Pence played a major role in Trump's scheme to pressure Ukraine president


Things aren't looking so great for Mike Pence right now.

Until Wednesday night, it seemed like Mike Pence had managed — just barely — to avoid being tangled up in Donald Trump's Ukrainian adventure. But then the Washington Post broke a story that made clear Pence has been a part of this all along.

To be fair, Pence was just one part of a multi-faceted effort by Trump to force Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do his dirty work and smear former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. However, the Post's reporting makes clear Pence's part was hardly minor.

First, though Pence hasn't really seen fit to mention it, one of his top aides was on the now-infamous July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky that is now the foundation for the impeachment inquiry. According to White House officials, that meant that Pence would have had the transcript of the call within hours. It also would have been part of his daily briefing book on July 26, officials said.

People close to Pence have mounted a couple of defenses on his behalf. First, they say that Pence went to Warsaw, Poland, for a Sept. 1 meeting with Zelensky having never read the transcript of Trump's July 25 call. Only in the Trump administration would this be a sound defense: saying you didn't bother to read everything before a major diplomatic meeting.

The second is to say that Pence wasn't at all aware the July 25 call was alarming — even though Pence's own national security adviser was on the call and White House staff found the call so troubling, they immediately moved to lock down the call by improperly storing it in a highly classified system.

Information about Pence's meeting with Zelensky doesn't make things look any better for Pence. Pence was sent to tell Zelensky that the United States wasn't going to release aid money to Ukraine unless the country did more to fight corruption. Since Trump spent the July 25 call demanding a "favor" from Zelensky that he investigate the Bidens, it appears that Pence was sent to hammer home the message that unless Zelensky did Trump's bidding, vital aid wouldn't be forthcoming.

Pence should be worried. Not just because he's now entangled in the Ukrainian mess, but because Trump has no loyalty to him whatsoever. Trump happily threw Pence under the bus and told reporters they should ask for transcripts of Pence's calls with Zelensky as well.

If things get even worse for Trump, expect him to find a way to make Pence the scapegoat.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.