How screwed is Mike Pence?
Long before we knew the full extent of the Trump-Russia election conspiracy, long before Special Counsel Robert Mueller was even appointed, it was clear that Mike Pence had a problem. Congressman Elijah Cummings informed Pence in writing that Michael Flynn was on the take from foreign governments, yet Pence turned around and vouched for Flynn on national television. Now that Flynn’s cooperating plea deal is starting to spill over into public view, it brings us back to the original question: how screwed is Mike Pence?
That’s going to depend partly on some things we still don’t know, but are about to learn. Mike Pence clearly lied to the American people about Michael Flynn being dirty. But did he do it strictly because he thought that covering up a scandal would be best for the Trump administration? Or did he do it because he was already complicit in that scandal, and he was trying to cover his own tracks?
This week’s court filing reveals that certain unnamed members of the Trump transition team were aware of Michael Flynn’s criminal phone calls with the Russian Ambassador beforehand, and others became aware after the fact. The head of the Trump transition team: Mike Pence. We’re about to find out the answer to the long-simmering question of whether Pence knew what Flynn was doing with Russia, and signed off on it while it was happening.
If Mike Pence did sign off on Michael Flynn’s phone calls, then Pence is completely screwed. That would put Pence in violation of the Logan Act. While no one has ever been prosecuted for that, it would at least be politically crippling for Pence, because it would mean that Pence lied to the American people to try to cover up his own crimes, and not merely in some misguided attempt at keeping Trump happy.
If it turns out Mike Pence didn’t know what Michael Flynn was doing at the time, but he then decided to try to help Trump and Flynn cover it up after the fact, then it’ll mean Pence is moderately screwed. In such case he would argue that he somehow didn’t see the letter from Elijah Cummings, and while that’s easily disproven, some among the public would fall for it. The bottom line: this is going to be a bad month for Pence. We just don’t know how bad yet.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report