Vice President Mike Pence is standing by his March claim that he learned about Michael Flynn’s Turkish lobbying work through the media, even as a new report indicates Flynn informed the transition team in January that he was under federal investigation for not properly disclosing the paid work.
Pence, who ran President Donald Trump’s transition operation, had told Fox News on March 9 that “hearing that story today was the first I heard of it.” He repeated the claim about Flynn’s ties to Turkey later in the interview, and said the revelation affirmed Trump’s decision to fire the national security adviser.
“The Vice President stands by his comments in March upon first hearing the news regarding General Flynn’s ties to Turkey and fully supports the President’s decision to ask for General Flynn’s resignation,” Pence’s office said in a statement to POLITICO on Thursday.
Still, Pence once again stands at the center of an uncomfortable contradiction: he either delivered a false statement in March, or was kept in the dark about critical information relating to one of the president’s most senior aides.
Two people close to Pence also suggested to POLITICO that he had not been made aware of Flynn’s Turkey work, with one saying that his role as chairman of the transition would not necessarily mean he was privy to all conversations.
Beyond Pence, the episode could spell trouble for White House counsel Don McGahn. The New York Times reported that Flynn reported that he was under investigation to McGahn, then the transition lawyer.
The White House also has said Trump was not aware of Flynn’s work.
Flynn served just 24 days as national security adviser and was fired when it emerged that, despite what he had told Pence, he had discussed sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition.
Pence had repeated in interviews that Flynn did not engage in such talk with the ambassador, and when The Washington Post reported in early February on the content of Flynn’s calls, Pence’s office said that was the first time the vice president heard about the contradiction. Flynn was fired days later by Trump as negative coverage of the incident grew.
But the White House had been told weeks earlier by acting Attorney General Sally Yates that Flynn had misled Pence and was liable to blackmail by the Russians, since they almost certainly had recordings of the conversation. McGahn was at the center of that episode as well, meeting with Yates twice on the matter.
It has since been reported by McClatchy that Flynn, in his short time in the job, stalled a military plan that the Turkish government, which had paid him more than half a million dollars, opposed.
These are not the only occasions Pence has given dubious statements to the public as vice president.
He claimed recently that Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey came after he chose to “accept” and “support” the recommendation of the Department of Justice. Trump has since said he would have fired Comey regardless of the recommendation.