Vice President Mike Pence did not meet with any officials associated with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign, his spokesman said on Thursday after repeatedly dodging the question on Wednesday.
Pence’s spokesman, Marc Lotter, was asked three times on Wednesday on Fox News whether Pence had held any such meetings, but declined to answer. He sought to rectify that on Thursday.
“The Vice President had no meetings with any individual associated with the Russian government during the campaign or transition,” Lotter said in a statement.
Pence is just the latest high-ranking official in President Donald Trump’s orbit to deny having met with any officials linked to the Russian government during the campaign. The denial comes after it was recently revealed that Donald Trump Jr., senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in June 2016 to get what they hoped would be damaging information about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
In the wake of that revelation, Pence’s office released a statement distancing himself from the meeting. “The Vice President was not aware of the meeting. He is not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket,” Lotter said earlier this week.
Pence’s office has since said it’s “offensive” to suggest the statement was intended to create distance between Pence and Trump.
Pence has found himself in uncomfortable positions in recent months when attempting to defend the administration from Russia-related criticisms. He said on national television during the transition that Michael Flynn had not discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador in a series of phone calls, a claim that was later revealed to be untrue. Flynn, who Trump tapped as national security adviser, was fired. Pence also stated that no one from the campaign had met with officials linked to the Russian government — a claim that has now been debunked by the Trump Jr. admission.
Other administration officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have had to retroactively reveal meetings they had with Russian officials during the campaign.
The White House said on Wednesday that there was no deliberate effort to conceal such meetings.
“Every single day we do our best to give the most accurate information that we have, and we continue to do that every single day, and have offered to be as transparent as possible with all committees and anyone looking into this matter,” principal deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Wednesday when pressed on the matter.
Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.