Mike Pence has a whole new Trump-Russia problem

Mike Pence has had a rough couple of weeks. He’d been trying to lay low during Donald Trump’s implosion, in the hope that he could inherit the presidency by default once Trump is ousted. But then came the anonymous New York Times op-ed which exposed that Trump was dangerously mentally incompetent, and a whole lot of people accused Pence of having had a hand in authoring it. Now Pence suddenly has a whole new problem of a very different – and potentially criminal – nature.

We all saw Mike Pence get caught lying about National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s Russia connections shortly before Flynn was exposed and ousted. Since that time Flynn has cut a plea deal, and as per requirement, has shared everything he knows with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. So for all we know, Mueller may already have Pence nailed for obstruction of justice. But this latest trouble is about someone else: Paul Manafort.

This evening ABC News reported that Paul Manafort has tentatively agreed to a plea deal with Robert Mueller. So what does this have to do with Mike Pence? Back when Paul Manafort was running the Donald Trump campaign, he went to extraordinary (and manipulative) lengths to get Trump to pick Mike Pence as his running mate. CBS News reported two years ago that Manafort even pretended that Trump’s plane was having mechanical problems, just so he’d have more time to convince Trump to go with Pence.

There was no legitimate reason for Paul Manafort to have zeroed in on Mike Pence, whose approval rating as Governor of Indiana was so low, he wasn’t even bothering to seek reelection. If Manafort believed that Donald Trump needed an evangelical running mate, there were better options than Pence. The move simply made no sense at the time. We’ve since learned that Manafort was under the financial control of a Russian oligarch during the election. If the Kremlin told Manafort to go with Pence, then Manafort is about to tell Mueller why – and that cannot be good news for Mike Pence.