“Nothing could be further from the truth” was how Mike Pence, then Donald Trump’s running mate, responded in October of 2016 to claims that members of Trump’s presidential campaign were in contact with WikiLeaks in the run-up to the November election.
“Boy, Pence sure does get caught saying demonstrably false things in public a lot, doesn’t he?”
—Chris Hayes, MSNBC
Late Monday, after The Atlantic reported that a member of Trump’s presidential campaign—the president’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr.—had, in fact, been in contact with WikiLeaks beginning in September of 2016, Pence was quick to deny that he had any knowledge of the communications.
“The Vice President was never aware of anyone associated with the campaign being in contact with WikiLeaks,” Pence’s office said in a statement. “He first learned of this news from a published report earlier tonight.”
As many were quick to point out, Pence’s denial of knowledge fits with a longstanding pattern that the vice president followed throughout the presidential campaign and during his short tenure in office.
Politico‘s Matthew Nusbaum summarizes:
Most famously, Pence said during the transition that Michael Flynn had not discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador during the transition. Flynn had, in fact discussed those sanctions, as the Washington Post reported in February. The White House had previously been alerted that those conversations had been picked up by intelligence officials, though Pence said he learned about them from media reports. Flynn was fired as a result of misleading the vice president, Trump would later say.
Pence had also claimed the transition was not seeking a security clearance for Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., which also proved false.
While Pence’s office has maintained that the vice president had merely been speaking based on the information at his disposal, commentators were quick to express skepticism of his repeated denial of knowledge of campaign-related matters, given his close proximity to the president.
“Boy, Pence sure does get caught saying demonstrably false things in public a lot, doesn’t he?” wrote MSNBC‘s Chris Hayes following Pence’s statement.
Others were similarly incredulous that the vice president could be so thoroughly out of the loop, with some arguing that Pence’s efforts to distance himself from campaign-related matters is part of an effort to keep his presidential prospects alive.
“Practically since his appointment as vice president, speculation has run rampant about the White House #2 one day becoming #1,” writes The Week‘s Jeva Lange. “Of course, those ambitions would require some careful distancing from thorny situations like those involving Trump Jr.”