Mike Pence is distancing himself from the Trump campaign's secret meetings with Russia, instead focusing on his own shadow presidential campaign. But Pence is also complicit — a fact that will haunt his future.
Mike Pence attempted to distance himself from the Trump administration's latest scandals, while continuing his strategy of conducting what appears to be a shadow presidential campaign.
Pence's office released a statement to the media claiming Pence "was not aware of the meeting" between Trump campaign officials Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort and a Russian operative. Pence's press flack went on to say he is "not focused on stories about the campaign," emphasizing that the meeting took place in "the time before he joined the campaign."
Pence also dodged reporter Kasie Hunt's questions about what Pence knew:
HUNT: Mr. Vice President, can I ask you about Donald Trump Jr.? Were you aware of that meeting?
PENCE: [no answer]
MELVIN: Well that was Vice President Mike Pence on Capitol Hill today, as you saw there ignoring a question from our Kasie Hunt about Donald Trump Jr. and his emails.
The weak attempt to put space between Pence and Trump's Russia machinations is part of a campaign on his behalf, both overtly and covertly, to pin the blame on anyone else but Pence.
But Pence led the team that was warned about information compromising Michael Flynn, and approved his appointment as national security adviser, despite Flynn's interactions with Russia and his actions that later led to him registering as a foreign agent.
Pence is knee-deep in Trump's scandals.
His behavior also indicates that he knows something very bad is happening to Trump's presidency. He has been barnstorming swing states, making campaign-style appearances that resemble a candidate running for president, far more than the traditionally subordinate vice presidential role. He has even been wooing well-heeled Republican donors at private dinners in his home.
He is currently scheduled to appear at yet another grip-and-grin event in Kentucky, pushing for the health care repeal legislation that is the lead item in the Republican legislative agenda.
Pence has also been working the phones and reaching out in interviews with leading right-wing media figures. In one day, he appeared on the radio shows of Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh, pushing for the health care bill while Trump was busy sitting in the White House, watching Fox News and tweeting.
Traditionally, it is the president who goes out to try to sell his domestic agenda. Pence, who has been in politics much longer than Trump, clearly understands this and is setting himself up in that role.
He appears ready to step in to the Oval Office at a moment's notice. He just doesn't want any of the blowback from the Russian collusion tainting his next political step — but it's already too late.