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Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 4. Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that he lacked constitutional authority to follow President Trump's wishes to throw out Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden.

Why it matters: Trump has been pressuring Pence to overturn the election results as part of an ongoing attempt to subvert Biden's clear win, which failed to garner evidence or support through various legal battles. Trump will view Pence’s statement as the ultimate act of betrayal.

What they're saying: "It is my considered judgement that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not," Pence wrote.

  • Pence rejected the notion that he "should be able to accept or reject electoral votes unilaterally" — after Trump insisted he was able to do exactly that — and also pushed back against the idea that "electoral votes should never be challenged" by Congress.
  • Trump addressed loyal supporters outside the White House as Pence released his statement, and called on Pence to do "the right thing" as he presides over Congress in a largely ceremonial capacity on Wednesday.

In response to Pence's refusal to overturn the election results, Trump tweeted: "Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!"

The state of play: As expected, Republicans objected to certifying the Electoral College count on Wednesday.

Read Pence's letter:

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”

Off the Rails

Episode 6: Last stand in Georgia

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer, Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 6: Georgia had not backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 and Donald Trump's defeat in this Deep South stronghold, and his reaction to that loss, would help cost Republicans the U.S. Senate as well. Georgia was Trump's last stand.

On Air Force One, President Trump was in a mood. He had been clear he did not want to return to Georgia, and yet somehow he'd been conscripted into another rally on the night of Jan. 4.

Updated Jan 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Off the rails: Episode library

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The first line of the Axios Manifesto is "Audience First." That's why we created our unique Smart Brevity style to get you smarter, faster, on topics that matter. But it also means we won't shy away from important stories that are worthy of more detail and more of your time, like our Deep Dives, Axios Investigates and now this deeply reported series, "Off the rails.” 

If you're in a hurry, check out the highlights: