Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty; Pablo Martinez Monsivais - Pool/Getty Mike Pence (left), dan Quayle
While Mike Pence was lauded by Democrats — and widely criticized by the president and the Republican base — for his refusal to overturn the results of the election won by Joe Biden in 2020, it turns out that a different vice president may have been responsible for the decision.
In the upcoming book Peril, Robert Costa and Bob Woodward write that then-Vice President Pence reached out to 74-year-old Dan Quayle — who served as vice president from 1989 to 1993 under President George H. W. Bush — in the waning days of the Trump presidency.
"Over and over, Pence asked if there was anything he could do," Costa and Woodward write, suggesting that Pence was looking for a way to acquiesce to Donald Trump's demands that he reject the electoral votes legally-cast in Biden's favor.
According to the book, Quayle quickly put the kibosh on any effort to overturn the election, telling Pence: "Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away."
When Pence "pressed again," the authors write, he did so by explaining that he was under pressure from Trump. (A spokesman for Pence did not respond to a request for comment on Peril.)
"You don't know the position I'm in," he told Quayle, according to the authors, to which Quayle responded: "I do know the position you're in. I also know what the law is. You listen to the parliamentarian [who issues rulings about congressional authority]. That's all you do. You have no power.'"
Pence and Quayle both spent time serving in the Indiana House prior to their times in the White House.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Donald Trump (left) and Mike Pence in April 2020
Elsewhere in Peril, the authors write that Trump threatened not to be Pence's friend anymore if the latter, who had spent four years as one of Trump's chief advocates and defenders, refused to throw the election.
"You can do this. I don't want to be your friend anymore if you don't do this," Trump told Pence after the then-vice president declined to throw the election, according to an excerpt of the book described by CNN.
Despite Trump's reported protestations (and Pence's hesitations), its unclear whether the vice president has any legal authority to overturn a presidential election.
After infamously refusing to accept his defeat last November, Trump launched months of media campaigns and failed legal efforts to fight the loss. No court found any evidence of widespread fraud in the election, but Trump has continued to falsely claim that the election was "rigged" against him.
On Jan. 6, two weeks before Biden was set to be sworn in, Trump gave a disgruntled speech to his supporters outside the White House in which he publicly called on Pence to somehow block the congressional certification of Biden and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris' victory. (Pence, as vice president, also serves as president of the Senate and was to preside over the certification in Congress.)
In a statement published shortly after Trump's speech, Pence explained he had no authority to try and overturn the votes.
ERIN SCHAFF/POOL/AFP via Getty Images Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi preside over a Joint session of Congress to certify the 2020 Electoral College results on Wednesday evening after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol earlier in the day
That did little to deter Trump and angered many of his supporters, with a large group of them storming the Capitol in a deadly riot. As was captured in footage of the incident, some of the Trump supporters could be heard chanting "hang Mike Pence" as they entered the building.
Though the riot initially put a pause on Congress' efforts to certify the election, Pence ultimately did affirm the results for Biden, once lawmakers were allowed back into the building.
Pence has since called Jan. 6 "a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol" and lamented "there are those in our party who believe" he could have single-handedly blocked the final counting of the Electoral College votes that day.
Pence — who recently launched a podcast and announced plans to release his autobiography in 2023 as part of a two-book deal with Simon & Schuster — is widely thought to be mulling his own 2024 presidential bid, though those plans likely hinge on whether Trump will launch his own campaign for president.