The US vice-president, Mike Pence, declared his loyalty to Donald Trump on Sunday 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 allegations in this article are categorically false and represent just the latest attempt by the media to divide this administration.”
He added: “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 spokeswoman for the newspaper, 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 poll numbers and faces multiple investigations into whether his associates had contacts with Russia during the 2016 presidential-election campaign. Although some 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.
“Opening in 2020”
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 signalled 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 official said on Sunday that there would be no reason for the vice-president to prepare his own White House bid because Trump planned 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 adviser, told George Stephanopoulos on This Week on ABC television. "It is absolutely true that the vice-president is getting ready for 2020, for re-election as vice-president."
Stephanopoulos asked if 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 otherwise introducing themselves to donors that have raised speculation about their plans include Governor John Kasich of Ohio and Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ben Sasse of Nebraska. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, put her long-time pollster on the payroll and has become better acquainted with New York financiers.
© New York Times