A new essay at Politico.com examines the precarious position of Vice President Mike Pence.
The former Indiana governor has been “empowered like no vice president before him to establish, sell and execute the administration’s agenda,” wrote Tim Alberta, but Pence is also struggling to stay clear of the multiple federal investigations engulfing President Donald Trump’s administration.
This week, Pence hired his own outside counsel and pushed back through friendly media outlets against charges that he was aware that disgraced former national security adviser Mike Flynn was under federal investigation prior to the inauguration.
Pence has steadfastly maintained the Flynn lied to him and others on the Trump transition team about his status as a person of interest in a federal investigation into U.S. activity by Russian agents. Fired FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before Congress two weeks ago heavily implicated Pence and Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions in the Russia mess and — if true — put the lie to Pence’s claims that he was kept in the dark.
Politico’s Alberta said, “(T)he implications for Pence were staggering, and the White House categorically denied the story. But Pence had also courted trouble the week earlier by insisting that Trump’s decision to fire Comey was based on the deputy attorney general’s recommendation—a claim Trump promptly contradicted in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, embarrassing the vice president and sending an awkward question echoing around Washington: Is Pence being kept out of the loop, or is he being deceitful?”
The vice president has been “all but invisible” in the parade of scandals that have issued forth from the Trump transition team and administration. Republican Party insiders consider him their de facto leader, Alberta said, and think of him as their man in the administration, “not just the safety parachute for a free-falling presidency, but a polished, respected statesman from whom members can take their cues.”
Furthermore, the president has come to rely on Pence as a final arbiter of decisions, say sources, and a skilled operator who can be effective in spite of the chaos around him.
“Think about this,” an unnamed White House aide told Politico. “The president likes people who don’t showboat, who don’t call attention to themselves. And the president loves killers — he loves people who get things done.” The source paused for a long moment, then said, “Mike Pence is the quiet killer in this White House. And Trump loves him for it.”
Critics of the administration have warned that impeaching Pres. Trump or calling for his resignation would leave the nation helmed by Pence, an Evangelical Christian with deep ties to the secretive Center for National Policy (CNP) — a group of wealthy born-again Republican elites who want to see the nation’s laws made over in accordance with a Christian dominionist agenda.
MSNBC’s Joy Reid has long maintained, however, that Pence is just as deeply involved in the Russia scandal as Trump himself and that his insistence that he was kept in the dark is just an act.
“There is consciousness of guilt there,” Reid said. “Mike Pence has a very implausible story as well, which is that he knew absolutely nothing about anything ever, including when Sally Yates comes in and informs the transition team, of which he’s the head! He’s the head of the transition team! The idea that he was completely and wholly ignorant makes him also unfit to succeed Donald Trump even if Congress did have a mind to impeach him.”