Mike Pence says Lincoln Project ad annoyed Trump so much it fuelled his bid to overturn election result

Mike Pence and Donald Trump in November 2020 – before they lost the election and their relationship soured (AP)
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Former vice president Mike Pence has claimed that former president Donald Trump’s push to overturn the 2020 election and keep himself in office against the wishes of US voters was sparked by an anti-Trump super PAC advertisement highlighting the vice president’s role in certifying presidential elections.

In an excerpt from his forthcoming book published as a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Mr Pence claimed a television ad from the Lincoln Project was “the first time anyone implied” that he could singlehandedly change the result of the 2020 election by presiding over the counting of electoral votes on January 6, 2021.

He wrote that the “irresponsible” advertisement, which said Mr Pence’s participation in the quadrennial joint session of Congress “would prove that [he] knew ‘it’s over,’ and that by doing [his] constitutional duty, [he] would be ‘putting the final nail in the coffin’ of the president’s re-election”.

The advertisement in question was released by the anti-Trump group on 8 December 2020 and was placed on stations in the Washington, DC and Palm Beach, Florida media markets. At the time, members of the Lincoln Project openly stated that the point of the campaign was to target Mr Trump’s television viewing habits.

The 30-second spot featured a voiceover addressing the then-president directly: “The end is coming, Donald. Even Mike Pence knows.”

It told Mr Trump that Mr Pence was “backing away” from his “train wreck” of lawsuits meant to overturn the election in court, and closed with another warning.

"Oh, there's one last thing Donald. On January 6, Mike Pence will put the nail in your political coffin when he presides over the Senate vote to prove Joe Biden won. It's over. And Mike Pence knows it," the narrator said.

Mr Pence wrote that the spot had been “designed to annoy the president”.

“It worked,” he said. “During a December cabinet meeting, President Trump told me the ad ‘looked bad for you.’ I replied that it wasn’t true: I had fully supported the legal challenges to the election and would continue to do so,” he wrote.

While Mr Pence attributed Mr Trump’s zeal for reversing the 2020 election results — and the riot that ensued as a result — to the Lincoln Project ad, the timeline he posits doesn’t match up with events.

The 8 December advertisement aired long after Mr Trump’s allies began pushing the then-president to support challenges to the election.

An 18 November email between two Trump campaign lawyers first suggested that Mr Pence could unilaterally reject electoral votes from disputed swing states.

Former GOP strategist Rick Wilson, one of the Lincoln Project’s founders, addressed the ex-vice president’s claims in a tweet on Wednesday.

“Pretty normal day, just Mike Pence blaming @ProjectLincoln for causing January 6th,” he wrote.

He later added: “Cannot get over Mike Pence blaming the Lincoln Project for Jan 6”.