US Vice President Mike Pence plotted a “coup” after a tape of Donald Trump boasting about groping women was released during the presidential election campaign, it has been claimed.
The video tape, made public just a month before the 2016 election, showed Mr Trump using lewd and sexually aggressive language to brag about groping and trying to have sex with women, saying “when you’re a star, they let you do it”.
Its release caused dissent among senior Republicans with a number withdrawing their endorsements and calls for Mr Trump to stand down as the party’s candidate, fearing it would severely harm their chances of electoral success.
It was at this point that Mr Pence reportedly plotted a coup against his running mate, going to the Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Reince Priebus and offering to stand in Mr Trump’s place as the presidential nominee.
As a deeply religious man, Mr Pence was said to be “beside himself” over Mr Trump’s comments on the tape.
Mr Pence’s wife Karen was even more disgusted and called Mr Trump “reprehensible – just totally vile”, the US magazine the Atlantic reported.
Mr Priebus’s office was reportedly bombarded with calls from party officials and donors urging him to get rid of Mr Trump, with some suggesting replacing him with Mr Pence and making Condoleezza Rice his running mate.
RNC lawyers attempted to find a legal mechanism by which they could remove Mr Trump as the Republican candidate and a group of billionaires attempted to offer Mr Trump $800 million in order to voluntarily quit the race, according to the Atlantic.
It is not clear whether Mr Trump was aware of the offer or whether it was ever formally made.
According to sources close to the campaign, Mr Trump held a meeting to determine what step to take next. Mr Priebus reportedly told him he would suffer a huge defeat if he did not drop out.
Mr Trump later apologised for his comments on the tape and two days later he appeared at an election debate with Hillary Clinton accompanied by a number of women who had accused her husband Bill Clinton of sexual assault.
Mr Pence’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, denied the magazine’s claims. “Regarding The Atlantic’s tired, false claim about the VP during the campaign — we denied this in the article and deny it again today. Didn’t happen,” she said.
Mr Priebus has not yet responded to requests for comment.