Vice President Mike Pence (L) shakes hands with National Security Adviser Michael Flynn at the White House on February 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. 
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The problem with Mike Pence’s ignorance defense

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 12/4/17, 9:03 PM ET

Trump lawyers change defense on collusion and obstruction

Rachel Maddow points out that Donald Trump’s lawyers’ arguments about Trump’s legal liability in the Russia scandal have changed from denying Trump’s actions to excusing them as not illegal. Also noted is that Mike Pence’s lies about Mike Flynn need a new
Rachel Maddow points out that Donald Trump’s lawyers’ arguments about Trump’s legal liability in the Russia scandal have changed from denying Trump’s actions to excusing them as not illegal. Also noted is that Mike Pence’s lies about Mike Flynn need a new
When it comes to the Trump-Russia scandal, Mike Pence is often seen as someone on the periphery. The trouble is, the vice president has repeatedly made public comments about the scandal that were later found to be completely untrue.

The defense from Pence’s allies has long been that he didn’t mean to lie, but rather, repeated the information he’d been given. This is especially important as it relates to former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty last week to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russia, and about whom Pence gave the public false information.

Politico reported last night, however, that the vice president’s office continues to go with the out-of-the-loop defense.

As the White House contends with questions about who knew about former national security adviser Michael Flynn lying to the FBI, people close to Vice President Mike Pence are trying to make clear that President Donald Trump’s No. 2 knew nothing at all. […]

Pence’s aides have maintained for months that their man was out of the loop, blissfully ignorant of contacts between the Trump campaign and various foreign actors, from the Russian ambassador to WikiLeaks.

Their story has been consistent, even as it has left outside observers wondering how Trump’s running mate and transition head could have known so little.

I don’t doubt Team Pence will stick with this line, but it shouldn’t be accepted at face value. Indeed, as Rachel explained on last night’s show, the vice president’s line has been consistent, but it’s also in need of a revision.

The official story is that Pence made false statements, assuring the American public that Flynn hadn’t talked about sanctions with Russia, because Pence didn’t know better at the time. Flynn, the story goes, lied to Pence.

But based on the court filings surrounding Flynn’s guilty plea, we now know that investigators have evidence that Pence’s version of events is untenable: it wasn’t just Flynn, a bad apple operating alone, who knew that he was discussing sanctions with Russia; it was multiple members of the Trump transition team.

And the Trump transition team was led by Mike Pence. As Rachel explained:

“So the story can no longer be that Flynn – bad apple, rogue actor – lied to the vice president and that’s why the vice president told those unwitting lies to the American public. That is over. That can no longer be their rational contention.

“The story now has to be that not just Mike Flynn but the entire transition team that Mike Pence was overseeing all conspired together to lie to Mike Pence, and then agreed to keep the lie going for weeks and weeks as the vice president kept unwittingly repeating the lie to the American public. It’s either that or the vice president was lying on purpose, telling the American people something that he also knew was not true.”

So, if the old version of events is wrong, what’s the new one? We’re still waiting for a revised explanation.