The small but potent comma might seem like an innocuous part of English grammar, but sometimes it can radically change the meaning of a sentence — as in the old example, "Lets eat, Grandma," vs. "Lets eat Grandma." And sometimes, a misplaced comma can make the difference when it comes to evidence of a Trump trial, as is the case with what Vice President Mike Pence says he didn't mean to write.
The sentence in question comes from Pence's book, So Help Me God, in which he said he told Donald Trump right before the Capitol insurrection, "You know, I don't think I have the authority to change the outcome." But what Pence really meant, he later told special counsel Jack Smith's team, was, "You know I don't think I have the authority to change the outcome."
It might be a subtle difference, but the commaless version "changes the tenor and meaning of what he reportedly told Trump from a casual aside to a more declarative command," as Mediaite puts it.
From ABC News:
As described to ABC News, much of what the former vice president told Smith's investigators mirrored — and at times restated verbatim — comments he has previously made publicly. Questions from Smith's team repeatedly focused on a book Pence published last year, with investigators apparently seeking to have Pence confirm — under oath — an array of post-election stories and opinions he included in the book. …
Sources said that in at least one interview with Pence, Smith's investigators pressed the former vice president on personal notes he took after meetings with Trump and others, which investigators obtained from the National Archives. …
Sources said that investigators' questioning became so granular at times that they pressed Pence over the placement of a comma in his book: When recounting a phone call with Trump on Christmas Day 2020, Pence wrote in his book that he told Trump, "You know, I don't think I have the authority to change the outcome" of the election on Jan. 6.
But Pence allegedly told Smith's investigators that the comma should have never been placed there. According to sources, Pence told Smith's investigators that he actually meant to write in his book that he admonished Trump, "You know I don't think I have the authority to change the outcome," suggesting Trump was well aware of the limitations of Pence's authority days before Jan. 6 — a line Smith includes in his indictment.