Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence waits for the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on Oct. 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nev. 
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty

Another Pence claim about Russia scandal turns out to be untrue

Just a few weeks before Election Day 2016, then-Gov. Mike Pence (R) appeared on Fox News, where he faced a question about WikiLeaks that’s even more interesting now than it was at the time:

FNC: Some have suggested, on the left, that all this bad stuff about Hillary, nothing bad about Trump, that your campaign is in cahoots with WikiLeaks.

PENCE: Nothing could be further from the truth.

It was literally that same day – Oct. 14, 2016 – that Donald Trump Jr., who’d been in communications with WikiLeaks, used social media to promote a link he’d received from WikiLeaks in order to help disseminate stolen materials, intended to help put his father in power.

In other words, the exact same day that Mike Pence said the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks were not in cahoots, we now know that the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks were clearly in cahoots.

With this in mind, the vice president’s office last night released a written statement, which said Pence “was never aware of anyone associated with the campaign being in contact with WikiLeaks. He first learned of this news from a published report earlier tonight.”

What Pence told the public was false, but we’re now supposed to believe he didn’t know it was false at the time.

If only this were an isolated incident.

As regular readers may recall, we’ve been down this road before. For example, Pence said Donald Trump firing then-FBI Director James Comey had nothing to do with the Russia scandal, and that turned out to be untrue. We also know that Pence’s claims about when he learned of Michael Flynn’s work as a foreign agent clearly aren’t true. The vice president’s claims about Flynn’s communications with Russia were also proven to be false.

And, of course, when Pence said no one from Team Trump spoke with Russian officials before Election Day, that wasn’t even close to being true.

As we discussed in May, the argument from Pence’s allies is likely to be that these instances aren’t entirely his fault. The vice president, playing the role of loyal soldier, has simply toed the official line, repeating what Team Trump has told him to say. It’s not his fault, the argument goes, that Pence has read from a deceptive script that others handed to him.

Whether there’s truth to this defense or not is unclear. Maybe Pence is the victim of Team Trump’s mendacity; maybe Pence understands more than he lets on. Either way, there comes a point at which the vice president has to take some responsibility for the fact that he’s repeatedly gone to the public with defenses that have soon after been discredited.