Vice President Mike Pence told President Trump on Tuesday that he did not believe he had the power to block congressional certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the presidential election despite Mr. Trump’s baseless insistence that he did, people briefed on the conversation said.
Mr. Pence’s message, delivered during his weekly lunch with the president, came hours after Mr. Trump further turned up the public pressure on the vice president to do his bidding when Congress convenes Wednesday in a joint session to ratify Mr. Biden’s Electoral College win.
“The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning, an inaccurate assertion that mischaracterized Mr. Pence’s largely formal and constitutionally prescribed role of presiding over the House and Senate as they receive and certify the electoral votes conveyed by the states and announcing the outcome.
Mr. Pence does not have the unilateral power to alter the results sent by the states to Congress.
More Republican senators came out on Tuesday against attempts to undermine the results, including Tim Scott of South Carolina and James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, who said he viewed challenging any state’s certification as “a violation of my oath of office.”…
Mr. Pence has spent the past several days in a delicate dance, seeking at once to convey to the president that he does not have the authority to overturn the results of the election, while also placating the president to avoid a rift that could torpedo any hopes Mr. Pence has of running in 2024 as Mr. Trump’s loyal heir.
Even as he sought to make clear that he does not have the power Mr. Trump seems to think he has, Mr. Pence also indicated to the president that he would keep studying the issue up until the final hours before the joint session of Congress begins at 1 p.m. Wednesday, according to the people briefed on their conversation.
One option being considered, according to a person close to Mr. Trump, was having Mr. Pence acknowledge the president’s claims about election fraud in some form during one or more of the Senate debates about the results from particular states before the certification. Mr. Pence will preside over those debates.
In a statement issued late Tuesday night and inaccurately dated Jan. 5, 2020, Mr. Trump insisted the reporting about his discussion with Mr. Pence was “fake news.”
“He never said that,” the statement went on. “The Vice President and I are in total agreement that the Vice President has the power to act.”
Mr. Trump has been cajoling Mr. Pence in public and private to find a way to use his role on Wednesday to give credence to his unfounded claims — rejected by the states and in scores of court cases and backed by no evidence — that the election was stolen from him through widespread fraud.
The president has told several people privately that he would rather lose with people thinking it was stolen from him than that he simply lost, according to people familiar with his remarks.