Vice President Mike Pence’s team pushed back Wednesday against the notion that he was trying to distance himself from President Donald Trump, after a statement he issued a day earlier on the latest developments in the Russia saga drew raised eyebrows.
Some White House aides said they were blindsided by Pence’s statement on Tuesday after Trump’s eldest son released emails about a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer. Pence’s office said in response to the news that he was "not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket." Some White House officials said they felt the statement implied guilt on the part of the campaign.
A source close to Pence, however, rejected that interpretation.
"[The] statement was a response to press inquiries and was similar to what the President’s lawyers said” in noting that Trump didn’t know about the meeting, the source said, adding that mentioning that the meeting with the Russian lawyer occurred before Pence joined the campaign was merely a statement of fact.
"The Vice President finds any suggestion that he’s distancing himself from the President to be offensive.”
But a spokesperson for the vice president did not respond to inquiries about whether their office ran the statement by counterparts in the White House before releasing it on Tuesday. A White House spokesman also did not respond.
Pence has previously positioned himself as unaware of controversies that bubbled up in the White House. For instance, when former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was fired after it was disclosed that he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador during the transition, Pence said he had not known the contents of the conversation.
Similarly, on Tuesday, Pence’s spokesperson Marc Lotter said Pence was unaware of any meetings between Donald Trump Jr. and Russians.
A White House official said Trump and Pence seemed to be getting along in a meeting on Wednesday morning. There’s "no hard feelings," the source said.
On Wednesday, Pence also praised the president at American University in Washington, D.C., saying Trump will "continue to provide leadership."
“Serving with him every day, I know President Trump will continue to provide that leadership at home and abroad," Pence told students. "This president has no higher priority than the security and safety of the American people and our prosperity.”