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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

Andrea Mitchell knocks Biden for virtual convention speech: ‘How much does that damage the campaign?’

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MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell suggested to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Wednesday that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden could "damage" his campaign by holding a virtual convention speech.

Mitchell made the remark after President Donald Trump said that he was considering holding his convention speech at the White House.

"Joe Biden is not going to Milwaukee," Mitchell told Pelosi. "How much does this damage the campaign?"

Pelosi disagreed by insisting that Democrats will hold a "great convention."

Mitchell then asked about Trump's plan to hold his convention speech at the White House.

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2020 Election

Trump’s psychiatric disturbance could destroy democracy if he wins a second term: clinical psychologist

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I’m not being hyperbolic or melodramatic when I say that democracy itself is on the line on November 3. Donald Trump has been on a mission to subvert our democracy and to push it toward an autocracy. No president has ever disavowed democracy like Trump. No president has ever wanted to change our democratic way of life like Trump.

Trump has shown little interest or intent in following our Constitution. He is not abiding by the emoluments clause. He breaks norms and rules at will. He does not recognize that the three branches of government are co-equal. He operates as if the executive branch has total power. Our democracy is not based on the executive branch having absolute power. It requires that the three branches have separate powers in a check-and-balances system. Trump impugns democracy because it limits his power and requires him to be held accountable.

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2020 Election

‘Sign of desperation’: Trump slammed for ‘anti-religious bigotry’ over new attack ad on Joe Biden

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A new anti-Biden attack ad from the Trump campaign is filled with falsehoods, and ends by mocking the Democratic presumptive presidential nominee praying in a church. Some on social media are slamming the President and his campaign for "anti-religious bigotry" and "demonizing prayer."

"Deep in the heart of Delaware Joe Biden sits in his basement, alone, hiding, diminished," the ad begins.

Many Americans are sitting in their basements – that's where Biden's office and TV studio are – and they're sitting alone, and hiding, and diminished, so to speak, as a New York Times opinion column notes. But they are doing so because of Trump's horrific handling of the pandemic – the worst management of the coronavirus crisis in the world.

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