Pence says no one on his staff wrote ‘New York Times’ column
US vice-president adds to list of high-ranking officials who deny writing op-ed
“I know them. I know their character,” he said in a taped interview for Face The Nation, the CBS show which aired on Sunday.
Some pundits had speculated that Mr Pence could be the “senior administration official” who wrote the opinion piece because it included language he has been known to use, such as the unusual word “lodestar”. The op-ed writer claimed to be part of a “resistance” movement within the Trump administration that was working behind the scenes to thwart the president’s most dangerous impulses. Mr Pence added his staff to the list of more than two dozen high-ranking administration officials who have denied writing the column.
“Let me be very clear. I’m 100 per cent confident that no one on the vice-president’s staff was involved in this anonymous editorial. I know my people,” he said on Face the Nation. “They get up every day and are dedicated, just as much as I am, to advancing the president’s agenda and supporting everything . . . President Trump is doing for the people of this country.”
Asked whether he had asked his staff about the op-ed, Mr Pence said: “I don’t have to ask them because I know them. I know their character. I know their dedication and I am absolutely confident that no one on the vice president’s staff had anything to do with this.”
He restated that he thinks the essay writer should do the “honourable thing and resign”. Publication of the column followed the release of stunning details from an upcoming book by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward in which current and former aides referred to Mr Trump as an “idiot” and “liar” and depicted him as prone to rash policy decisions that some aides either work to stall or derail entirely. Both releases are said to have infuriated Mr Trump, who unleashed a string of attacks on Mr Woodward’s credibility and dismissed the celebrated author’s book as a “work of fiction”.
Some of the officials featured in the book’s anecdotes about the president, including defence secretary Jim Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly, issued statements denying the comments attributed to them. Mr Woodward has said he stands by his reporting.
The book, Fear: Trump In The White House, is scheduled to be formally released on Tuesday, all but ensuring that the debate over Mr Trump’s leadership ability and style will extend into a second week. Mr Trump, meanwhile, has denounced the Times opinion piece as “gutless” and its publication as a “disgrace” bordering on treason.
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Trump ally, has said the president would be justified in using lie detectors to ferret out the anonymous writer. The president has yet to say whether he would go that far, but Mr Pence said he would be willing to submit to such an examination.
“I would agree to take it in a heartbeat and would submit to any review the administration wanted to do,” he said in a taped Fox News Sunday interview. Both Mr Pence and Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to Mr Trump, pushed back during separate television appearances on Sunday on the portrayals of Mr Trump as anything but a thoughtful leader. Both also said they had no idea who wrote the piece; Mr Trump has said he can name up to five people who could have written it.
“What I see is a tough leader, a demanding leader, someone who gets all the options on the table,” Mr Pence said on Fox News. “But he makes the decisions, and that’s why we’ve made the progress we’ve made.”
Mr Trump has said the justice department should investigate and unmask the anonymous author. He cited national security concerns as grounds for what would amount to an extraordinary criminal investigation should Attorney General Jeff Sessions decide to pursue one. Neither Mr Pence nor Ms Conway answered directly when asked if Mr Sessions should treat Mr Trump’s comments as an order. The justice department is supposed to make investigative decisions free of political pressure from the White House and the president.