Mike Pence: Former Indiana governor; Vice President of the United States; and President Donald Trump’s rhetoric translator.
Pence, whose political pedigree and personality make him the antithesis of Trump, has spent much of his first two weeks as vice president explaining what Trump meant in interviews, at events and – most commonly – on Twitter.
While there is a limit to the amount of damage control the vice president can actually do, given the outsized amount of attention Pence’s front man garners, the act of explaining what Trump meant has fallen squarely on Pence.
The role each vice president plays changes from administration to administration. With Trump, Pence has regularly been called on to say things like “what you heard there” or “the President is simply expressing” – phrases that attempt to lower the temperature on Trump comments that have angered Democrats and Republicans.
This is not unfamiliar territory for Pence: For much of the 2016 campaign, the former Indiana governor was tasked with turning down the heat on Trump’s campaign rhetoric and attempting to make it more palpable for rank-and-file Republican voters.
But explaining the uncharacteristically blunt Trump is not easy and Pence has regularly been asked to cool tensions and rebut critics for a President known to hold nothing back rhetorically.
On Sunday, after Trump lambasted the judge that blocked his immigration ban by labeling him a “so-called” judge, Pence tried to spin the President’s commentary as “refreshing,” not presidential overreach.
“The President of the United States has every right to criticize the other two branches of government,” Pence told NBC. “I think people find it very refreshing that they not only understand this president’s mind but they understand how he feels about things.”
In an interview with CBS, Pence said Trump was showing the American people “candor” because the immigration law “could not be more clear here.”
“The President is simply expressing a frustration with a judge who is involving himself in the clear prerogatives of the president of the United States,” Pence said.
Pence was also pressed this weekend on the fact Trump – in an interview tied to the Super Bowl – equated the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin to those of leaders in the United States, telling Fox News, “What, you think our country’s so innocent?”
Pence said that was Trump not letting “semantics or the arguments of the past get in the way of exploring the ability to work together with Russia and with President Putin.”
On CBS, Pence said, “What you heard there was a determination to attempt to deal with the world as it is.”
Pence even defended Trump during arguably the most trying moment of the 2016 campaign: When video of Trump casually talking about sexual assault during a 2005 interview with Access Hollywood was leaked.
While Pence issued a statement saying he was “offended by the words and actions” in the video, he went on to vociferously defend the then-presidential candidate in the face of accusations of sexual assault, arguing Trump never engaged in the actions he described on the video.
“Donald Trump has asserted that all of these recent, unsubstantiated allegations are categorically are false,” Pence told CBS. “And I do believe him.”