Vice President Mike Pence's spokesperson had three chances Wednesday to give a simple "no" when asked if his boss had ever met with Russian operatives. But Marc Lotter just couldn't give a straight answer, writes Nick Visser.
Lotter, appearing on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom,” was asked several times by host Bill Hemmer if his boss ever met “with representatives from Russia” or “representatives from the Russian government during the campaign.”
“Clear up a few things for us now. Did the vice president ever meet with a representative from Russia?” Hemmer asked.
“The vice president is not focused on the areas where, you know, on this campaign, especially things that happened before he was even on the ticket. As he has said, that when he joined the campaign his entire focus was on talking to the American people, taking the case that President Trump was going to make to the American people,” Lotter replied, saying Pence was focused on the administration’s agenda.
Lotter got another crack at it and failed to answer, then Hemmer gave him a third try: “Just to nail this down so we’re clear: Is that a yes or a no? Did he or did he not, and was it relevant, in fact?”
Lotter offered a quick reply, saying, “I’m not aware of anything that I have seen,” before again launching into a defense of Pence’s activity “working the agenda that people sent him to Washington to accomplish.”
For months, Mike Pence has made denial after denial about the Trump camp's Russian contacts and, frankly, it now appears he was flat-out lying at every turn. His spokesperson gave it a fourth try on Thursday morning, telling the NYT’s Jonathan Martin that Pence "had no meetings with any individual associated with the Russian government" during the campaign or transition. Again, a lot of qualifiers there since someone could ostensibly argue that the Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer Don Jr. met with, isn’t technically “associated” with the Russian government. He’s also limited the time frame to during the campaign and transition. What about before he joined the campaign or after the transition?
In fact, all of Pence’s statements pertaining to Russian contacts are curiously fixated on when he joined the campaign. The first statement out of his press office following the Don Jr. bombshell read, in part:
“He was not aware of the meeting. He is also not focused on stories about the campaign ― especially those pertaining to the time before he joined the campaign.”
That answer harkens back to Pence's January 15 appearance on Fox News when anchor Chris Wallace pressed him on Team Trump's Russia contacts and he again failed to give a straight answer, instead reminding Wallace of when he joined the campaign.
WALLACE: I’m asking a direct question: Was there any contact in any way between Trump or his associates and the Kremlin or cutouts they had?
PENCE: I joined this campaign in the summer, and I can tell you that all the contact by the Trump campaign and associates was with the American people. We were fully engaged with taking his message to make America great again all across this country. That’s why he won in a landslide election.
WALLACE: — if there were any contacts, sir, I’m just trying to get an answer.
PENCE: Yes. I — of course not. Why would there be any contacts between the campaign?
Oh, maybe to try to steal the election. Anyway, that’s not the answer of someone who has the courage of his convictions. That’s the answer of someone who knows something they don’t want to know.
Let's remember that Pence was also running the transition team that vetted Michael Flynn, was told that he was under investigation by the FBI, and still green lit his appointment to the White House's most sensitive national security post.
If Mike Pence isn't guilty of colluding with the Russians, he's certainly guilty of colluding with Team Trump to cover up their Russian connections. If that wasn’t true, all of these inquiries would have gotten a simple "no."
Watch the triple dodge from Pence’s spokesperson below: