Vice President-elect Mike Pence became suddenly quite weasely this Sunday when asked if he could “flatly deny” any contact between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. When finally pinned down, his answer looked a lot like he was trying to inoculate himself from the situation.
Notice how Pence directly and quickly answered Wallace’s first question about Russia, albeit by suggesting he (Pence) had no personal knowledge. (Transcript via FoxNews.com, with my emphases):
WALLACE: I want to ask you about two very specific questions briefly so we can move on to domestic policy. We now know that the Trump’s national security advisor, Mike Flynn, had several conversations with the Russian ambassador, Kislyak, just at the time that President Obama was announcing new sanctions to the hacking of the U.S. election against Russia.
Number one: did Mike Flynn ever discuss lifting sanctions in any of those conversations? Do you know?
PENCE: I talked to General Flynn yesterday, and the conversations that took place at that time were not in any way related to the new U.S. sanctions against Russia or the expulsion of diplomats.
Then Wallace asked the second question and suddenly Pence turned furtive. First, he changed the subject to deny one particular allegation, about Trump lawyer Michael Cohen:
WALLACE: Second question: can you flatly deny—because this continues to be out there—that there were any contact at any point in the campaign between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russian operatives, including cutouts, as we know, about the hacking of the Democrats during the election?
PENCE: This—you know, some of this derives from this opposition research memo, I guess, Chris, that made its way around the Internet. There was about 24 hours were Michael Cohen, who has worked in the Trump Organization for many years, was accused for having a meeting in Prague, and finally, some news organizations did a little checking and found out that it was a different Michael Cohen. And Michael himself has never actually been to Prague.
But Wallace pressed and Pence continued to deflect:
WALLACE: But I do want to ask you a question.
PENCE: He was at a baseball game with his son in August of last year. So --
WALLACE: I understand that. But there’s been other talk, and in fact, if I may, senators specifically asked FBI Director Comey about that. He refused to answer.
So, I’m asking a direct question: was there any contact in any way between Trump or his associates and the Kremlin or cutouts they had?
Finally, Pence had to answer. But his response contained a loophole that, as Tommy Christopher noted, was large enough to fly Trump Force One through. Then Pence immediately began deflecting again:
PENCE: I joined this campaign in the summer, and I can tell you that all the contact by the Trump campaign and associates was with the American people. We were fully engaged with taking his message to make America great again all across this country. That’s why he won in a landslide election.
WALLACE: -- if there were any contacts, sir, I’m just trying to get an answer.
PENCE: Yes. I—of course not. Why would there be any contacts between the campaign?
Chris, the—this is all a distraction, and it’s all part of a narrative to delegitimize the election and to question the legitimacy of this presidency, the American people see right through it.
PENCE: And truthfully, this is a week—you know, I just sat on with our transition team in Washington yesterday, we have—we’ve named 20 out of 21 of our candidate officials, probably have all of them named before we get to inauguration day. The caliber and character of men and women that the president-elect has assembled, the hundreds and hundreds of interviews and conversations he himself has had, I think should be deeply inspiring to millions of Americans. And they know when he raises his right hand on that inaugural platform this coming Friday, that he is going to be ready on day one to keep his promises to the American people to turn this country around.
Pence had every reason to expect that question so it’s odd that he did not have a ready answer for it.
Christopher has more:
This response accomplishes several things for Pence, things which a man confident in his boss’ innocence wouldn’t need to do. The first is that it shields Pence from anything that happened before he joined the Trump campaign in July, and the second is that it restricts his answer to that which he personally observed.
Finally, it restricts his answer to the period of the presidential campaign, which would exclude the post-election contacts between Michael Flynn and Russian officials.
Watch it below, from the January 15, 2017 Fox News Sunday.
Crossposted at News Hounds.
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