Spox: Pence Had No Meetings With Russian Gov’t-Associated Individuals

"It was the right decision at the right time," says Vice President Mike Pence when asked about President Trump's decision to fire FBI Director Comey, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

A spokesperson for Vice President Mike Pence told TPM on Thursday that Pence did not have any meetings with individuals associated with the Russian government before assuming his current office.

“The Vice President had no meetings with any individual associated with the Russian government during the campaign or transition,” Marc Lotter told TPM in an email.

The statement came after a striking interview with Fox News’ Bill Hemmer on Wednesday, in which Lotter appeared to dodge the same question three times.

“Did the vice president ever meet with representatives from Russia?” Hemmer asked Lotter on Wednesday.

“The vice president is not focused on the areas where — on this campaign — especially things that happened even before he was even on the ticket,” Lotter replied. “As he has said, when he joined the campaign, his entire focus was on talking to the American people.”

Hemmer let Lotter finish and tried again: “Fully aware of the statement there. Just come back to this question. If it wasn’t a private citizen from Russia, did he ever meet with representatives from the Russian government during the campaign?”

“That’s stuff that the special prosecutors and the counsels are all looking at,” Lotter said again. “I can tell you that in all my time with the vice president I knew that he was focused entirely on talking to the American people.”

“Just to nail that down so we’re clear, is that a yes or a no?” Hemmer asked. “Did he or did he not, and was it relevant in fact?”

“I’m not aware of anything that I have seen,” Lotter said. “All of the focus that I saw with vice president Pence during the campaign and since then has been focused on working the agenda that the people sent him to Washington to accomplish.”

The dodges on Wednesday came after two assertions made by Pence on Jan. 15 — that no one in the Trump campaign met with Russians who were trying to meddle in the election, and that then-National Security Adviser designate Michael Flynn did not discuss sanctions with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak — were proven to be incorrect.

On Tuesday, Lotter told TPM in an email that “[t]he Vice President was not aware of the meeting,” between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016.

As revealed in emails published by Trump Jr. shortly before a New York Times report on them, the meeting came after an associate of the Trump family, Rob Goldstone, promised Trump Jr. a meeting with a Russian lawyer with dirt on Hillary Clinton provided as part of the Russian government’s effort to aide Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

H/t HuffPost.

This post has been updated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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