Is Vice President Pence a fool or a knave? He can’t be both. Either he was an unwitting tool of the White House or he knew better when he declared on “Face the Nation” on Jan. 15 that President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had not discussed with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak “anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”
The Post’s David Ignatius had reported three days earlier that Flynn and Kislyak had spoken in late December, and Ignatius raised the question that the men had discussed the subject of sanctions — a possibility confirmed Friday by Flynn in his guilty plea to lying to the FBI. The White House had put out the story that Pence was a victim of Flynn’s lying — the same lies that Flynn told the FBI when questioned about the conversation with Kislyak.
Poor Pence, the town thought at the time: bamboozled by a lying, self-aggrandizing, national security renegade wheeling and dealing in international affairs all on his own.
But wait: Flynn came clean in court this morning. He wasn’t freelancing at all with the Russians. Rather, Flynn said he kept high-level officials with the Trump transition team informed about his dealings with Kislyak, and even followed instructions from “a senior member” (identified by The Post and other outlets as Jared Kushner) to speak with foreign ambassadors, including Kislyak, about an Egyptian-sponsored resolution at the United Nations.
So senior officials on the Trump team knew Flynn had lied to Pence about the Russian contacts, but they let the vice president go on national television and speak untruths. Or — and here’s where it gets even stickier — transition team leader Mike Pence knew what “senior” transition team members knew: that Flynn was acting on orders with the Russians. If that’s the case, Pence fits the bill of a knave.
If, however, Pence’s transition team underlings kept him in the dark, then that makes Pence a dunce. They, like Flynn, used him.
Only President Trump knows the answer.