What About Pence?
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Sometimes the American people have the transcript of the president's call and they can see there was no quid pro quo. President did nothing wrong. Meanwhile today defiance defiance on Capitol Hill Jennifer Williams is testifying against White House orders. Jennifer Williams is the special adviser for Europe and Russia for pence she. She was on that July twenty fifth phone call between trump and Ukrainian President Dolinsky. This is the first time impeachment. Investigators are hearing from someone in Mike. Pence's office she might be able. They provide information about what pence knew about the hold up of military aid vice president. Mike Pence has been a side character throughout the impeachment inquiry so today on article two. We're you're asking was vice president pence in unwitting bystander to the Ukraine scandal were will he become a key. Figure as the inquiry moves ahead. VAUGHN hilliard is a political reporter for. NBC Vaughn thanks for joining us. Thank you for having me. So we WANNA get into how pence fits into or doesn't fit into into the impeachment inquiry. All of the questions there. I think to start though just wanted to take a step back and talk about his role in the trump administration his relationship and ship with the president sort of the the state of that in our understanding of that was I remember this partnership in Twenty Sixteen when When they teamed up just before the Republican convention it seemed like a bit of an odd pairing A couple years later a couple years into the trump administration what do we know about Mike. Pence's relationship with Donald Trump. Right now he was so I heard those twelve years in Congress from two thousand to two thousand twelve. He then went on to become the governor of Indiana. You know he's the old classic Nick Christian Conservative from Columbus Indiana Place. A forty thousand people a true hoosier and so when he suddenly was elevated to be Donald Trump's running mate he was shot onto the scene. I was actually. It was the night that he was. Selected is on trump's running mate in its first interview. It was with Sean Hannity and I've looked back at this moment a lot over the last three years. He Sean Hannity asked him said how will you disagree with President Trump. And what does that look like. What are you doing you disagree well? Well I've been in positions before like that. I served in the leadership of the Congress. A shut the door you tell the boss exactly what you think but when the door opens the job of the vice president is stand right next to the president and implement the policy that he's decided and over the course of the three years you've seen pretty much do just that do we have a sense. How how trump trump regards him? You know there's been talk over the time Ray would would. He looked to replace Mike Pence. But every step of the way pence has been in lockstep walking that very tight tight-wire and essentially always defending the president when you're looking at trump. He is not spoken about word about pence. And if you look across administration there's not many. They have made it this far and pence new getting into this that he was going to have to do that in order to stick around and it looks like he's in it and He's prepared to do whatever it takes to stay a part heard of it. What is pence is relationship with Republican leaders on Capitol Hill? Like has he been a conduit for them to the administration Has the nature of that changed now that he's a loyal partner of trump to. What's what's his reputation there? This is what it was during the two thousand sixteen campaign when there are a lot of hesitant Republican officials. It was Mike Pence. The one that was going and massaging those relationships he was the one that was carrying on the fundraisers. He did it. During the midterms he was the one that largely went out from Congressional District District Congressional district fundraising and campaigning on behalf of Conservative lawmakers. He has been the one that is continued to be sort of that. That quiet quiet voice to help that relationship between the White House and still a Republican Party. That is still obviously grappling with how it's GONNA handle itself into the future. So let's talk about pence in Ukraine pence in this Ukraine investigation He enters the picture on this as I understand it. Maybe you can you can flesh this out back in in May is that right amazed. Alinsky is supposed to be sworn in pence is supposed to play a role. Exactly we should note. The vice president has not answered a slew of these questions directly. And we're still trying to figure out but it was. It was in May was the inauguration of Zalewski in the initial plan was to have vice president pence. Go to that inauguration ultimately what we do know is that he never went there. The question is did the president or anybody around the president directly requests. VP or to his office that he not attend inauguration inauguration. I think this is the larger Mike Pence Story. To what extent is it willful ignorance or complicity. And when I say willful ignorance de eh the vice president ever ask the administration. Why am I not going to this? Inauguration now we don't have that answer yet and Or did the vice president's office just sake the administration's word and not attend rick. Perry the energy secretary ultimately went in his place. There's testimony this week from pence aid from Jennifer Jennifer Williams. She was on the July twenty fifth. Call Trump insulin ski that famous July. Twenty fifth call Pence himself wasn't do we. We know if she told him about that call. He found out anything about She comes from the Foreign Service background. She is somebody who is not a political figure in. She was one of those two individuals that was on that Dylan call from the vice president's office and that call is important in what Jennifer Williams knows because ultimately it was on September timber. I that Vice President Pence went and had his own meeting with Celeski in so the question is did vice. President pence ever read the transcript that July twenty fifth phone call between Trump Dolinsky in which president trump urged