Vice President-elect Mike Pence speaks to reporters at Trump Tower, Nov. 29, 2016 in New York, N.Y.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty

Pence says he ‘never witnessed’ campaign collusion with Russia

Mike Pence has stuck his neck out for the White House, and on plenty of instances, it hasn’t turned out well for the vice president.

For example, Pence said Donald Trump firing then-FBI Director James Comey had nothing to do with the Russia scandal, and as regular readers know, 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.

It’s apparently dawned on the Indiana Republican that he should be a little more circumspect when issuing blanket denials, especially when it comes to Team Trump and the Russia scandal. CBS News reported this morning:

Vice President Mike Pence says he “never witnessed” any evidence of collusion between the Russian government and Trump campaign officials during the 2016 campaign, and reaffirmed his commitment to cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference and possible Russian ties to the Trump organization.

During his visit to a Christian mission in Cartagena, Colombia on Monday, Pence told reporters “during all of my experience on the campaign, I never witnessed any evidence of collusion or any of the allegations, I’m not aware of that ever having occurred.”

Note the caution and the caveats. Months ago, when Pence was asked whether campaign officials communicated with Russian officials during Russia’s espionage operation, the vice president said, “Of course not.” We now know, of course, that the truth is the exact opposite.

And so, phrases such as “of course not” have been replaced with lawyerly phrasing such as “I never witnessed” and “I’m not aware of.”

It’s almost as if the vice president is preparing his defense in the event we learn about even more collusion between Trump World and Moscow – beyond the evidence of collusion that’s already come to light.

That said, old habits evidently die hard. Again from the CBS News report:

Pence was also asked about being misled by former National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn about his conversations with Russian officials, and whether the vice president was aware of any other examples of such contacts. Flynn was fired from the administration after he misrepresented the nature of a call he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

“I made it very clear I am 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, and I stand by that,” reiterated Pence.

How can he stand by a claim everyone, including Pence, now knows to be wrong?

Mike Pence, Russia and Scandals

Pence says he 'never witnessed' campaign collusion with Russia