The first two were Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort and Carter Page, who was a foreign policy advisor. It’s possible that this is mere coincidence or that only these three people had problematic involvement with Russia and the issue is now over. It’s also possible, some might even say likely, that the inappropriate and illegal ties to Russia go all the way to the top of this administration and that, if Congress can be bothered to investigate him, our forty-fifth president will not have a standard length term. If that turns out to be the case, then it’s probably a good idea to get a jump on learning about Mike Pence.
Flynn’s resignation also provides us with an interesting insight into Pence, because of Pence’s apparently unwitting involvement in the incident. Allegations first surfaced in January that Flynn had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Trump had been inaugurated. Subsequently, Pence spoke to Flynn about the issues and then went on CBS’s Face the Nation and assured the public that Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador did not involve “anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia”.
It now seems that Flynn “misled” Pence or, as Kellyanne Conway might say, Flynn conveyed “alternative facts” to the vice president. It’s also been revealed that the White House kept the truth from Pence for roughly two weeks after it was discovered internally that Flynn had lied. Pence is apparently upset about being misled in this way and it’s certainly understandable for Pence to be mad that Flynn made false statements to him. But, in the past when Trump has made false statements to the American people, Pence has not been upset at all. In fact, when Trump falsely claimed that millions voted illegally in the election Pence called it “refreshing.” So, perhaps what Pence is really upset about is that he wasn’t in the loop on this particular alternative fact and that the White House opted to keep him in the dark so long even though he had gone to bat for Flynn publically. That’s speculation, but what is clear is that, like Trump himself, Pence has a relationship with the truth that is flexible, depending on who benefits and what’s to be gained. And he apparently does not understand that being lied to by Trump or Flynn or anyone else in the administration might upset the rest of us as much as it upset him.
Another recent development that is giving some insight into the VP is what’s been going on in Pence’s home state of Indiana since he left. Republicans control Indiana’s legislature and its governor was picked by Pence to follow him. In the month since Pence left, Indiana’s lawmakers have decided to take a very different direction. The legislature is in the process of overriding two Pence vetoes from last year. The new governor has cancelled a contract Pence negotiated, pardoned an innocent man that Pence refused to pardon, and declared an emergency, which Pence had declined to declare, for a neighborhood with lead-contaminated drinking water.
Pence is usually recognized as a GOP insider whose views are solidly aligned with party ideology and his former colleagues in Indiana, who are walking back his gubernatorial actions, have tactfully refused to blame or criticize the VP. The fact that Pence’s fellow Indiana Republicans have chosen not to follow his leadership illustrates that it’s possible to be too much of an ideologue and too far right even in a solidly Republican state. As president, Pence would find considerably less support and considerably more pushback on his more aggressive conservative policies. It’s likely that he would handle the conflict and opposition better than Trump has been, but, given the temperament of our current commander in chief, that’s not saying much.
America elected a hard right political outsider who plays fast and loose with the truth, who only works well with people who agree with him, and whom most of voters didn’t choose for president. We may end up with a president who is a far right political insider who plays fast and loose with the truth, who only works well with people who agree with him, and whom no voters chose for president. There are, of course, several things that would have to happen for Pence to get a promotion. But, if the administration’s Russian ties lead all the way to a Trump impeachment, and if Pence can manage to not do anything with Russia that is illegal and or a national security threat, then we may soon get the chance to learn a lot more about Mike Pence and, given what we already know ,we may not like a lot of what we learn.
Alexis Chapman is a Political Consultant and Writer specializing in policy analysis, from international law to local ordinances. She’s lived in Australia, Ghana, Vermont, Hawaii, and Texas and has worked for small and large NGOs, state legislature, industry associations, and a variety of publications. She is a regular contributor to Political Storm and you can find her on Twitter @AlexisAPChapman.