Pence tries to explain away what the world heard Trump say

Speaking to reporters in Iowa Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence was pressed by reporters on the administration’s attempts to get Ukraine’s help in discrediting former Vice President Joe Biden, and what he knew about it. He dodged questions about his own role and denied that Trump had requested an investigation of Biden — something the president acknowledged just days ago on the White House lawn.

The vice president said he wasn’t opposed to transcripts of his own conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky being released, an idea first broached by Trump.

“I’d have no objection to that, and we’re discussing that with White House counsel as we speak,” said Pence when asked if he would release transcripts of his own conversations with the Ukrainian president.

Reporters reminded Pence of his comments in 2016 that “foreign governments cannot participate in the American political process.” Pence said he stood by the remarks.

“But the president himself has said that he asked a foreign government to investigate his domestic political rival,” said a reporter. “So, is that OK with you?”

“I don’t believe that’s the case,” Pence said stiffly. “I know that’s the way [House Intelligence Committee] Chairman [Adam] Schiff characterized it in his manufactured transcript,” said Pence.

RELATED: Vice-President Mike Pence through the years

23 PHOTOS
Vice President Mike Pence through the years
See Gallery
Vice President Mike Pence through the years

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., Derek Karachner, Ian Slatter, Molly Jurmu, Mark Ahearn.

(Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)

Mike Pence, R-Ind., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., talk during the markup of the bill which would establish the Department of Homeland Security.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

(L-R) Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), attorney Floyd Abrams, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and attorney Kenneth Starr speak to reporters in the U.S. Supreme Court Plaza in Washington, D.C., September 8, 2003. Attorneys made arguments during a special session of the Supreme Court about the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign financing reform law.

(REUTERS/Stefan Zaklin)

Rep. Mike Pence, new head of the Republican conservative caucus, taken in his Hill office. Includes a bust of Ronald Reagan.

(Photo by Robert A. Reeder/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) and Indiana Governor Mike Pence (L) wave to the crowd before addressing the crowd during a campaign stop at the Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Indiana, July 12, 2016.

(REUTERS/John Sommers II)

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 07: Mike Pence, R-Ind.

(Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call/Getty Images)

MEET THE PRESS

Pictured: Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) left, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) right, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010.

(Photo by William B. Plowman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence arrives at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 13, 2016.

(REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)

President-elect Donald Trump takes the stage with Vice President-elect Mike Pence during a rally in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016.

(Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

Vice President-elect Mike Pence arrives at Trump Tower on December 15, 2016 in New York City. President-Elect Donald Trump continues to hold meetings with potential members of his cabinet at his office.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Tim Kaine, 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee, left, and Mike Pence, 2016 Republican vice presidential nominee, speak during the vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine arrive at tonight's debate with three main assignments: defend their bosses from attack, try to land a few blows, and avoid any mistakes showing them unfit to be president.

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) takes the oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (R) as his wife Karen Pence holds the Bible, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Chrysler Group LLC and Fiat SpA, left, speaks with Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, at the Chrysler Group transmission plant in Kokomo, Indiana, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Chrysler Group LLC, the automaker majority owned by Fiat SpA, will invest about $374 million and add 1,250 jobs at Indiana factories to boost output of eight-and nine-speed transmissions.

(Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - JULY 25: Mike Pence--IND

(Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)

Reps. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., left, and Mike Pence, R-Ind, share a laugh at a rally to support a House resolution, scheduled for a vote Thursday, that would require a list of earmarks and the names of lawmakers sponsoring them to be contained in committee and conference reports. The rally took place on Cannon Terrace.

(Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)

US Republican Representative from Indiana Mike Pence, gestures as he speaks during a press conference at the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, 01 April 2007. Pence and a group of US Congressmen are on a visit to the war-torn country.

(SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., makes marks on the House health care bill as House Republicans gathered in the House Republicans Reading Room in the Longworth House Office Building on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009.

(Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) speaks during a rally on Capitol Hill April 6, 2011 in Washington, DC. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), thought to be a contender for the 2012 presidential race, also spoke at the rally held on Capitol Hill by Americans for Prosperity in support of spending cuts.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

House Budget chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., speaks with Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., as they arrive for a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the basement of the U.S. Capitol on Monday, July 25, 2011.

(Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

Indiana Governor Mike Pence is seen at the 2015 IPL 500 Festival Parade on May 23, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) while Vice President Mike Pence (C) looks on during a luncheon at the Congress of Tomorrow Republican Member Retreat January 26, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Congressional Republicans are gathering for three days to plan their 2017 legislative agenda.

(Photo by Bill Clark-Pool/Getty Images)

US Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence dance during the Liberty ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

From left, First Lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Major General Bradley Becker, Vice President Mike Pence, and his wife Karen Pence review the troops following the swearing in of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

“The president said it on the lawn,” replied a reporter, referencing Trump’s call last week for China and Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Some of the president’s allies have attempted to say he was joking, but he also asked Chinese President Xi to do the same thing in a private June conversation.

“But the American people should read the transcript, and they will see that the president did nothing wrong,” said Pence in response. “There was no pressure. There was no quid pro quo. The president simply raised the issues of importance and interest to the American people.”

 

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence answers questions from the press about the whistleblower and President Trump's call with the president of Ukraine following his remarks on the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement (USMCA) at Manning Farms in Waukee, Iowa, U.S., October 9, 2019.   (Photo: Brenna Norman/Reuters)

Pence was echoing two key White House talking points about the burgeoning scandal, which led to the impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives. One is that the request for an investigation of the relationship, going back to 2016, among Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings reflected Trump’s determination to root out corruption, and it was only sheer coincidence that the former vice president is a leading candidate in the Democratic primary to run against Trump in 2020.

That would justify Pence denying that Trump “asked a foreign government to investigate his domestic political rival.” Biden was just collateral damage in Trump’s war on corruption.

The other defense is to subtly shift the issue from the ethics of Trump asking for Ukraine’s help to the existence of a “quid pro quo” in the form of restoring American military aid to Ukraine that had been frozen on order of the White House. Hence Pence’s response to a question that hadn’t been asked: “There was no pressure. There was no quid pro quo. The president simply raised the issues of importance and interest to the American people.”

Pence made frequent references to the White House releasing a transcript of Trump’s July conversation with Zelensky, but that was not a transcript but instead a rough memo based on recollections of those listening in on the call. CNN reported Wednesday that as soon as the call ended, there was a scramble to contain the fallout, which eventually led to the whistleblower report and the call being concealed on a special classified server. During the call, after Zelensky mentions buying arms from the United States, Trump asks for a favor, seeking his cooperation in pursuing a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, in cooperation with Democrats, that attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election — rather than Russia, seeking to aid Republicans, as charged in the report by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, expressed explicit concern that there was a quid pro quo being proposed, writing in a Sept. 9 text: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

_____

Download the Yahoo News app to customize your experience.

Read more from Yahoo News:

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.