. “I think it’s very different to subpoena a former vice president to talk about private conversations with the President of the United States. It’s never happened before.”

Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who’s a member of the committee, told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Sunday, “We may find out everything we need to know from other sources,” but left open the possibility of a subpoena for Pence.

“The issue for the committee is getting all the facts, and we’ve said from the beginning, we will seek testimony from anyone if we need it. The question is: Do we need his testimony? We have received substantial testimony that may make that unnecessary, but we’re sorting through it,” Lofgren said.

Short said he was compelled to cooperate with the panel because of his subpoena and that he did so because he wanted to follow the law. CNN has previously reported that Short and another top Pence aide, Greg Jacob, declined to talk about their direct conversations with Trump in their recent respective interviews with the committee, but that they answered other questions.

Short said he was concerned that the panel is too partisan but is hopeful that it is able to produce a legitimate product.

“I am hopeful that the committee does end up providing an impartial review. But I think there’s good reason to be skeptical that they will, because truly it has taken on a more partisan committee,” Short said.

This story has been updated to include comments from Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren.

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CNN’s Sarah Fortinsky contributed to this report.

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