Pence Is Drawn Into Ukraine Controversy

VP skipped leader's inauguration amid Trump pressure
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2019 6:36 AM CDT
Pence's Ukraine Role Draws Scrutiny, Too
President Trump and Vice President Pence greet people in the audience at the Hispanic Heritage Month Reception in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

As President Trump's anger over the Ukraine story grows, his second-in-command is being drawn into the controversy as well. The Washington Post reports that Trump used Mike Pence to ratchet up pressure on Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelensky in a few different ways. For starters, Trump ordered Pence to skip Zelensky's inauguration in May. (The AP reports the same.) And in September, Pence met with Zelensky in person and informed him that the US would continue to withhold aid until Ukraine ramped up corruption investigations. Pence also had two phone conversations with Zelensky and generally served as a "key intermediary" between the two countries, per the AP. The face-to-face meeting in September came after Trump's famous July phone call with Zelensky, in which Trump requested an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden.

The Post suggests that Ukrainian officials would have read between the lines and interpreted Pence's September message as a veiled threat—no aid until the Biden investigation happened. But if Trump was using Pence in this way, Pence's team insists the VP was unaware. The newspaper quotes officials close to the VP who say that Pence did not know about the president's pressure on Zelensky in regard to Biden. The VP himself did not listen in on Trump's July 25 phone call, though Pence's national security adviser did. While Pence likely would have received a transcript of the call, the officials say he wasn't aware of the controversy when he traveled to Ukraine in September. In any event, the US aid to Ukraine was released weeks after Pence's meeting amid congressional pressure. (Read more Mike Pence stories.)

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