MADISON – As former President Donald Trump in the weeks following his re-election loss mounted a pressure campaign on his vice president to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, former House Speaker Paul Ryan called then-Vice President Mike Pence to remind him he did not have the power to grant Trump’s wishes.
Ryan called Pence and his chief of staff Marc Short to make the case that Pence did not have the authority to overturn the election results he was scheduled to certify on Jan. 6, 2021, Short said in closed-door testimony that was presented during a Thursday hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee examining the events leading up to the U.S. Capitol insurrection.
“Ryan wanted to call and say you know, you don’t have any greater authority and I said, ‘Mr. Speaker, you know, Mike. You know, he doesn’t … you know he recognizes that.’ And we sort of laughed about it and he said, ‘I get it.’ And he later spoke to the Vice President to, I think, have the same conversation,” Short said.
As Pence prepared to publicly disavow Trump, he consulted with Ryan and former Vice President Dan Quayle, both of whom said Pence did not have the authority to change the outcome of the election.
“I think he was proud to have stood beside the president for all that has been done,” Short said in his deposition for the committee. “But I think he ultimately knew that his fidelity to the Constitution was his first and foremost oath.”
Short’s testimony presents one of the only glimpses into the reaction of Ryan to Trump’s effort to subvert his election loss. Ryan, a Janesville native who represented the First Congressional District for 20 years, largely stayed quiet in the aftermath of the Capitol attack but attended the inauguration of Biden in the weeks after.
Earlier this month, Ryan made a rare campaign endorsement for U.S. Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina, who voted to impeach Trump, and in his endorsement, Ryan said a lot of Republicans wanted to impeach Trump after Jan. 6 but ‘just didn’t have the guts to do it.” Rice lost his primary race this week.
“If the conservative cause depends on the populist appeal of one personality, or of second-rate imitations, then we’re not going anywhere,” Ryan said in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. “Voters looking for Republican leaders want to see independence and mettle. They will not be impressed by the sight of yes-men and flatterers flocking to Mar-a-Lago.”
In response, Trump called Ryan “a curse” on the party.
Short’s testimony was presented in the third day of hearings laying out evidence gathered by the committee’s investigation. It has focused on the efforts to persuade Pence to overturn the election by Trump and conservative attorney John Eastman.
Eastman is a key figure in a movement among some Wisconsin Republicans to continue to push for the decertification of the 2020 presidential election, a move that is legally impossible. He met with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in April to try to persuade the Rochester Republican to move forward with a resolution that would pull back Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes.
Legal experts and constitutional attorneys have called this idea a fantasy but it has been promoted by a Republican candidate for governor and the former Supreme Court justice leading a taxpayer-funded review of the 2020 election for Vos.