US President Donald Trump says his vice-president, Mike Pence, has the power to reject the formal confirmation of Joe Biden as the next president.
But this isn’t the case. The vice-president has no legal authority to declare Mr Biden’s election victory invalid.
The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2021
What does President Trump want?
In the US, electors – based on the results in each state – officially decide who is to be the next president.
Congress is meeting to count the electoral votes and confirm the nomination of president-elect Biden.
This process usually takes place without controversy, but the president and his supporters are continuing to dispute the election results, citing unfounded claims of fraud.
Once the electoral votes are counted, it will be up to Mr Pence to formally announce Mr Biden as the next US president.
Mr Trump wants the vice-president to step in and reject the results of the election, declaring the vote fraudulent.
What is Mr Pence’s role?
The vice-president’s role is largely procedural, as the president of the Senate.
The 12th Amendment of the US Constitution says: “The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.”
Mr Pence will be tasked with reading out the final presidential result as approved by Congress.
It is not within his powers for him to reject the result.
The Electoral Count Act of 1887 gives Congress the power to review the results, not the vice-president.
Members of Congress can raise disputes. If a challenge is supported by a member in both the Senate and House (the upper and lower chambers of Congress), then counting is paused and the challenge is debated.
Despite some significant support among Republicans in Congress, the president is not expected to have enough backers to overturn the results.
This would require a majority of both chambers of Congress to vote in favour of nullifying the disputed results.
Mr Pence has said he “welcomes” the Republican lawmakers’ plan to raise objections.
But once disputes are debated and settled, it’s over to Mr Pence to fulfil his obligation and announce the final confirmation that Mr Biden won the 2020 election.
This is something Mr Biden did to officially confirm Mr Trump as the winner of the 2016 election.
Could the vice-president just not turn up?
This is an option for Mr Pence.
He could choose not to show up to Congress, or step out of the room before he’s required to announce the final result.
This has happened before. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey declined to preside over the counting of electoral votes in 1969, after he lost to Richard Nixon.
In this scenario, the role falls to the second most senior member of the US Senate, currently Republican Chuck Grassley.