As the Donald Trump impeachment talk has now spread to some Republican congressional reps as well as Democrats, members from both parties have reportedly begun seriously contemplating the possibility that Mike Pence could assume the presidency. But new revelations in the Trump-Russia scandal now suggest that speculation about Pence may be premature.
Pence himself appears to be laying the groundwork for a presidential run in 2020, starting his own fundraising political action committee, the Great America Committee, as revealed by Bloomberg News on Wednesday. While it is unlikely that a sitting vice president would run against his own president, the announcement of the new PAC suggests that Pence expects Trump to be out of office by the time of the 2020 presidential campaign.
While it is also possible that Pence expects Trump to survive his first term but decline to seek reelection, that possibility appears somewhat less likely given that Trump filed his reelection papers on the day that he was inaugurated and had already raised more than $12 million for his 2020 run by mid-April.
If Trump were removed from office either by impeachment or some other process — such as his own resignation — Pence would become president and therefore assume the prime position for a full-scale presidential run in 2020, unless Pence himself is removed through impeachment.
After new revelations this week regarding what Pence knew about the activities of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, the possibility that Pence himself could be implicated in the scandal that is now under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller appears more likely.
As head of Trump's transition team between the November election and January 20 inauguration, Pence held the job of vetting potential Trump appointees including Flynn — who was a paid foreign agent for the government of Turkey at the time and was under FBI investigation for failing to properly disclose that relationship, according to a report in the New York Times on Wednesday.
In fact, the Trump transition team headed by Pence was aware that Flynn was under investigation, the Times reported, but cleared him and appointed the foreign agent as United States National Security Adviser anyway.
For further details on the Trump team's and Pence's knowledge of Flynn's paid work for Turkey, see the report from CBS News yesterday in the video below.
Flynn's position on the Trump team began to pay dividends for Turkey right away. According to media reports on Wednesday, the Pentagon under the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama planned to arm Kurdish forces in Syria to attack and recapture the city of Raqqa from ISIS, who had made Raqqa their center of terrorist operations.
Turkey opposed the United States' arming of Kurdish fighters, and so did Flynn, who at that time had been paid more than $500,000 by Turkey through his private company, Flynn Intel Group. Flynn refused to sign off on the Pentagon plan, putting the anti-ISIS operation on hold.
However, prior to receiving the payments from Turkey, Flynn opposed the Turkish government and supported a failed coup against Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July of 2016, according to a report by the Huffington Post.
As late as March of this year, Pence publicly claimed that even as he headed the Trump transition effort, he was completely in the dark about Flynn's ties to both Turkey and Russia. It was Flynn's undisclosed contacts with Russian officials that led to his forced resignation in February.
@20committee @LouiseMensch @PersisterGail @SarahTheNasty @Mopshell @TrueFactsStated Pence lied saying he didn't know #Flynn lobbied for foreign govt/paid by #Russia. Yet Rep Cummings told Pence about BOTH in NOVEMBER. pic.twitter.com/kcAFVEAPcu
— Dr. Dena Grayson (@DrDenaGrayson) May 4, 2017
But Pence had received a personal letter back on November 18 from Representative Elijah Cummings of the House Government Oversight Committee, explicitly warning him of Flynn's work as a paid foreign agent, raising the possibility that Pence had some other ulterior motive for approving Flynn as Trump's National Security Adviser — but whether those actions could reveal an offense worthy of Pence's impeachment remains unclear.
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