Mike Pence calls Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to offer congratulations

15:57pm, Sat 16 Jan 2021
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Vice President Mike Pence has called his soon-to-be successor Kamala Harris to offer his congratulations, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

It is the first known contact between the elected members of the outgoing and incoming administrations.

President Donald Trump has not reached out to President-elect Joe Biden or invited him to the White House, and has instead spent the weeks since he lost the November 3 election holed up at the White House, trying to undermine the legitimacy of Mr Biden’s win with baseless claims of mass voter fraud that culminated in last week’s violent storming of the Capitol building.

Mr Pence, who did not speak with Mr Trump for days after the siege, has become an unexpected — albeit late — defender of Mr Biden’s win.

The vice president resisted enormous pressure from Mr Trump to try to interfere in Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote count last week — even though he has no such power.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (AP)

And he has announced that he will attend Mr Biden’s January 20 inauguration, which Mr Trump is refusing to do — making him just the fourth president in the nation’s history to skip the symbolic passing of the torch.

Mr Pence and Ms Harris spoke on Thursday afternoon and had a “good call”, according to one of the people familiar with the conversation, with Mr Pence congratulating Ms Harris and offering his assistance. The people spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private exchange.

The call came less than a week before Mr Biden and Ms Harris take office and just over a week after Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol and tried to halt the peaceful transition of power after he delivered a speech calling on them to “fight”.

Five people died, including a Capitol Police officer, and Mr Trump got impeached on a charge of incitement of an insurrection.

While Mr Trump has remained largely behind closed doors, without his Twitter bullhorn and fuming since his loss, Mr Pence has been stepping up and fulfilling many of the ceremonial duties of the presidency.

On Thursday, Mr Pence received a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington from the FBI and other agencies on inauguration security and stopped by to thank White House phone operators, giving them a framed letter of appreciation.

Mr Pence speaks to National Guard troops outside the US Capitol (AP)

Later, he greeted members of the National Guard now protecting the Capitol building from further attack.

Mr Pence was also the one who coordinated with lawmakers and the DC National Guard while the Capitol was under siege and he was in hiding.

And last Friday, he called the family of slain Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died from injuries in the attack.

Mr Pence’s call to his successor is a continuation of the traditional show of comity between outgoing and incoming leaders that Mr Trump has flouted.

In 2008, then-Vice President Dick Cheney called Mr Biden to congratulate him the night of his win and invited Mr Biden and his wife, Jill, to tour the vice presidential residence on the grounds of the US Naval Observatory shortly before the 2009 inauguration.

And in November 2016, Mr Biden, Mr Pence and their spouses met for lunch at the Naval Observatory after an earlier meeting at the White House.

President-elect Joe Biden (AP)

“I told Mike, the vice president-elect, that I’m available to him 24/7,” Mr Biden said after the get-together.

It is unclear whether Mr Pence will do the same for Ms Harris. Mr Pence and his wife will be travelling over the weekend. And much of Washington is under heightened security after last week’s violent insurrection at the Capitol, with law enforcement officials warning of more potential for violence surrounding Mr Biden’s inauguration.

While Mr Biden said last week that he welcomed Mr Trump’s decision to skip his inauguration, he said he would be “honoured” to have Mr Pence attend.

“I think it’s important,” he said, that, as much as possible, “the historical precedents” with respect to the peaceful transfer of power “be maintained”.

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