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Mike Pence sputters and dodges as a reporter grills him on his knowledge of a Ukraine quid pro quo

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- Commentary

President Donald Trump’s role at the center of the Ukraine scandal has rightly received the bulk of public scrutiny, but Vice President Mike Pence’s involvement in the scheme has also raised alarms in recent days and weeks.

As I have argued, any significant focus on Pence may, ironically,  strengthen Trump’s chances of surviving the scandal.

But Pence hardly served himself well while facing questions Wednesday about Trump’s delay of military aid to Ukraine while the president was also trying to pressure the country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. NBC News reporter Vaugh Hilyard pressed the vice president Wednesday on what he knew — an especially pertinent question because Pence traveled to Ukraine in early September and brought up the issue of the aid before it had been released.

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“Were you ever aware, Mr. Vice President, of interest in the Bidens — interest in investigating the Bidens — was at least part of the reason for aid to Ukraine being held up?” Hilyard asked. “Were you ever aware?”

“I, uh, I never discussed the issue of, of, the issue of the Bidens with President Zelensky,” Pence said, seemingly caught off-guard. “Wh-what I can tell you is that all of our discussions internally, I mean, the president, and our team, and our contacts in my office in Ukraine, were focused on the broader issues of lack of European support and corruption —”

“But you were aware of interest in the Bidens being investigated?” Hilyard asked again. “And that being tied to aid to Ukraine being held up?”

Pence, once more, refused to answer the question directly.

“Well that’s your question,” Pence replied. “And I want to be very clear. The issue of aid and our efforts with regard to Ukraine were from my experience in no way connected to the very legitimate concern the American people have about corruption that took place, about things that happened in the 2016 election in Ukraine.”

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The qualifier “from my experience” here is crucial and gives him wiggle room so that his words can be interpreted quite broadly. But texts from State Department employees show there was palpable fear within the administration that Trump used the aid as part of a quid pro quo.

Watch the clip below:

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2020 Election

Expert breaks down the ultimate goal of Trump’s ‘classic Russian-style disinformation campaign’

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Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, spoke with CNN's Brian Stelter on Sunday to explain the ultimate goal of President Donald Trump's false accusations of a rigged and stolen election.

Rauch was asked by Stelter if the issue is Trump is simply trapped in the delusion that he actually beat President-elect Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

"Is delusion a fair word for these election lies?" Stelter wondered.

"No, actually, I don't think it is," Rauch replied. "It's hard to know what's going on in the mind of the president, but you don't really need to. What you need to know is that what he is running right now is a classic Russian-style disinformation campaign of a type known as the firehose of falsehood. That's when you utilize every channel, not just media, but also the bully pulpit, even litigation to push out as many different stories and conspiracy theories and lies and half-truths as you possibly can in order to flood the zone if with disinformation."

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2020 Election

More than one dozen Trump officials violated Hatch Act in month before the election

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Although President Donald Trump has tried to undermine the United States' system of checks and balances, watchdogs in Washington, D.C. have been keeping a close eye on him — and according to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, 16 members of the Trump Administration committed violations of the Hatch Act in order to promote his reelection campaign in October.

In an article published on CREW's website on Monday, November 2 — the day before the 2020 presidential election — CREW reporters Donald K. Sherman and Linnaea Honl-Stuenkel explain, "during the month of October, at least 16 Trump Administration officials have violated the Hatch Act a total of more than 60 times, in an unprecedented and escalating assault on the rule of law and the democratic process. President Trump has allowed — and encouraged — senior officials to use their government roles to take actions benefiting his reelection effort in its final weeks and days as Americans are casting their ballots."

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2020 Election

GOP congressman gets #StopTheStupid trending big-time against Donald Trump — but there’s a catch

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The hashtag #stopthestupid was trending last night on Twitter thanks to -- of all people -- a conservative Republican congressman from Michigan named Paul Mitchell. But before anyone gets too excited that Republicans are discovering integrity, there’s an asterisk: Mitchell is retiring in January.

Here’s what the exasperated congressman tweeted Sunday night in response to Trump’s lunatic ranting about the election outcome:

https://twitter.com/RepPaulMitchell/status/1333214085341712388?s=20

Sunday night, there were more than 21,000 tweets featuring #stopthestupid, many of them wondering aloud why more Republicans cannot show the spine and integrity displayed by Mitchell. Most presumably don’t realize, however, that he’s leaving Congress after just two terms in office.

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