Donald Trump surprised much of the political world this week when he expressed support for law enforcement confiscating Americans’ firearms without due process. But did you happen to catch what prompted the comment?
Vice President Mike Pence was talking about providing law-enforcement officials with “additional tools” to deal with those who are reported to be a potential danger to themselves or others. Pence added:
“Allow due process, so that no one’s rights are trampled, but the ability to go to court, obtain an order, and then collect not only the firearms, but any weapons in the possession of that individual.”
That’s when Trump interjected, dismissing Pence’s concerns. ” Or, Mike, take the firearms first, and then go to court,” the president said, complaining that due process “takes so long.” Trump added, “I like taking the guns early…. So you could do exactly what you’re saying, but take the guns first, go through due process second.”
Pence, likely confused, kept talking, effectively pretending he hadn’t just heard what the president had said – because, really, what was the vice president supposed to say?
It was a bizarre moment for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that Pence keeps confronting moments like these in which Trump publicly contradicts him.
As regular readers may recall, the trouble started before they even took office. In the second presidential debate in 2016, ABC News’ Martha Raddatz reminded Trump that his own running mate said, in the context of a discussion about U.S. policy in Syria, that “provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength.” In an unusual display, Trump denounced the position.
In fact, the then-Republican candidate said of Pence, “He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree. I disagree.”
It was the first hint that Trump didn’t much care what his ostensible governing partner thinks. Last August, for example, Pence declared that when it comes to our country’s policy toward Russia, the Trump administration and the U.S. Congress are “speaking with a unified voice.” Soon after, Trump himself denounced Congress’ sanctions against Russia, effectively siding with Putin’s government.
During the fight over health care, Pence encouraged Senate Republicans to pass one kind of bill, while Trump recommended another. On North Korea, Pence rejected direct bilateral talks, while Trump endorsed them.
Even on the Russia scandal, Pence said Trump didn’t fire former FBI Director James Comey over the investigation, only to watch Trump say the opposite soon after.
I’m not talking about private deliberations, in which there’s back and forth between a president and top members his team. This is about public disagreements, in which the vice president, under the impression that he’s articulating the administration’s position, says one thing, only to have the president say something altogether different soon after.
The next time the vice president makes a declaration, give it a little time. His boss may have some thoughts to share on the matter.