Mike Pence’s disappearing act takes an even stranger turn

Early this month, chaos ensued when Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to address the opioid crisis at a New Hampshire treatment center was abruptly and mysteriously canceled. Although canceling a trip is not unusual, pulling the plug just as Air Force Two was readying for takeoff is rare and implies that something big is going on. Pence’s Chief of Staff Marc Short declined to offer an official reason for the cancellation but told reporters we would find out “in a few weeks.” Donald Trump similarly teased that the reason would come out “in about a week or two,” adding that “[t]here was a very interesting problem that they had in New Hampshire.”

We finally got more insight into what may have happened. Politico broke the news yesterday that Jeff Hatch, the Chief Business Development Officer at the center and former New York Giants player entered a plea deal on Friday to serve up to four years in prison in connection with transporting over $100,000 of fentanyl from Massachusetts to New Hampshire in 2017. At the time of Pence’s planned trip, Hatch was under federal investigation and the Pence team’s odd last-minute discovery of this fact supposedly triggered the cancellation.
Although Short never revealed a reason for the cancellation, he assured reporters that the sudden change of plans was neither a matter of national security nor a family or health issue. The federal investigation of Hatch, revealed on Friday in newly released court documents, appears to check all these boxes. But does that mean the mystery is over?

There are reasons to wonder. First, Pence and his office are declining to discuss the incident with Politico and any other news outlet following the document release, even though the investigation is now a matter of public record. Second, no reporting claims the investigation is the sole reason for the trip’s cancellation. On the contrary, Politico’s source, “a law enforcement official briefed on the incident,” referred to the investigation as being “among the problems” that led to that decision. Similarly, ABC News, citing “sources familiar with the matter,” reported that the investigation was “at least part of the reason,” while CNN noted it was “unclear“ if the investigation “was the sole reason for the cancellation.” Third, “a person familiar with the matter” told CNN that Pence was “never scheduled to interact with” Hatch during the planned visit anyway.

The new reporting on Pence’s canceled trip raises more questions than it answers. The federal investigation into Hatch was real, but was it the sole reason for the abrupt cancellation? If it was just a convenient story to cover for the need to recall Pence to the White House for some pressing matter, then we might never learn what really happened. Given the continuing mystery and the fact that the Trump administration has not exactly proven itself to be credible, you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to wonder if there might be something more behind this story.

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