Without even being asked, Mike Pence volunteered that he was "not aware" of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, as he continues to try to separate himself from the scandal encircling the White House.
Sounding more like a lawyer than a vice president, Mike Pence, out of nowhere, told CBS News that he was "not aware" of any collusion between Russia and Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
And these unprompted comments come as there are significant developments connecting the top levels of the Trump administration — including Pence — to the Russia investigation.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is requesting documents — ones that could provide direct grounds for impeachment — from the White House regarding Trump's actions, including his decision to fire National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Pence was the head of the transition team that vetted Flynn, and was aware of Flynn's ties to foreign governments — yet Pence still gave him the job.
Pence's outburst also come hours after it was revealed that then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort offered to give a Russian billionaire connected to Vladimir Putin "private briefings" on the Trump campaign.
It is well-known that Russian operatives who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton met with the highest level members of the Trump campaign, including Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and current senior White House adviser.
Appearing on CBS This Morning, Pence was asked by anchor Charlie Rose if he felt Mueller's investigation was overstepping its bounds, an allegation Trump himself has made.
After noting that determination was "for others to say," Pence then shifted focus and, completely unprompted, told Rose, "I've made clear that during my time on the campaign, I was not aware of any contacts or any collusion with Russian officials."
ROSE: Do you believe – Mr. Mueller is exceeding his jurisdiction?
PENCE: Well I think that's for others to say. What I can assure you is that we're fully cooperating with the special counsel and we'll continue to do that. I've made clear that during my time on the campaign I was not aware of any contacts or any collusion with Russian officials. I stand by that and as I said we'll provide any information the special counsel requires, but honestly, this is not what the American people are focused on.
The move to defend himself and distance his actions from Trump has been a hallmark of Pence's actions over the last year.
When the topic first came up, soon after the election, Pence went to great pains to indicate that when he "joined the campaign in the summer" Trump was not in contact with Russian operatives or affiliates.
In May, as he spoke about Trump's decision to fire then-FBI director James Comey, Pence said, "There is no evidence of collusion between our campaign and any Russian officials."
In June, Pence hired a private lawyer, Richard Cullen, to deal with his growing Russia problem.
Soon after, Pence shifted his language, and indicated, "I’m not aware of any contacts during the time that I was on campaign, between any officials of the Russian government and officials with the campaign."
Now, as the scandal continues to consume the White House, Pence continues to try to silo himself away from Trump — but no amount of self-serving, unprompted outbursts and lies will be enough to do so.