Mike Pence has said he would submit to a lie detector test “in a heartbeat” to prove he was not the author of an anonymous op-ed describing an apparent “resistance” movement within the Trump administration.
Calling the article an “assault on our democracy”, the vice president dismissed a theory he was the potential author of the piece because it uses the word “lodestar” a word Mr Pence has repeatedly used in speeches as a mere effort to “distract attention” from the Trump administration’s achievements.
With the president clearly irked by The New York Times op-ed, Mr Pence made clear he would do whatever Mr Trump needed to prove his own innocence that he was not the “senior administration official” said to be behind the piece.
“I would agree to take it in a heartbeat and would submit to any review the administration wanted to do,” Mr Pence told Fox News Sunday. Possible use of lie detector tests had been discussed by Trump administration officials in the wake of the op-ed’s publication last week, according to The New York Times.
Mr Pence added that whether or not to administer lie detector tests to administration officials would “be a decision for the president”.“This individual [needs] to recognise that they are literally violating an oath,” he said. “If they are a senior administration official, that they are violating an oath, not to the president, but to the constitution.
“To have an individual who took that oath literally say that they work every day to frustrate the president advancing the agenda he was elected to advance is undemocratic. It’s not just deceitful, but it’s really an assault on our democracy. And that person should do the honourable thing, step forward and resign,” the vice president added.
. @VP on anonymous author of NYT oped: “That person should do the honorable thing, step forward and resign.” pic.twitter.com/MAjEzD5IFU― FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) September 9, 2018
Mr Pence said that the op-ed posed a risk to national security, and that the author described as a “senior administration official” was “un-American”.
“We’ll find out if there was criminal activity involved,” Mr Pence said. “I think the president’s concern is that this individual may have responsibilities in the area of national security.”
The interview was one of a number for Mr Pence on Sunday, with another Trump administration official, Kellyanne Conway, echoing the vice president on CNN’s State of the Union .
“There could be a national security risk at hand,” she warned. “It depends on what else has been divulged by this individual … Anybody who would do this, you don’t know what else they’re saying.” There is no indication yet, other than from the Trump administration, that the person who wrote the op-ed may have had a hand in national security matters.
Mr Trump has called the op-ed “treasonous”, and on Friday the president called on attorney general Jeff Sessions to lead an investigation to identify the author.
“I think this person is going to suss himself or herself out,” Ms Conway said, suggesting that writing the op-ed itself was likely not criminal behaviour. “Cowards are like criminals, eventually they tell the wrong person.”
Speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation , Mr Pence said he thought nobody on this staff had anything to do with the article: “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.”The author of the op-ed wrote that executive branch officials are “working to insulate their operations from [the president’s] whims” and that his “impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back”. It also alleged that senior staffers had spoken about the possibility of invoking the 25th amendment of the US constitution as a mechanism for removing Mr Trump.
The 25th amendment provides for a sitting president’s removal if the vice president and a majority of cabinet secretaries pronounce him or her unfit to discharge the duties of office, however Mr Pence denied that he or others in the administration had spoken about it.
“No. Never,” Mr Pence told CBS when asked if he had had conversations about invoking the 25th amendment, adding: “Why would we be...?”
In regards to one of the other clouds hanging over the White House special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with Trump campaign officials Mr Pence said he would be willing to do interviews by Mr Mueller’s team. Mr trump has constantly decried the probe as a “witch hunt”.
The NYT op-ed appeared in the same week that excerpts from the new book by veteran journalist Bob Woodward also about the state of the White House under Mr Trump made their way into the press. Fear: Trump in the White House has its official release on Tuesday, and paints a similar picture to the author of editorial.
In a number of examples collected by Mr Woodward one of the journalists who helped break the Watergate scandal there is an instance of former Trump adviser Gary Cohn allegedly stealing a letter about withdrawing the US from a trade deal with South Korea from the president’s desk so he cannot sign it. Collected through dozens of anonymous interviews with officials, Mr Woodward also suggests that top administration officials, such as chief of staff John Kelly and defence secretary James Mattis, insulted the president’s intelligence.
Cabinet ministers have lined up to deny being the author of the op-ed, and have also denied the instances described in Mr Woodward’s book ever took place. Mr Kelly and Mr Mattis were particularly strong.
The @VP weighs in on specific instances mentioned in the new Bob Woodward book.
Hear more of what the Vice President has to say when the interview airs this morning on Face the Nation starting at 10:30 EST on your local CBS channel. pic.twitter.com/22EmpL3wCK― Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) September 9, 2018
On Sunday Mr Pence also spoke about the book, saying that he doubted the story about Mr Cohn was true but stopped short of disputing claims that Mr Trump had himself mocked senior staff.
According to Fear , Mr Trump criticised Mr Sessions and told commerce secretary Wilbur Ross he was “past his prime”.
“Well, I would tell you I know this president has great respect for the men and women who serve in this cabinet,” Mr Pence said when directly asked if he denounced the specific claims in Mr Woodward’s book about insults against cabinet members. “These accounts are very foreign to me. And I’m just not aware of instances where they’ve occurred and or where they would occur. But look, I want to stipulate that working in the White House is not for everybody.”
The release of The New York Times editorial has somewhat stolen the thunder away from Mr Woodward, known around Washington as a diligent reporter who generally refuses to insert his own judgement or analysis. Some critics have hit out at this flat, reportorial style, but with the Trump administration denying all insider accounts of the presidency as “fabrications” the authority provided by that style should be welcomed.
Over more than half a dozen books about various presidents, Mr Woodward has built up a reputation where few would discount what he writes, even if the interviews are anonymous. The release of his book on Tuesday will likely fan the flames of discussion about the Oval Office and provide another headache for Mr Trump and his administration.