US Vice President Mike Pence angrily rejected a report Sunday that he is laying the groundwork for a possible 2020 run for the presidency, calling it “absurd” and “categorically false.”
The New York Times reported Sunday that the turmoil around the presidency of Donald Trump — including investigations into links between his presidential campaign and Russia — had prompted several top Republicans, including Pence, to begin “what amounts to a shadow campaign for 2020.”
It is extremely rare for politicians of a president’s party — let alone his own vice president — to begin preparing just six months into his first term for the possibility he will not run for a second.
A statement tweeted by Pence minced no words.
“Today’s article in the New York Times is disgraceful and offensive to me, my family and our entire team,” it said.
“The allegations in this article are categorically false and represent just the latest attempt by the media to divide this administration.”
Pence said he would focus all his efforts on seeing Trump re-elected, adding that “any suggestion otherwise is both laughable and absurd.”
Pence’s pushback had begun even earlier, with his chief of staff, Nick Ayers, tweeting that the Times article was a “total lie” and “#fakenews.”
The Times article suggested that Pence was the “pacesetter” among a group of Republican “political opportunists” preparing to move in if Trump draws blame for the party suffering serious losses in next year’s midterm elections.
The article said Pence had created “an independent power base, cementing his status as Mr. Trump’s heir apparent” and setting up a political fund-raising committee, or PAC, that has overshadowed Trump’s own PAC.
It suggested that the very appointment of Ayers as chief of staff — a man the Times described as a “sharp-elbowed political operative” — was a sign of Pence’s intentions.
Trump has reportedly chafed in the past at any suggestion that members of his administration are drawing greater attention to themselves.
But a senior Trump adviser, Kellyanne Conway, insisted on Sunday that Pence was a faithful and loyal right-hand man, with no eye on the top office.
Asked on ABC whether she had any concern that Pence was “setting up a shadow campaign,” she replied: “Zero concern. That is complete fiction. Complete fabrication.”