investigations into the DNC supposed DNC server. In the Biden's they did Williams ever brief the vice president of the United States about President Trump's words. That is what we're looking to understand as to what Jennifer Williams knows right. So that's that seems like a key question We've all read the transcript or the summary of the transcripts that the that is out there. But you're you're talking about this period read between the phone call and the start of September in the transcript at that point is not publicly available. Nobody knew about it. The question of whether pence had read it in period. I asked him about that. What's what's his response? been like Mr Vice President. Did you read trump's twenty fifth meeting Mr Vice-president. It'd be great to talk with you Mr vice-president I asked him this exact question here. Because this was originally president trump was going to go be the one to have that meeting over. It was in Poland On September first ultimately Mike Pence went into his place. One would think that before going in to a meeting with The Ukrainian president that there'd be holy aware of what President Trump's interactions and directives would have been and that's part of that conversation at sued. Frankly be a little bit of a surprise if nobody ever briefed vice president about trump's desire to have the Biden's be investigated or the supposed Deon Server be investigated again. That goes to the question. Is this willful ignorance or is this complicity by the vice president. I asked him and it was Just one month ago on October ninth in Iowa I asked the vice president over the course of about seventy five seconds repeatedly the same question Jin was he ever aware of interest within the administration to have Ukraine investigate. The by nights never discussed issue of of The issue of the Biden's with President. And what I what I can tell you is that all of our discussions is internal when the president our team and our context in my office with Ukraine were entirely focused on the broader issues of the lack of European support. So you were. You were being investigated. I was tied to aid to Ukraine. That's your question. Let me be very clear in this date as we speak. You're right now Steve. The vice president has not rejected the notion that he was aware that president trump or individuals within the administration ministration were urging Ukraine to investigate the former vice president and his family. There were also phone calls between pence INS. Alinsky Gee what do we. What do we know about that win? Those took place. How many of them there were what the content was? What do you know about Pencil Ski? Just phone. Calls Truthfully Steve. We're not sure sure what those dates were. And we're not sure. How many of them there were? We know that these calls took place because Vice President Pence said calls took place and he was even asked directly whether he would release the transcripts of those calls like President Trump did of his July twenty fifth phone. Call phone calls. I have no objection at all. We're walking and working with White House counsel about that a month later those transcripts still have not been released and it's not quite clear if they ever will be so so his public statement on that has been A. I'm fine with that. And there's been no official word from the White House about. Hey we're not gonna do it because of X. It's just sort of that question of releasing the transcripts as just kind of hanging there you know. President Trump says his call. What's Alinsky was perfect? There's the chance that you know vice. President Pence is call may actually have been perfect and so you. By releasing his transcripts. You could more easily compare pair. The way in which a vice president pence and Donald Trump go about foreign affairs so we know that in the course of this saga pence head. A trip to says alinsky inauguration that was canceled he had an unspecified number of phone calls whistling ski. He had an aide who was on the trump's Alinsky call and he had a personal personal meeting whistle Linski during the period in which the aid was frozen putting all of this together. What does ask ask ask it this way? I would say about that sort of that. That picture well how about this There are a series of questions Steve that I have made explicitly the clear to This administration that we feel should be answered and the vice president has had no interest ever since I went back and forth with him on on October. Ninth in engaging I think that these questions as the ones that you and I are talking about right now. They are not secret yet. The vice president has has refused to address them at any point before. That meeting was against the timber. I did he read the transcript of trump's call Zielinski. We don't know that did Zilenski ever address trump's age being held up With Him we do not know that. And to what extent was pence briefed trump desire for the investigations before September eleventh. We don't know that we should note. The vice president is also a not complying with is impeachment inquiry himself. You've framed it this way a couple of times. I think you said said the question was was he involved was he sort of willfully ignorant of it. I think that is in general. It's a question in in situations like this. That comes up a lot. Maybe a little bit old here so so I'm always thinking of a former vice president who got caught up in another administration scandal. George Bush Senior Iran-contra his famous defensive of himself back. Then what she said. I wasn't in loop this is what leads people to say quote either George Bush was irrelevant or he was ineffective. He set himself. WHO's out of the loop? Now let me give you an example. You said ask you a question Max plan plan out of the loop no operational role go ahead And that was one of the things that was said about him. Back then was that he may be sensed something was going on and so he. He didn't ask questions. Didn't want to know more because he didn't want you know his fingerprints all over it. Is that something that might have happened here. Exactly did he have no idea that Rudy. Giuliani was engaged in diplomacy efforts with Ukraine because based off of the testimony and the