Vice-president Mike Pence actively participated in President Trump’s scheme to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political opponents. Pence has avoided the media since the scandal broke, but his allies have attempted to excuse his actions by floating the absurd defense that, when he leaned on Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelensky, he was completely unaware of Trump’s agenda.
Last night, NBC reporter Vaughn Hillyard asked Pence a simple question: Was he aware that part of the reason for the hold-up in aid to Ukraine was to pressure the country into investigating Joe Biden? Hillyard asked Pence four times. Pence refused to answer the question:
Here are the answers Pence gave instead:
1. I never discussed the Bidens with Zelensky.
2. Our discussion was focused on “broader issues.”
3. The aid was “in no way connected” to the demand for a Biden investigation.
4. His discussions were “entirely focused on President Trump’s priorities.”
Not one of those statements answers the question. When Pence met with Zelensky and was asked about the aid freeze, was he aware that Trump’s priorities were getting Ukraine to investigate his domestic opponents, including the Bidens? Pence won’t say.
The answer is yes, he was aware. He was given a readout of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky, and when a reporter asked him on September 2 if the aid was being held up to compel the Biden probe, he answered in the affirmative, reframing it in the administration’s “corruption” code word. If Pence thought he could sustain a defense that he didn’t know what Trump wanted, he would.