I thought H.R. McMaster ducking questions about Steve Bannon would be the most awkward dodge we saw today. Nope. Watch Pence get a hanging curveball about whether he agrees with his boss and pretty much their entire base that Russiagate is a ginned-up nothingburger designed to delegitimize the Trump presidency. He just lets it go by. Trump certainly believes it’s a hoax, Pence acknowledges. As for Pence’s own feelings: No comment.
Reminds me of what Anthony Scaramucci told Ryan Lizza in Mooch’s infamous interview with the New Yorker:
“Why do you think Nick’s there, bro?” Scaramucci asked me, referring to Nick Ayers, Pence’s recently installed chief of staff. “Are you stupid?” He continued, “Why is Nick there? Nick’s there to protect the Vice-President because the Vice-President can’t believe what the f*** is going on.”…
Was Scaramucci suggesting that Ayers was meant to protect Pence from the fallout if and when Trump collapses politically, resigns, decides not to run for reëlection, or is impeached?
Pence has been burned more than once by Russiagate developments. In January, a few days before taking office, he told Fox News and CBS that “of course” there were no contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. A month later Mike Flynn was kicked to the curb for having misled Pence about his chat about sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Last month the world found out that Don Jr, Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner had taken a meeting with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton last year. Imagine Pence watching the latest drama with Manafort unfold, with the FBI executing search warrants at Manafort’s home, and wondering how much worse it might get. Mooch wasn’t exaggerating, I think, when he said Pence “can’t believe what the f*** is going on.” If you were Pence, would you want to place a big rhetorical bet at this point on the Russia probe being a pure hoax?
The news that Mueller wants to interview people inside the White House may have spooked him too. Although the most valuable witness for the special counsel is a guy who doesn’t work there anymore:
Mr. Priebus can potentially answer many questions Mr. Mueller has about what occurred during the campaign and in the White House. Mr. Priebus appears on the calendar of Mr. Manafort on the same day in June 2016 that Mr. Manafort and other campaign officials — including Mr. Trump’s eldest son and son-in-law — attended a meeting with Russians who claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton, according to two people briefed on the matter. It is not clear whether Mr. Priebus and Mr. Manafort met that day…
Mr. Priebus may also be able to help prosecutors verify crucial details about Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Comey. According to testimony Mr. Comey provided to Congress, Mr. Priebus knows that Mr. Comey had the one-on-one encounter with Mr. Trump on Feb. 14, when Mr. Comey has said Mr. Trump asked him to end the Flynn investigation. Mr. Trump has said that the meeting did not occur and that he did not ask Mr. Comey to end the inquiry.
Mr. Comey said in his testimony to Congress that on Feb. 14, Mr. Trump had Mr. Priebus, the attorney general, the vice president and other senior administration officials removed from the Oval Office after a counterterrorism briefing.
Firing his chief of staff, who’d know better than anyone else what’s been happening inside the White House this year, in the middle of an intensifying criminal probe may not have been Trump’s best decision in hindsight.
Two clips of Pence for you, one of him dodging the “hoax” question and the other of him moving the goalposts when asked if he still believes there was no contact between the Trump campaign and Russian agents. None that I’m aware of, Pence notes. Anthony Scaramucci, by the way, has taken to calling him “46.”
Is the Russia investigation a "hoax"?
VP Pence says President Trump "has his strong opinions on this." https://t.co/XDJEpzBqSs
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) August 14, 2017
VP Mike Pence: “I’m not aware of any contacts” between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials https://t.co/LZjNEE503h
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 14, 2017