Donald Trump and Mike Pence
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Were Donald Trump a learned man, he might prophesy those once false to him will grow in falseness. And thus denied sleep with worry, would cry out, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

Alas, Donald is not a learned man, with no counsel so wise as King Richard to warn of the treacheries to come.

If so, Mike Pence would prove a lesser threat.

Earl of Warwick: There is a history in all men’s lives,
Figuring the natures of the times deceas’d;
The which observ’d, a man may prophesy,
With a near aim, of the main chance of things
As yet not come to life, who in their seeds
And weak beginning lie intreasured.
Such things become the hatch and brood of time;
And, by the necessary form of this,
King Richard might create a perfect guess
That great Northumberland, then false to him,
Would of that seed grow to a greater falseness;
Which should not find a ground to root upon
Unless on you. –Henry IV, Part 2, Act III, Scene I

Yes, Mike Pence plotted once when times were grim. Would of that seed not grow a greater falseness; which should not find a ground to root, unless on Trump again? Ere he plotted once; he shall plot again.

After the Access Hollywood tape came out on October 7th, 2016, Pence thought he saw an opening to defenestrate the top of the ticket and take it for his own.

It’s been reported that Pence sent Trump a letter saying he needed time to decide whether he could stay with the campaign. But in fact, according to several Republicans familiar with the situation, he wasn’t just thinking about dropping out—he was contemplating a coup. Within hours of The Post’s bombshell, Pence made it clear to the Republican National Committee that he was ready to take Trump’s place as the party’s nominee. Such a move just four weeks before Election Day would have been unprecedented—but the situation seemed dire enough to call for radical action…

…The furtive plotting, several sources told me, was not just an act of political opportunism for Pence. He was genuinely shocked by the Access Hollywood tape. In the short time they’d known each other, Trump had made an effort to convince Pence that—beneath all the made-for-TV bluster and bravado—he was a good-hearted man with faith in God. On the night of the vice-presidential debate, for example, Trump had left a voicemail letting Pence know that he’d just said a prayer for him. The couple was appalled by the video, however. Karen in particular was “disgusted,” says a former campaign aide. “She finds him reprehensible—just totally vile.”

Yet Pence might also have thought he glimpsed something divine in that moment of political upheaval—a parting of the seas, God’s hand reaching down to make his will known. Marc Short told me that in moments of need, Pence turns to a favorite passage in Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Short said, “Mike believes strongly in the sovereignty of God, and knowing that the Lord has a plan for him.”

Lacking the normal human allotment of guilt and conscience, Donald Trump probably sleeps right through the rude imperious surge and deafening clamor his waking life leaves in its wake. But he may get a whiff of this morning’s headlines and realize that a pretender still vies for the throne.

Were it not for Lord Manafort, Trump might not have the opportunity to quote the Bard:

O sleep, O gentle sleep,
Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frightened thee,
That thou no more will weigh my eyelids down,
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?

After all, it was Manafort who set this in motion:

Nonetheless, as decision time approached, Trump was leaning toward New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a fellow bridge-and-tunnel loudmouth with whom he had more natural chemistry. The candidate’s advisers repeatedly warned that the “Bridgegate” fiasco would make Christie a liability in the general election. But they were unable to get through to Trump.

Then, on July 12, a miracle: During a short campaign swing through Indiana, Trump got word that his plane had broken down on the runway, and that he would need to spend the night in Indianapolis. With nowhere else to go, Trump accepted an invitation to dine with the Pences.

In fact, according to two former Trump aides, there was no problem with the plane. Paul Manafort, who was then serving as the campaign’s chairman, had made up the story to keep the candidate in town an extra day and allow him to be wooed by Pence. The gambit worked: Three days later, Trump announced Pence as his running mate.

From such a weak beginning lied intreasured such things become the hatch and brood of time. So, now, awakened, King Donald says:

Then you perceive the body of our kingdom
How foul it is; what rank diseases grow,
And with what danger, near the heart of it.

Whether the president fires Mueller or not, Mike Pence is waiting in the wings believing in the sovereignty of God, and knowing that the Lord has a plan for him.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at