WASHINGTON ― With Michael Flynn’s guilty plea bringing fresh attention to what Vice President Mike Pence knew about possible Russian collusion and when he knew it, Pence’s office has a ready answer: Not much and really late.
So far Pence has remained at the periphery of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
He’s repeatedly toed the Trumpian line that any suggestion of collusion between the campaign and the Russians was nonsense. But he’s also pointed out that he wasn’t chosen as Donald Trump’s running mate until after the campaign started making contact with Russian officials. And he’s been careful to couch his own remarks about Russia with phrases like “I’m not aware” and “the president has made it very clear.”
Now, Flynn’s guilty plea to a single count of lying to the FBI regarding his contacts with Russian officials moves Pence closer to the spotlight.
When Flynn, Trump’s original national security adviser and longtime campaign aide, was fired just three weeks after the president took office, the purported reason was that Flynn had lied to Pence about his contacts with Russia during the transition ― a transition led by Pence himself.
A White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Pence felt “vindicated” by Flynn’s guilty plea as proof that Flynn had lied not only to Pence, but to federal authorities as well.
That latest distancing remark follows a statement from Pence last month, after revelations that the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., had worked with WikiLeaks to publicize stolen emails to hurt Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. U.S. intelligence has long considered WikiLeaks a virtual arm of Russian intelligence; an official January report specifically named the organization in finding that Russia had acted to help Trump win last year’s presidential election.
In October of last year, Pence was asked if the Trump campaign had been working with WikiLeaks, and he denied it. On Nov. 13 of this year, the day that Trump Jr.’s cooperation with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was reported, Pence’s office released this statement: “The vice president was never aware of anyone associated with the campaign being in contact with WikiLeaks. He first learned of this news from a published report earlier tonight.”
Those statements, though, will not be the end of the matter for Pence. His lawyer reportedly met with Mueller’s team this summer. And on Friday, the ranking…