Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., during a town hall, July 25, 2016, in Roanoke, Va.
Photo by Evan Vucci/AP

Pence, Trump find another key issue on which to disagree: Russia

One of the most memorable moments of the second 2016 presidential debate came when Donald Trump rebuked his own running mate. Co-moderator Martha Raddatz reminded the Republican nominee that Mike Pence, in the context of a discussion about U.S. policy in Syria, said “provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength.”

After being reminded of the Indiana governor’s argument, Trump said, “He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree. I disagree.”

When it comes to Russia, this disagreement is part of a larger trend. Consider this on-air exchange between Pence and Fox News’ Bret Baier yesterday:
BAIER:  Well, about the WikiLeaks e-mails, you know, I know you look at the substance of those and we’ve been covering the substance inside those emails as well, extensively here on FOX, but are you concerned at all about the fact that Russia, according to U.S. intelligence officials, has hacked into these computers and is, according to the intel officials, trying to influence this election in one way or another?

PENCE:  Well, I think there’s no question that the evidence continues to point in that direction, and we should follow it where it leads.  And there should be severe consequences to Russia or any sovereign nation that is compromising the privacy or the security of the United States of America.
On “Meet the Press,” Pence also told NBC News’ Chuck Todd, “I think there’s more and more evidence that, that implicates Russia. And there should be serious consequences.”

Asked why his running mate disagrees, Pence changed the subject – which may be understandable, but is also untenable.

Remember, Trump was briefed by intelligence officials who told him Russia is almost certainly responsible for hacking Democratic networks and using stolen information in the hopes of influencing the American election.

And yet, soon after, Trump nevertheless said the opposite in the most recent debate. “I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are – doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking,” Trump said, pointing at Hillary Clinton. “Maybe there is no hacking.”

Yes, according to the GOP nominee, maybe we all just imagined the hacking.

Perhaps it’s unrealistic to think a party’s presidential and vice presidential candidates are going to walk in lock step, agreeing on literally everything. Indeed, in recent months, we’ve seen plenty of important issues on which Trump and Pence are on very different pages.

But when it comes to Russia and Vladimir Putin’s government, Trump seems to be entirely on his own, staking out positions that no one, not even his loyal running mate, is able to defend.

Maybe the Republican campaign can get around to explaining why that is.

Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Russia and Vladimir Putin

Pence, Trump find another key issue on which to disagree: Russia