Vice President Mike Pence quickly moved to distance himself from Donald Trump Jr. this week after a series of bombshell reports found the president’s eldest son had met in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer in an effort to obtain damaging intel on presidential rival Hillary Clinton.
Pence’s spokesman Marc Lotter sought Wednesday to increase that separation during an interview on Fox News but refused, repeatedly, to say if the vice president had met with any Russians himself during the presidential campaign.
Lotter, appearing on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom,” was asked several times by host Bill Hemmer if his boss ever met “with representatives from Russia” or “representatives from the Russian government during the campaign.”
“Clear up a few things for us now. Did the vice president ever meet with representative from Russia?” Hemmer asked.
“The vice president is not focused on the areas where, you know, on this campaign, especially things that happened before he was even on the ticket. As he has said, that when he joined the campaign his entire focus was on talking to the American people, taking the case that President Trump was going to make to the American people,” Lotter replied, saying Pence was focused on the administration’s agenda.
The message echoed that in a curious media statement released by Lotter on Tuesday as the Trump Jr. story snowballed.
“The vice president is working every day to advance the president’s agenda,” the statement from Pence’s office, attributed to Lotter, said. “He was not aware of the meeting. He is also not focused on stories about the campaign ― especially those pertaining to the time before he joined the campaign.”
Hemmer, not to be deterred, asked again: “I understand. Fully aware of the statement there. Just come back to this question here: If it wasn’t a private citizen from Russia, did he ever meet with representatives from the Russian government during the campaign?”
“That stuff, the special prosecutors and the counsels are all looking at,” Lotter said, before saying once again that Pence was focused on other things during the campaign.
Hemmer tried one last time. “Just to nail this down so we’re clear: Is that a yes or a no? Did he or did he not, and was it relevant, in fact?”
Lotter offered a quick reply, saying, “I’m not aware of anything that I have seen,” before again launching into a defense of Pence’s activity “working the agenda that people sent him to Washington to accomplish.”
Pence in January denied that anyone on the Trump campaign had ties to Russian officials.
“Well, of course not,” he told CBS’ John Dickerson then. “And I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”