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U.S. officials: Pence conspired with Trump to pressure the Ukranian president

U.S. officials: Pence conspired with Trump to pressure the Ukranian president

Could Donald Trump be playing Vice President Mike Pence and setting him up to be his fall guy?

That’s one reasonable conclusion that could be drawn from the account in a Washington Post article today detailing Pence’s involvement in Trump administration efforts to pressure the current Ukranian government into assisting their efforts to discredit the president’s political rivals and the investigation into his 2016 campaign’s contacts with Russia.

The article lays out the ways that Trump “repeatedly involved Vice President Pence in efforts to exert pressure on the leader of Ukraine at a time when the president was using other channels to solicit information that he hoped would be damaging to a Democratic rival, current and former U.S. officials said.”

Starting with Trump’s mandate that Pence skip the May inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — after initially Having White House officials push him to attend —at a point when the country’s new president was looking for American support in their long-running conflict with Russia, and continuing with Trump’s delegation to Pence of the delivery of the news that U.S. military aid would be suspended until Ukraine took “more aggressive action on corruption” — coded language that Zelensky by then understood meant opening an investigation of former VP Joe Biden and his son Hunter — the president closely involved his number two in the illegal scheme to recruit assistance from a foreign country in his re-lection bid.

Add your name to tell Congress to investigate Pence for his role in Trump’s Ukraine corruption. The VP is complicit!

Yet if Pence’s staff is to be believed — an iffy proposition given the stakes in the scandal — the Vice President was never privy to the coordinated campaign to enlist Zelensky to deliver Kompromat on the Biden’s.

Trump’s secret agenda should have been readily apparent to Pence, The Post believes. Between the rantings of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on his frequent unhinged cable news appearances, the sudden replacement of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and the West Wing rumor mill, the Vice President had ample opportunity to understand what was really going on behind the scenes.

Pence’s national security advisor, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, was reportedly monitoring the fateful July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky, and the VP would have normally had access to a transcript of the call within hours of it taking place.

According to The Washington Post:

“Trump’s deployment of Pence is part of a broader pattern of using both executive authority and high-ranking officials in his administration to advance his personal or political interests — even in cases when those subordinates appear not to know that another agenda is in play.”

“Officials close to Pence contend that he traveled to Warsaw for a meeting with Zelensky on Sept. 1 probably without having read — or at least fully registered — the transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with the leader of Ukraine.”

“White House officials said that Pence likely would have received the detailed notes of the president’s call in his briefing book on July 26.The five-page document also should have been part of the briefing materials he took with him to Warsaw to prepare for the meeting, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.”

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While Pence’s staff continues to insist that the Vice President was unaware of the machinations taking place around him when he met with Zelensky in Warsaw, Poland on September 1st, the true extent of Pence’s collusion in the scheme — or his cluelessness — will have to be uncovered in the Congressional investigation of the scandal and the impeachment proceedings in which the probe plays a large role.

If Pence was truly out of the loop, chances are good that’s because the president needed someone with an arm’s length distance from the true motivations of the entire scheme to either pin the blame on or to testify to Trump’s innocence.

Depending on what Congress finds, the Trump administration may be able to claim a new first: the first administration to be removed from office via a double impeachment.

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.

Original reporting by Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, and Ashley Parker at The Washington Post.

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