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‘Confused’ Trump wants to know why Pence can’t overturn election results

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a "Save the Majority" rally on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

(CNN) — Hours before President Donald Trump retweeted a message for his vice president to “act” in stopping the ratification of the Electoral College, he met for more than an hour in the Oval Office with Mike Pence, whom he has complained recently isn’t doing enough to support his bid to overturn the election.

The discussion was “entirely unrelated” to the eventual tweet, one person familiar with the matter said, though would not specify whether the issue of the Jan. 6 ratification in Congress arose. The two men went separate ways for the holiday.

As Trump enters the holiday stretch as fixated as ever on overturning the results of the election, the Electoral College certification is becoming a focal point for his efforts.

On Wednesday evening, as he was flying to Florida for his vacation, Trump retweeted a call from one of his supporters for Pence to refuse to ratify the Electoral College results on Jan. 6 — a prospect that has captured his imagination even if it remains completely impossible.

Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was with Trump aboard Air Force One before the President sent out the tweet. Giuliani is joining Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate for the holidays, where the men are expected to discuss their election efforts.

Trump has told people recently that Pence isn’t doing enough to fight for him as his presidency ends, and has recently taken an interest in Pence’s traditional role during the certification. As President of the Senate, Pence presides over the proceedings.

Sources say Trump in recent days has brought the matter up to the vice president and has been “confused” as to why Pence can’t overturn the results of the election on Jan. 6.

Pence and White House aides have tried to explain to him that his role is more of a formality and he cannot unilaterally reject the Electoral College votes.

Traditionally, the vice president presides over the electoral vote certification, though it’s not a requirement. In 1969, then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey didn’t preside over the process since he had just lost the presidential election to Richard Nixon. The president pro tempore of the Senate presided instead.

One source close to Pence said it is not seen as a good option for Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley — the current president pro tempore — to be there instead of Pence on Jan. 6.

On Tuesday, Pence spoke to a group of young conservatives in Florida but did not directly address his coming role. Instead he told the crowd that as the White House continues to contest the election, they will “keep fighting until every legal vote is counted” and “every illegal vote is thrown out.”

“Stay in the fight for election integrity. Stay in the fight to defend all we’ve done,” he said.

Earlier this week, Pence joined a meeting between Trump and a sizable group of House conservatives where the long-shot effort to overturn the election results in January was discussed.

The discussion focused on Trump’s baseless claims and conspiracies that the election was stolen from him, participants said, and lawmakers emerged confident that there were would be a contingent of House and Senate Republicans who would join the effort and prompt a marathon debate on the floor on January 6 that would spill into January 7.

The Republican who is spearheading the effort, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, said Pence attended “different parts” of the meeting.

“I believe we have multiple senators, and the question is not if, but how many,” Brooks said, something that would defy the wishes of Senate Republican leaders who are eager to move on and are urging senators not to participate since doing so could force them to cast a politically toxic vote against Trump.

Brooks told CNN on Monday night that they would seek to challenge the election in at least six battleground states, saying he needs to coordinate “as many as 72” five-minute speeches that GOP lawmakers would make that day.

“That’s a significant task,” he said.

The effort is doomed to fail but would create a spectacle that Senate GOP leaders want to avoid. And if a House member and a senator object to six states’ results, it would lead to at least 12 hours of debate, in addition to the time for casting votes on each of the motions, potentially prolonging the fight until the next day.