Donald Trump and Mike Pence
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

One of the tactics that is often employed by politicians who find themselves surrounded by scandal is to claim ignorance. That is essentially the line employed by Ronald Reagan to get himself out from under the whole Iran/Contra scandal that emerged during his second term. And it is now the defense being employed by Vice President Pence when it comes to questions surfacing from the Trump/Russia probe.

Vice President Mike Pence has been kept in the dark about former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s alleged wrongdoing, according to a source close to the administration, who cited a potential “pattern” of not informing the vice president and calling it “malpractice or intentional, and either are unacceptable.”…

This would be the second time that Pence claims he was kept in the dark about possible Flynn wrongdoings, despite the White House’s alleged knowledge of them. Earlier this year, Pence said he was not made aware of Flynn’s discussions with Russian officials until 15 days after Trump and the White House were notified.

It is especially important to keep in mind that one of the recent reports is that Michael Flynn told Trump’s transition team that he was the subject of a federal investigation for his ties to Turkey. Mike Pence was the person Trump put in charge of his transition team. So it would have required a rather elaborate scheme to keep the news from him, which this source called “malpractice or intentional.” One might wonder who this person, probably speaking on behalf of Pence, is pointing to as the culprit. That is a serious accusation to make against the rest of the team.

The truth is that this defense of Pence strains credulity. During the transition, both the Daily Caller and Politico reported that Flynn’s consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group Inc., had been hired to lobby for Turkish interests. Four days later, Rep. Elijah Cummings wrote a letter to Pence requesting more information about the potential conflicts of interest posed by Flynn’s lobbying work. That was in mid-November. In March, when Flynn actually registered as a foreign lobbyist, Pence told Bret Baier that was the first he’d heard about it. Here’s what the source for the story above says about that now:

Asked about a letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings to Pence on November 18 that warned the transition team about Flynn’s work for Turkey, the source asserted: “I’m not sure we saw the letter.”

We can see from all of this that there are the risks associated with a claim of ignorance. It requires the politician to attack associates for keeping them in the dark and/or alluding to incompetence — like not reading a letter from the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

As this scandal heats up, Pence will have to walk a fine line between his role as loyal foot soldier to Trump and pretending to be an ignorant bystander in order to protect his future political ambitions. At some point, he’ll have to chose one or the other. When/if he decides on the latter, no one should give him a pass for pretending ignorance.

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