Everybody in government hates leaks, but … some leaks are more equal than others, amirite? Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence took a beating from leaks about former national security adviser Michael Flynn, with allegations that his transition team had or should have known about the investigation into Flynn’s financial connections to Turkey, among other issues. None of those sources went on the record, and as it turns out, some of the information they offered was contradictory, but the question still remained as to how Pence could have missed it as head of the transition team.
A few hours later, another administration source magically emerged at NBC News:
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.” …
The source close to the administration, who requested anonymity as the White House denies the story, is now saying that Pence and his team were not made aware of any investigation relating to Flynn’s work as a foreign agent for Turkey.
“It’s also a fact that if he told McGahn that during the transition, it’s also a fact that not only was Pence not made aware of that, no one around Pence was as well,” the source said. “And that’s an egregious error — and it has to be intentional. It’s either malpractice or intentional, and either are unacceptable.”
Not only did the Trump team keep Pence in the dark on Flynn, this new source told NBC News, Pence may never have actually met with Flynn at all during the transition. This administration source was careful not to blame Donald Trump, who the source says assumed was being kept in the loop all along, but accused others of engaging in a pattern of deception around the vice president. “There’s a pattern as it relates to the Flynn situation,” the source claims, that kept Pence from being, “either intentionally or unintentionally, made aware of the facts.”
Well … isn’t that convenient. A source within the administration has popped up after a bad day in the media to exonerate both Trump and Pence. It just happened to coincide with a statement from the White House that Pence “stands by his comments in March upon first hearing the news regarding General Flynn’s ties to Turkey,” which was a flat-out denial. Nothing to see here!
For Pence, though, there probably isn’t. A lot gets made of Pence being the chair of the transition team, but that and five bucks gets you a tall mocha latté at Starbucks, too. The transition gets driven by the incoming president, and it’s been clear all along that Trump desperately wanted Flynn in his administration — more than Flynn wanted to be in it, apparently — and still does. A transition-team chair isn’t going to personally vet a candidate that the president has already decided will join the administration; the chair’s job is to find candidates for jobs not already chosen and to make sure everyone’s getting vetted by others involved in the process. Pence might share the blame for the vetting process breaking down on Flynn, but if Trump’s team was hiding information from them, that lessens the responsibility somewhat.
Someone in the White House may have wanted to make sure that Pence isn’t getting unfairly maligned, or maybe just want to make sure he hasn’t checked out. As CNN reported yesterday, Pence has suddenly dropped his profile considerably. And who do we hear from in this instance? Hey, it’s another “senior administration source”:
Though Pence will continue to be a “loyal soldier” because he is a “relentlessly positive guy, he “looks tired,” a senior administration adviser observed on Thursday, outlining the vice president’s schedule and trying to explain his relative absence from the public eye.
While an aide to the vice president says he spent the last few days in speech preparation, it conveniently kept him out of the firing line, missing a regular Senate lunch on Capitol Hill on Tuesday while he worked behind closed doors with President Donald Trump at a bilateral meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Pence team knew what they were getting themselves into when they joined the Trump ticket and team almost a year ago.
“We certainly knew we needed to be prepared for the unconventional,” but, the source adds, “not to this extent.”
Leaks — they’re what’s for dinner, and breakfast and lunch too. Pence is wise enough to know when to become scarce and keep his head down, and he’s been around long enough to know how to make his case in the traditional Washington sotto voce mode. Let’s see if the White House can learn it too.