About a month ago, following a months-long search, Vice President Mike Pence hired Jon Lerner to serve as his national security adviser. The move, however, was short lived: Donald Trump discovered that Lerner had criticized him during the Republican presidential primaries two years ago, so the president told White House Chief of Staff John Kelly “to get rid of Lerner.”Three weeks later, Pence lost his physician, Dr. Jennifer Pena, reportedly because she’d raised concerned about Ronny Jackson, Trump’s failed nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
With this in mind, it appears Trump may be asserting some dominance over his vice president by installing his allies on Pence’s team: NBC News reported yesterday that Trump’s first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, has agreed to join the vice president’s political action committee.
The decision to bring in Lewandowski comes against the backdrop of a New York Times article that reported on tension between the president’s team and the vice president’s political aides over the emergence of Pence as a political force in his own right.
It was Trump who asked Lewandowski to sign up with the vice president’s team, according to a Republican source. Lewandowski’s arrival sends a signal that, while Trump and Pence are aligned, Trump is the boss, said a second source, a GOP donor who had been informed of Lewandoski’s plans.
At a distance, this appears to be a dynamic in which Trump wasn’t satisfied with some of the members of Pence’s team, so the president helped choose a new aide for the vice president.
Or put another way, Trump suddenly seems eager to remind Pence who’s in charge.
Indeed, Politico had a related report on this yesterday, noting other recent presidential steps to make sure the spotlight doesn’t stray to the vice president.
President Donald Trump wasn’t planning to attend the recent National Rifle Association convention – that is, until he learned that Vice President Mike Pence would be giving the keynote address.
That led to a change of plans in the West Wing, according to two people familiar with the arrangement, and nearly a week after the NRA announced Pence would speak, the president was added to the schedule to speak moments after Pence.
It wasn’t the first time Trump has changed his plans to one-up the veep. It was originally Pence, not Trump, who planned to travel to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But upon seeing who else would be attending, Trump decided to make the trip himself instead, bumping Pence off the schedule, according to a person familiar with the matter. A White House official said that neither scheduling decision was based on the vice president’s plans.
The article quoted a former White House official who also served on the campaign, who explained that the president expects his vice president to stay in his shadow. “It was always pretty apparent that Pence had a role and that role was to be subservient to Trump,” the official told Politico. “Pence should be not seen and not heard and kind of put away in a corner and used as needed.”
The Washington Post’s George Will wrote a column last week characterizing Pence as a “groveling” joke. These developments almost certainly won’t help change that impression.
Postscript: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reportedly told people close to him recently that Pence is welcome at his funeral, but Trump is not. I wonder how the president responded when he heard about this.