WASHINGTON ― On Oct. 14, 2016, then-GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence vehemently denied that the Trump campaign had any contact with WikiLeaks. It was shortly after that organization had released more emails from the Clinton campaign and other Democrats.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Pence said on “Fox & Friends,” when asked if “your campaign is in cahoots with WikiLeaks.”
Pence stood by his comments Monday night, after The Atlantic’s Julia Ioffe reported that President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., had communicated with WikiLeaks on Twitter, beginning weeks before the 2016 election.
“The vice president was never aware of anyone associated with the campaign being in contact with WikiLeaks,” Pence’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, said in a statement to HuffPost. “He first learned of this news from a published report earlier tonight.”
Sound familiar? It is far from the first time Pence appears to have been caught in a web of deception.
While leading Trump’s transition team, Pence publicly denied there had been any contact between Russian officials and Trump’s campaign before the election.
“Of course not,” Pence said on Jan. 15. “I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”
He added that communications between Trump’s pick for national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak during the transition “had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.”
It turned out that Flynn and Kislyak did discuss sanctions against Russia, among several undisclosed communications that Flynn and other campaign officials had with Russians. In February, Flynn resigned as national security adviser for misleading administration officials, including Pence, on the extent of those contacts.
In March, Pence said he also didn’t know that Flynn had served as a lobbyist for Turkey’s government while also advising Trump’s campaign. News outlets had recently reported that Flynn retroactively registered as a foreign agent following his departure from the Trump administration.
Telling Fox News that the reporting “was the first I heard of it,” Pence said he was “disappointed” by the news.
But in May, The New York Times revealed that Flynn had alerted Trump’s transition team in January that he was under federal investigation for concealing his lobbying work.
Pence’s team stuck with the “he didn’t know” defense.
“The vice president stands by his comments in March upon first hearing the news regarding General Flynn’s ties to Turkey and fully supports the President’s decision to ask for General Flynn’s resignation,” an unnamed Pence aide told CNN.
On May 10, the day after Trump abruptly dismissed FBI Director James Comey, Pence denied that the president’s move was in response to Comey’s investigation into his campaign and its ties to Russia.
“That’s not what this is about,” Pence said, claiming that the president acted on a recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The next day, Trump told NBC News that he would have fired Comey “regardless of recommendation” and that he had been thinking about “this Russia thing.”
S.V. Dáte contributed reporting.