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CNN “New Day” co-host John Berman scoffed at colleague Alisyn Camerota on Tuesday after she expressed a modicum of sympathy for Vice President Mike Pence ahead of his counting of electoral votes during an upcoming joint session of Congress this week.
The co-hosts were discussing pressure being put on Pence by President Donald Trump and GOP officials not to count electoral votes for Democrat Joe Biden from states that sent competing slates of Republican electors because they believe changes made to voting rules ahead of the Nov. 3 election were unconstitutional.
In an appearance with the co-hosts, New York Times writer and CNN contributor Maggie Haberman said sources from within the White House have said the vice president “has an awareness of what he swore an oath to do, which is defend the Constitution, and the Constitution says his role is to certify the electors that have been chosen, and I think that’s what he’s going to do.”
She added that “it would be shocking to me, in every way, if he abruptly decides not to do that.
“I have no reason to think that’s not going to happen,” she added.
“The Constitution doesn’t give him a choice,” Berman shot back. “[Pence] can rant and rave, and that may be what he chooses to do. He may choose to speechify a little bit up there and say how uncomfortable he is and say things in order to, you know, fluff the president. But more than that, the Constitution doesn’t give him the authority to do. It doesn’t mean that the task itself isn’t alarming.”
As the back-and-forth continued, Camarota offered that “you have to feel for Vice President Mike Pence today because this can’t be easy” — a comment that appeared to shock Berman.
Mouth agape, he quickly turned to his co-host colleague and exclaimed, “I don’t! It’s in the Constitution! How hard is it to do your freaking job?”
Camerota responded that she was making reference to the Republican forces that were pressuring the vice president to either reject contested electors or instead count the alternate slates sent by GOP legislatures, in a bid to bring Biden’s total under the required 270 and throw the election to the House of Representatives.
Constitutional experts, however, note that the 12th Amendment does not specify the manner in which electoral votes must be counted which, they say, theoretically gives vice presidents leeway when considering which sets of electors are valid and which are not.
Others contend that if electors from certain states were chosen under circumstances that did not comport with existing law and the Constitution, then they aren’t valid.
Former Justice Department official and lawyer Mark Levin, who has written a number of books that help explain the nation’s founding document, discussed the latter point on his daily talk show Monday.
“During the Constitutional Convention, there were various proposals suggested for electing a president,” Levin said, noting that the framers rejected direct elections because “a purely democratic process could be hijacked by a temporary majority.”
He also said the notion of allowing Congress to choose a president was dismissed “on the grounds of separation of powers.” He also said allowing the judiciary to select presidents “was dispensed with” as “the most objectionable” because “judges were to be the least political of all public officials.”
“The framers deliberatively and with much thought created the Electoral College process, in which the people and their elected legislatures — both state and national — would play important roles,” Levin said, adding that the vice president’s role isn’t simply “ceremonial.”
“But the electoral process rested first and foremost on the state legislatures directing how the electors would be chosen. The reason: While rejecting the direct election of a president, the framers concluded that the state legislatures were closest to the people in their respective states and would be the best representatives of their interests,” he said.
“At no time did the framers even raise the possibility that governors, attorneys general, secretaries of state, election boards, administrators, etc., would play any significant role in the electoral process,” Levin added in reference to changes made to voting laws by state executive branch members and state courts, not legislatures as called for in Article II.
“If this outcome is allowed to stand without a fight on Jan. 6, it is difficult to see how this can be fixed,” he said.
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