It’s hard for a vice president of the United States to disappear from sight. After all, you are the second most powerful person in the country and all that.
Despite those challenges, Vice President Mike Pence has been nearly invisible for the last 48 hours or so – even as the Trump Administration has been buffeted by a slew of negative stories that have occasioned a special counsel to be named to oversee the ongoing Russia probe.
Pence was spotted Tuesday by the eagle-eyed Kate Benett at a working lunch meeting with Turkish President Erdogan. (The tweet containing that photo was deleted minutes after it went up and reposted hours later.)
On Wednesday, Pence was nowhere to be seen for most of the day. His staff said that he was working on a series of speeches; Pence is set to deliver the commencement address at Notre Dame on Sunday. Pence’s one public event was to honor Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders late in the day.
Pence’s schedule today is a bit more robust. He spoke at the US Chamber of Commerce in the noon hour. He was scheduled to give another speech at the Laffer Associates Washington conference this afternoon before attending a bilateral meeting with President Trump and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
Still, Pence has spoken nary a word about the blockbuster news that Trump divulged classified information in an Oval Office meeting with two top Russian officials or the bombshell that Trump reportedly asked then FBI Director James Comey to leave off an investigation into the Russia ties of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Pence has also said nothing publicly about the fact that Trump directly contradicted his version of events surrounding Comey’s firing 9 days ago.
What we did hear from Pence on Thursday was via a statement, reacting to a New York Times report that Flynn had warned transition officials that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey.
“The vice president stands by his comments in March upon first hearing the news regarding General Flynn’s ties to Turkey and fully supports the President’s decision to ask for General Flynn’s resignation,” an unnamed Pence aide told CNN.
The issue with that statement, of course, is that Pence was the head of the transition team. In that capacity, it seems somewhat hard to believe that Flynn’s warning to White House counsel Don McGahn that he was under investigation never made it to Pence’s ears.
Even as he has remained largely silent regarding Trump’s current troubles, Pence began laying the groundwork for his own political future. On Wednesday, Pence filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to establish the Great America Committee, a leadership political action committee that will allow him to raise money for his political interests and make donations to downballot candidates. Nick Ayers, who ran former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s 2012 presidential campaign, will run Pence’s PAC. (An email to Ayers seeking more information on how Pence plans to use the PAC was not returned.)
The last 48 hours, however, have highlighted Pence’s political problem: He is serving under a deeply unpredictable president who he will likely be latched to – in the public’s mind – no matter what happens over these next four or eight years. Pence has, to date, benefited politically from his willingness to embrace the Trump enigma. (He is vice president, after all.) But Trump is a double-edged sword and Pence has been feeling the sharp end of it since Monday.
Correction: An earlier version mischaracterized Pence's tweet about lunch with the Turkish president.