Man In The Middle: Pence Is At The Heart Of The Ukraine Scandal Too

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence (Getty Images)
October 3, 2019 3:58 p.m.
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Vice President Mike Pence castigated former Vice President Joe Biden Thursday with an attack that would make even the most casual observer of President Donald Trump’s hijinks roll their eyes. 

“The American people have a right to know if the vice president of the United States, or his family, profited from his position,” Pence told reporters after an event in Arizona. “When you hold the second highest office in the land it comes with unique responsibilities — not just to be above impropriety, but to be above the appearance of impropriety, and clearly in this case there are legitimate questions that ought to be asked.” He tweeted out an article containing his comments soon after.

Pence has once again taken his place as Trump’s loyal lieutenant, now full-throatedly supporting the President’s baseless accusations.

But based on what we know so far, this isn’t the first time Pence has dipped a toe into the burgeoning Ukraine scandal, in which Trump and his allies have used the full power of the state to go after his political enemies. Pence has been in it since the beginning.

Here’s a timeline of Pence’s biggest moments as the story unfurled:

May 20: Pence does not attend the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Trump’s orders. Energy Secretary Rick Perry leads the U.S. delegation in his stead.

July 25: Pence’s national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, listens in on Trump’s now-infamous call with Zelensky during which Trump tells the Ukrainian President to dig up dirt on the Bidens. 

July 26: The day that White House officials told the Washington Post that Pence should have received notes on the call in his daily briefing. 

September 1: Pence meets with Zelensky in Warsaw. Pence reportedly relays that hundreds of millions of dollars of aid will not be given to Ukraine due to the U.S.’ concerns about lackluster attempts to crack down on corruption. Having already spoken to Trump, Zelensky likely understands that “corruption” is shorthand for Trump wanting him to drum up phony allegations against Biden. 

September 2: Pence denies mentioning the Bidens in his call with Zelensky, though he makes crystal clear that he will relay Zelensky’s “progress” on “dealing with corruption” back to Trump.

September 18: Pence and Zelensky have another call. Officials have called it “perfunctory” and said that Zelensky thanked Pence for his positive report after their meeting, which led to the release of the Ukrainian aid. 

September 25: As the scandal unfolds, Trump name-drops Pence at a speech before the United Nations. “I think you should do, and I think you should ask for VP Pence’s conversation because he had a couple conversations also,” he said.

Some point before call memo release: Pence advised Trump not to release the White House’s version of the President’s call with Zelensky. Pence reportedly got on board when Trump decided that the optics of holding back the document would be worse than releasing it.

Pence tends to fly under the radar because of his relative blandness as compared to Trump. But if Trump’s actions look damning, if his coercion of Zelensky has set the impeachment ball in motion, Pence shouldn’t be feeling too comfortable.

Pence too had a conversation with Zelensky where he said outright that the U.S. would be withholding military aid until Ukraine does a better job rooting out corruption. That conversation came after Trump clearly equated “rooting out corruption” with “smearing the Bidens” during his July 25 phone call: a call which, coincidentally, Pence would have received transcripts of a day after one of his top advisers listened in.

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