Pence rejects report on 2020 ambitions
Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday declared his loyalty to President Donald Trump and denounced a New York Times article suggesting that he was positioning himself to run for president in 2020 if Trump does not seek a second term.
“Today’s article in The New York Times is disgraceful and offensive to me, my family and our entire team,” the vice president said in a statement.
“The American people know that I could not be more honored to be working side by side with a president who is making America great again,” Pence said, invoking Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan.
He added: “The allegations in this article are categorically false and represent just the latest attempt by the media to divide this administration. … Whatever fake news may come our way, my entire team will continue to focus all our efforts to advance the president’s agenda and see him re-elected in 2020. Any suggestion otherwise is both laughable and absurd.”
Danielle Rhoades Ha, a Times spokesman, said in response: “We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting and will let the story speak for itself.”
The article reported that a number of Republicans appeared to be positioning themselves to run in 2020 as the president endures low approval ratings and faces multiple investigations into whether his associates had contacts with Russia during the 2016 campaign. While some Republicans might take on the incumbent president of their own party, the article reported that multiple advisers to Pence had intimated to party donors that he would plan to run if Trump did not seek re-election.
In one June meeting, an aide to the vice president, Marty Obst, said Pence’s team wanted to be prepared to run in case there was an opening in 2020, according to a Republican briefed on the meeting. Nick Ayers, the vice president’s new chief of staff, has signaled to major Republican donors that Pence wants to be ready, the article reported.
The article quoted Obst denying that he and Ayers had made any private insinuations. He also called suggestions that the vice president was positioning himself for 2020 “beyond ridiculous.”
Pence has set up a political fundraising organization, Great America Committee, and has hosted key figures at the vice president’s mansion, including Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and representatives of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire conservative financiers. Last month, the vice president hosted Kelly and Joe Craft, coal barons from Kentucky.
A top White House adviser said Sunday that there would be no reason for the vice president to prepare his own White House bid because Trump plans to run.
“The president says privately and publicly often, George, that he’ll be there for 7½ more years, so he plans on being a two-term president,” Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor, told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week. “It is absolutely true that the vice president is getting ready for 2020, for re-election as vice president.”
Stephanopoulos asked whether there was any concern that Pence was running a shadow campaign. “Zero concern,” Conway said. “That is complete fiction. That is complete fabrication. And I know that his advisers who had comments attributed to them have pushed back strongly, as has the vice president. And as am I right now unequivocally.”
She added: “Vice President Pence is a very loyal, very dutiful, but also incredibly effective vice president, and active vice president, with this president.”
Other Republicans who have been making trips to key states or introducing themselves to donors, raising speculation about their plans, include Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
Vice President Mike Pence denied reports Sunday that he plans to run for president if President Donald Trump opts not to seek a second term.