According to a report at Politico, Vice President Mike Pence hopes to keep his distance from the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump in the hopes he doesn't get swept up in it and cripple his own presidential aspirations.
With the president's impeachment set to begin on Tuesday -- as lawmakers debate the rules set forth by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) -- Pence will attempt to stay on the sidelines, going so far as to head overseas to meet with the Pope as the historic trial begins.
"The current vice president will meet with Pope Francis in Vatican City this week while his own boss’ impeachment trial is underway — ditching Washington for a trip that will keep him thousands of miles away from the high-stakes saga threatening to upend not only Trump’s political future, but increasingly his own," the report states while also noting Pence should worry that "potential witnesses and new evidence released by House Democrats last Tuesday could entangle the vice president in a mess he has deliberately tried to sidestep as he considers a White House bid of his own in 2024."
With Michael Feldman, a former senior adviser to Vice President Al Gore, pointing out, "It’s trickier for him to be in all-on defense mode when he’s been implicated in the underlying allegations,” Politico notes that Pence -- unlike Gore -- has been implicated in Trump's corruption scandal that led to his impeachment.
"Despite his best efforts, Pence keeps getting pulled into the scandal at the heart of impeachment — that the president withheld financial aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine to announce politically advantageous probes," Politico reports. "Pence met with Ukraine’s president in Trump’s place during the period the aid was being withheld, Trump has suggested reporters press Pence about his communications with the Ukrainian leader and several figures have accused Pence of knowing about the scheme, which the vice president denies."
Of more concern for the vice president is the possibility that an impeachment witness, such as former national security adviser John Bolton, could implicate him even further.
"Pence is also grappling with other unknowns. If new witnesses are called during the Senate trial, such as former White House national security adviser John Bolton, will they further implicate him in the administration's effort to pressure Ukraine for political help? Could new evidence stain his reputation right as he is thinking about his own future presidential aspirations?" the report notes, with an adviser to Pence admitting, "If there came a point where Mike was seriously forced to weigh his own career against his loyalty to Trump, that would be one hell of a twist.”
Pence, the report goes to great pains to point out, has publically remained steadfastly in support of the president but that doesn't mean that he is not working behind the scenes to secure his own aspiration to become president by either running in 2024 or assuming the mantle of president in the outside chance the GOP-controlled Senate ousts Trump.
"Behind the scenes, Pence has declined to discuss contingency plans. But despite the improbability of Trump’s removal, a vice president can’t just go to sleep during an impeachment trial. If a two-thirds majority, or 67 senators, votes to convict Trump, Pence would immediately assume the most powerful post in the country," the report states before pointedly noting, "To help Trump stay afloat, Pence plans to go to the mat for him during the Senate trial on television and on the campaign trail, but not on Capitol Hill."
You can read more here.