Vice President Mike Pence is expected to attend Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration later this month after overseeing Wednesday’s chaotic certification of the president-elect’s Electoral College win.
Three sources close to Pence said he would likely make an appearance at the Jan. 20 event in a show of support for the peaceful transition of power. The decision to attend, they said, became easier after President Donald Trump publicly criticized Pence leading up to, and following, his refusal to stop the certification.
“It was a much more difficult decision days ago, but less difficult now,” said a person close to Pence.
It was unclear if members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies had already extended an invitation to Pence or other high-profile guests who have confirmed their attendance, including former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura.
A request for comment to Sen. Roy Blunt’s office was not immediately returned. The Missouri Republican co-chairs the joint committee.
Trump has declined to say whether he plans to attend his successor’s swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol but has told staff he doesn’t expect to be there, according to a former Trump aide who remains close to the White House.
Instead, White House aides are discussing the president and first lady leaving for their South Florida resort Mar-a-Lago the day before the inauguration so that they are not in Washington when Biden takes the oath of office, according to a Trump friend.
Trump could even leave that morning and have a rally upon his arrival in Palm Beach, said a former senior administration official. The president had previously considered counter-programming Biden’s inauguration with a 2024 campaign announcement, though aides no longer expect him to make such an announcement in the immediate future, if ever. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and top aide, and Bill Stepien, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, have advised Trump not to announce on Jan. 20 and to take his time to decide what to do, according to two people familiar with the discussions.
Trump wants to leave Washington before Biden is sworn in, in part because he wants to fly to Florida on Air Force One, the highly customized Boeing aircraft that carries the president, those officials said. If he leaves after Biden takes his oath of office, he would have to ask Biden to allow him to use a plane for his departure, as is customary. Technically, that plane would not be called Air Force One.
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Biden’s inauguration is expected to be a largely virtual affair with limited in-person ceremonies. The inaugural committee tasked with planning the event previously implored people not to travel to Washington for the inauguration — a warning that is likely to be amplified following an unprecedented breach of the Capitol complex by pro-Trump protesters on Wednesday.
The rioting by Trump’s supporters — who succeeded in temporarily halting the certification vote after storming the halls of Congress and forcing the evacuation of its members — attracted widespread condemnation on Wednesday, including from Pence and his allies.
Two people familiar with the matter said the president did not speak to Pence on Wednesday—declining to check in on the vice president, or his wife Karen and daughter Charlotte after they were escorted to a secure location inside the Capitol amid the chaos.
“We condemn the violence that took place here in the strongest possible terms… To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today: you did not win. Violence never wins,” Pence said in remarks he wrote himself as Congress reconvened late Wednesday night to resume the certification process.