public statements that have been made to date. It seems seems like that was a a a a pretty well known fact. So did the vice president have no knowledge of this and if he did know that Rudy Giuliani was involved. Did you ever raise his hand within that administration and and say what is a private citizen who does not have the security clearance and is using personal devices running diplomacy that our State Department should be should be conducting. Because if you're the number two in the country if you're the vice president United States all of this is happening my question is at what point is vice. President Pence stood up up inside of that White House and said I need a full understanding of what we have had in terms of conversations with Ukraine in and what conversations Rudy Giuliani in other associates have had with Ukraine Hinting date we have not had that from this vice president and again we mentioned just depends has has these long standing relationships with Republicans on Capitol Hill certainly his reputation entering this administration was he was more of sort of a conservative irving establishment. Figure I remember when the Access Hollywood tape came out a few weeks before the two thousand sixteen election. There was that twenty four to thirty six hour window where you had had Republicans speaking up and saying trump's gotta go trump's got a dropout. Let's put Pinson. Let's put pens at the top of the ticket. Are you picking up on that. Any any of that. kind of thinking among Republicans in Washington now when it comes to this impeachment question. Hey maybe move trump out. Put pensin run running more standard-issue Republican in Twenty twenty today. At this point you haven't seen enough of Republican senators. The individuals that are ultimately have to convict The President or remove him from office speak in that way and a good number of those individuals are up for reelection. Frankly you've got Joni Ernst Iowa you've got Susan Collins in Maine you have a lot of these competitive races here. The fact of the matter is President trump is still largely a popular figure and so it would take quite The political political courage and the risk to make that sort of a move and understanding that president trump If you were to be removed isn't going anywhere Vaughn we. You're always ask our listeners to submit questions and we do have a to hear there basically along the same lines And I want to run them by you. David wrote to us on twitter. OAC tweet your questions to as David did this. He's from Spain. Pay Just outside of Barcelona That is our most exotic locale yet. David tweeted this. He you said could vice. President pence be impeached for his involvement in the Ukraine skin. I was just asking you from the angle. There of would trump being in pence replacement Republicans. Go go for that. Is there a scenario where pence could be endanger of impeachment. I think that the question here and this is I think this is the hard part for the vice president. Right it's it's that willful ignorance or complicity. The question is you probably theoretically remove. President trump first and then pence becomes president. Went but at that point. If let's say pence becomes president than it takes in order To find a vice president that individual has to get approval from both the House House in the Senate so good luck finding this House of Representative Steve and the Senate agreeing on. Who would be the number two to Mike Pence and then if you were to impeach impeach and remove Mike Pence from the presidency does going down a rabbit hole? Boy Oh boy. I don't know how you ever get there and that gets into a follow up question that we had a listener. Who who who wanted to go a step further down that rabbit Hole Laurie? We'd be island Washington. Yeah if pence is bound to be caught up is also impeached and convicted. Along with the president she says does Nancy. Does Nancy Pelosi the House speaker finish out the term. Because you've got that you know that Line of Succession President Vice President Speaker of the House that would take think a simultaneous. I guess trump pence impeachment removal with no time in that process for anybody else to be pushed through the the two confirmation. Seems like seems like it might be a dream scenario for them. I think I think that's my grandma was born at would be on whidbey island and I. I think there are a greater chance of my grandma. Myself and vice president pence come into whidbey island for a barbecue than there. Is Nancy. Pelosi becoming President Under this circumstance. Because you would have to have a Republican Senate agreed to remove Donald Trump and Mike pence and allow Nancy Pelosi to become President United States and under this current makeup That's pretty hard to fathom. At this point that is That is probably a good way to put it in probably a good way to end. This conversation Vaughan Hilliard. Thank you so much for joining us. learned a lot from you. APPRECIATE IT appreciate Steve. Two thousand six hundred and seventy seven. That's the number of pages of testimony. Tony from closed door hearings that house investigators released this week and today we got the transcripts of testimony from to National Security Council Officials Fiona Hill. Who after post over the summer and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vin men who still serves in the White House one big takeaway from their accounts Vin men and Hill said Mick Mick? Mulvaney was behind the decision to hold up military aid to Ukraine over the summer. Remember Mulvaney is the director of the Office of Management and budget. He is also the president's acting chief of staff. He was scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill today under subpoena. But as expected he didn't show up. Vinson is expected to testify again in public this time next week. Article two inside impeachment is produced by Isabel. Angel Max Jacobs Clear Tie Alison Bailey Adam. The BOA and Barbara Rab our executive producer Ellen. Franken Steve Licta is the executive producer of audio on Steve Kornacki. Back on Monday. mm-hmm getting everyone breaking news. Lester hoist are you afraid. Iran is playing with fire. The most trusted TV news anchor in America here in