Mike Pence may be the second-in-command in Washington, but as Rachel Maddow made very clear, his role in the scandals continuously burgeoning around the Trump White House — and the consequences thereof looming ever closer — looks to be on a par with that of his boss.
Befitting his reality TV resume, Donald Trump is certainly the star of the ever-deepening drama his scandal-ridden young administration has brought to D.C.
But as Rachel Maddow concisely and devastatingly laid out on her show, Vice President Mike Pence deserves just as much time in the media spotlight.
Pence's reputation has perhaps benefitted from comparison to Trump, though that is the lowest of low bars one could possibly set. And the fact is that Pence is not without his own repugnant history; he differs from Trump in degree, not in kind.
Pence is not actually the "nice guy" that much of the mainstream media portray him to be. His political history is filled with cruelty and harmful ideologies of various stripes, which shows no sign of ceasing. And even before the inauguration, Pence was already emerging as the most powerful vice president we have seen.
Which makes the fact that Pence is a skilled and smooth liar all the more troubling, particularly when those lies are an attempt to cover up the seemingly boundless national security scandal around the Trump administration and Russian interference in our democracy.
Maddow put Pence's proficient mendacity front and center in that media spotlight, listing five of his biggest and, now, most obvious lies regarding the Trump team and Russia, and making clear just what his motivation may be.
Vice President Mike Pence has made a number of blunt — blunt, direct, false statements related to the Trump-Russia investigation, both during the transition and since he has been vice president.
When controversy started to swirl around Mike Flynn because of his foreign contacts, Mike Pence bluntly asserted that the Trump transition had not applied for a security clearance for Mike Flynn's son. They had, actually, applied for a security clearance for Mike Flynn's son.
After the president fired the FBI director, Mike Pence bluntly asserted that the decision to fire James Comey was based on a recommendation from the deputy Attorney General. The president himself and, reportedly, the deputy attorney general himself, now today have both made clear that that was not the reason James Comey was fired.
Mike Pence has also bluntly, baldly asserted that James Comey was not fired for anything having anything to do with the Trump-Russia investigation. The president himself now admits that what he was thinking when he made the decision to fire Jim Comey is that he was thinking about how much he hated that Trump-Russia investigation.
Mike Pence has bluntly asserted that there were no Trump campaign contacts with the Russian government. That is not true.
He has bluntly asserted that he had no idea that Mike Flynn had a paid relationship with any foreign country's government. That would seem to be impossible, given his role in the transition and the number of times and the number of ways that transition was formally notified, including in writing, of those ties.
And of course, Mike Pence has the starring role in the big unanswered question about Mike Flynn's time in the White House, which is why they let him stay on as national security adviser for 18 days after the Justice Department came to the White House and told them that Mike Flynn was compromised by the Russians and was vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Why did he stay on for another 18 days thereafter? The White House story is that — well, actually, there is no story for that. In the end, they said he had to go because he had lied to Mike Pence. But why does a lie to Mike Pence take 18 days to flower before it has any consequences for something as serious as a foreign government having its tentacles that far into the upper reaches of the national security chain of command at the top of the U.S. government?
Mike Pence apparently formed a political action committee this week. Maybe he's looking at his boss's troubles and the Russia scandal and starting to imagine himself becoming president. Mike Pence has his own troubles when it comes to this scandal. And as long as reporters like the ones who work at Reuters keep turning up 18 new previously undisclosed Russian contacts during the campaign — that the White House hadn't come clean about before, even now — it seems like those troubles are probably going to get bigger and not smaller over time.
As the talk of impeachment grows louder and less escapable, it is crucial to remember that, even if Trump were to be removed from office, the man waiting in the wings would do nothing to lift the cloud of corruption hovering over Washington and spreading outward daily.
Pence may think he wants to be President, but as he surely has noticed, with that job title comes harsh scrutiny. And as Maddow's litany made plain, Pence would likely make it no further than Trump without calls for his removal resounding just as loudly.