As investigators zero in on the Trump campaign's possible connections to Russia, Mike Pence has suddenly changed his story about collusion, now insisting that he was "not aware" of clandestine contacts.
Mike Pence has suddenly and completely changed his story on the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia.
Pence now claims he was "not aware" of any contacts between the campaign and Russia.
But in comments to the media after Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to publicly rule out an investigation of the collusion with Russia, Pence said something quite different.
In his previous, unequivocal statement to CNN, he stated definitively, "There is no evidence of collusion between our campaign and any Russian officials."
There were in fact numerous contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives, including the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. Kislyak met with Jeff Sessions, now attorney general but who was then a U.S. senator and also part of the Trump campaign.
And Donald Trump Jr., Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his campaign chairman Paul Manafort all met with a Russian operative offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. And those are just the meetings that have come to light despite previous, repeated denials that there were any contacts.
Appearing in Colombia on the first leg of his lavish Latin American tour, Pence was asked about the now-established repeated contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.
In contrast to his past certainty, Pence told reporters, "I'm not aware of any contacts during the time that I was on the campaign, between any officials of the Russian government and officials with the campaign."
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
PENCE: It's clear that what I spoke about on television is precisely what General Flynn had told me. I believe the president was right to move him out of his position in the White House.
REPORTER: [unintelligible] affiliated with the campaign –
PENCE: I'm also, I've also made it very clear: That 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. And I stand by that.
Pence's change of story is in line with his repeated attempts to distance himself from the administration's Russia scandal.
He had a key role not only as Trump's running mate, but also as head of the presidential transition team. Further, Pence was warned that Michael Flynn had financial ties to foreign interests, yet he was fine with Flynn coming on board as National Security Adviser, later acting as though the revelations about Flynn's Russia ties were news to him.
Now as the scandal continues to grow, including the involvement of special counsel Robert Mueller, who authorized an FBI raid on Manafort, Pence keeps trying to run away from the story. There is even evidence Pence is preparing himself to step into the presidency should Trump be removed from office.
But despite his changing story and his decision to lawyer up, Pence is exposed, and if Trump goes down, it's very likely Mike Pence will go down with him.