Mike Pence and Reince Priebus reportedly planned a coup to replace Trump after the 'Access Hollywood' tape

  • 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 Condoleeza 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.

Priebus told CNN, however, that the coup story is "100% false."

"It was never discussed — never contemplated," Priebus said.

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Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus
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Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus
Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee stands at the main podium as he previews the stage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. on July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus (R) address supporters during his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S. on November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon (L) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
US President Donald Trump chats with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus while watching Super Bowl LI at Trump International Golf Club Palm Beach in West Palm Beach, Florida on February 5, 2017. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Mike Pence (L) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus arrive for a joing press conference by US President Donald Trump and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the East Room of the White House on February 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President elect Donald Trump shakes hands with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus (C) as Vice President-elect Mike Pence (R) looks onat election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 21 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) talks to RNC Chair Reince Priebus at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus gavels the convention to order at the start of the first session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich
US President Donald Trump holds an executive memorandum on defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria after signing it in the Oval Office of the White House on January 28, 2017, in Washington, DC. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway (3rd L) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (2nd L) joined Trump. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 7: White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus listens during a meeting with county sheriffs in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Feb. 07, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (R), US Vice President Mike Pence (C) and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner watch from the Rose Garden as Marine One carrying US President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka takes off from the White House in Washington, DC, on February 1, 2017. Trump flew to Dover Air Force Base for arrival of remains of a US commando killed William 'Ryan' Owens early January 29, in Yemen during a raid on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff-elect, from left, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, and Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, dine at Jean Georges Restaurant in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Congressional Republicans are considering a lightning-strike rollback of Obamacare early next year to kick off the Trump era, but first they have to agree on a plan limited enough to hold their caucus together. Photographer: John Angelillo/Pool via Bloomberg
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus hold his hand over his heart for the U.S. Naitonal Anthem at the start of the first session of the at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (L) and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon walk as they depart the White House, accompanying U.S. President Donald Trump for a trip to South Carolina and Florida, in Washington, U.S., February 17, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (R) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (2ndL) arrive for a news conference by U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: (AFP OUT) White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus attends a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and executives and union representatives from the Harley Davidson company at the White House on February 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. At the end of the photo opportunity, Trump said 'nothing is off the table' in relation to current disagreements between the U.S. and Iran. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (R) looks on as President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office of the White House, January 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. On Saturday, President Trump is making several phone calls with world leaders from Japan, Germany, Russia, France and Australia. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: (L to R) White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus speaks with White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon as President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel in the Oval Office of the White House, January 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. On Saturday, President Trump is making several phone calls with world leaders from Japan, Germany, Russia, France and Australia. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 20: Reince Priebus, White House chief of staff, is seen on the West Front of the Capitol after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, January 20, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, and wife Sally Priebus arrive for the 58th presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States today, in a celebration of American unity for a country that is anything but unified. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus is escorted by Madeleine Westerhaut as he arrives for meetings with US President-elect Donald Trump December 28, 2016 at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. / AFP / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Republican president-elect Donald Trump and Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, embrace during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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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 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.

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A look inside the marriage of Mike and Karen Pence
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A look inside the marriage of Mike and Karen Pence

Before she met Mike, the future Second Lady was married to her high school sweetheart, Dr. John Steven Whitaker. The Washington Post reported Karen's first marriage ended in divorce, partly due to the couple's youth and Whitaker's intense medical school schedule.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Mike and Karen first met in 1983, in the parking lot outside of Indianapolis' St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Karen played the guitar there during Mass, according to the Republic.

 (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

At the time, Karen was teaching shop at a local school, while Mike was studying law at Indiana University, along with one of Karen's sisters. According to the IndyStar, after their first meet-up at church, Mike begged the school's registrar for Karen's sister's number.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The registrar eventually gave Mike the digits, but the first date almost didn't happen. Karen was at her sister's house, babysitting her niece and nephew. When she answered the phone, Mike panicked and hung up.

 (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Mike did end up calling again. Karen told him to come over for a taco salad dinner and asked him to go ice-skating. The IndyStar reported Mike, Karen, and her niece and nephew went skating at the Pepsi Coliseum a few days later. Afterwards, Karen's niece made a $1 bet that Mike would marry her aunt.

(REUTERS/Jim Young)

Karen said she thought the first date went well, too. "When I first met Mike Pence, it was love at first sight," she later said, in a 2012 gubernatorial campaign ad.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

But, for Mike and Karen, the budding relationship took a backseat to one thing. The Second Lady has told CBN that her then-boyfriend encouraged her to always put God before him.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

After eight months of dating, Karen had the word "yes" engraved on a gold cross. She carried it around in her purse, in anticipation of Mike's marriage proposal, according to the Washington Post.

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Karen was able to give Mike her golden cross about a month later, along a canal in Indianapolis where the couple often strolled and fed ducks. Mike had hollowed out two loaves of bread, stowing a bottle of champagne into one and the ring in the other. The Washington Post reported the Pences later shellacked the bread to save as a keepsake.

(White House/Myles Cullen/Handout via REUTERS)

In 1985, the couple was married at St. Christopher's Roman Catholic Church in Speedway, Indiana. The Indiana University registrar who'd given Mike Karen's sister's phone number was in attendance, too.

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

The Catholic Church does not recognize civil divorces, so Karen's first marriage may have been annulled. Either way, the newlyweds' reception was held at the Midway Motor Lodge, and they planned to travel to Nassau for their honeymoon, according to The Columbus Herald.

(Colombian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS)

During the first six years of their marriage, the Pences dealt with infertility. "We didn’t tell anybody we were struggling," Karen told The Federalist. "... It's hard because people who don't go through infertility, I really don't think they can really feel what it feels like when you just want that baby more than anything, and it just isn't happening."

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

However, the couple did go on to have three children. The eldest, Michael Pence Jr., is a Marine. Middle child Charlotte is training to be an agent at United Talent Agency. Audrey, the youngest of the Pence siblings, is studying law at Yale.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The couple frequently exercises together, even going on lengthy cycling trips.

Pence does not attend events with booze without Karen. He also does not dine alone with other women. Some have criticized this rule as sexist.

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

At some point during their marriage, the Pences left the Catholic Church and became evangelical Christians. Mike's former colleague Mark Bailey told the New York Times Karen was a huge part of her husband's "faith journey" and that he often referred to her as the family's "prayer warrior."

(Eddie Seal/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Now that they've moved to DC, the Pences have been spotted attending service at Sanibel Community Church in Florida and the Anglican Falls Church in Virginia.

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Karen previously told The Republic that she's had a major say in some of her husband's biggest career decisions: "We've always approached it that way. It would be difficult to do this separately."

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Because Karen is one of Mike's most formidable advisors, the Washington Post reported Trump personally apologized to her after the bombshell Access Hollywood scandal.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Trump has since praised the Pences' relationship, saying they have "one hell of a good marriage going," according to Business Insider.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Given the nature of their relationship, The Washington Post describes Karen as her husband's "gut check and shield." The vice president has said she is "the best part of my life," telling the IndyStar, "Everything we do in public life, we do together. I can't imagine it any other way."

(TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/Getty Images)

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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.

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