- Vice President Mike Pence and former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus reportedly considered a coup to replace then candidate Donald Trump on the GOP presidential ticket following the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape last fall.
- GOP leaders considered drafting former Bush administration Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to be the party’s vice presidential nominee, The Atlantic reported.
- Republican donors reportedly considered paying Trump to abandon the race.
Vice President Mike Pence and former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus considered a coup to replace then candidate Donald Trump following the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape just weeks before the 2016 presidential election, The Atlantic reported in a lengthy profile of Pence on Tuesday.
The tape, in which Trump boasted about sexually assaulting women, sent the Republican Party into a panic as party leaders and donors pressured the Republican National Committee to force the former reality-TV star off the ticket.
Just hours after the video’s publication by The Washington Post on October 8, Pence told the RNC that he was willing and ready to take Trump’s place as the party’s presidential nominee, several sources told the Atlantic.
But Priebus told CNN the coup story is “100% false.”
“It was never discussed – never contemplated,” Priebus said.
In the panicked days that followed the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape, the RNC came under intense pressure to replace Trump, and the organization’s lawyers reportedly discussed a little-known legal mechanism by which they could force the nominee to step down.
Meanwhile, a small group of billionaire GOP donors reportedly asked a Trump associate how much money Trump would need to be paid to abandon the race. According to one source, they were told $800 million, but it is unclear if Trump knew about the discussions or if the offer was made.
Priebus, then the chairman of the RNC, told had Trump that he could drop out of the race or lose in the biggest electoral landslide in US history, according to a new memoir written by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Priebus reportedly told Trump that Pence and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whom Republican leaders were considering drafting to the ticket, were “ready to step in” to take over the campaign.
On a personal level, Pence and his wife, Karen, who are both devout evangelical Christians who have advocated for conservative “family values” for decades, were shocked and disturbed by the video. Karen was reportedly “disgusted” by Trump’s “grab them by the p—-” comments – and by Trump himself.
“She finds him reprehensible – just totally vile,” a former Trump campaign aide told The Atlantic.
But those close to Pence say the former Indiana governor relied on his faith in God to carry him through the last trying weeks of the campaign.
“If you’re Mike Pence, and you believe what he believes, you know God had a plan,” Ralph Reed, an evangelical religious and political leader and friend of Pence’s, told The Atlantic.