Los Angeles Times (TNS)
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence might have the most to gain from a premature end to Donald Trump’s presidency, but in an interview aired Sunday, he forcefully denied engaging in any discussion about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
The vice president, who made appearances on two major Sunday news talk shows, also condemned Watergate journalist Bob Woodward’s depiction of a capricious and incurious president, and again denied authorship of a stinging anonymous Op-Ed published last week in the New York Times.
Pence said he was willing to take a polygraph test to back up his denial of authorship of the critique, but said he had not asked his staff whether any of them had written the anonymous Op-Ed because he fully trusted that none had done so.
Trump has vowed to root out the writer, described by the New York Times as a senior administration official whose identity the paper knows.
The president has urged the Justice Department to find out the official’s identity, prompting new criticism over Trump’s seeming belief that he may use federal law enforcement as an instrument of political reward and retribution.
A never-invoked section of the 25th Amendment provides for a sitting president’s removal if the vice president and a majority of Cabinet secretaries pronounce him or her unfit to discharge the duties of office. The anonymous Op-Ed describes Cabinet-level officials talking about the possibility — discussions that would conceivably have been brought to Pence’s attention, since he would be both a prime mover and beneficiary of any such scenario.
In an interview aired on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Pence replied “no, never,” when asked if he had taken part in any such talks, before swiftly pivoting to the administration’s accomplishments.
Separately, on “Fox News Sunday,” Pence said that if he were asked, he would submit “in a heartbeat” to a polygraph concerning his denial of authorship. He also defended the White House hunt for the anonymous official and Trump’s depiction of the writing of the Op-Ed as a criminal act, saying the piece’s author was “violating an oath, not to the president, but to the Constitution.”
He didn’t specify what part of the Constitution would have been violated, but said, “We’ll find out if there was criminal activity involved.”
On CBS, Pence rejected Woodward’s portrait of an inept and erratic president. The book “Fear: Trump in the White House” will be in stores this week, but excerpts have been widely reported.
“These accounts are very foreign to me,” Pence said, instead portraying Trump as a laudably tough-minded boss who “wants things yesterday.”
But Woodward’s depiction rang true even for some in Trump’s party, including Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a frequent Trump critic who nonetheless has consistently voted in support of the president’s policies.
Sasse said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that there is “way too much drama every day” in the White House, saying Trump’s tenure was a “reality-show, soap-opera presidency.”
Woodward, interviewed on “CBS Sunday Morning,” defended his sourcing and reporting methods, saying the public needed to “wake up” to the perils of Trump’s leadership style.
“You look at the operation of this White House and you have to say, ‘Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis,’” the Woodward said.
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Trump, meanwhile, sent a stream of acerbic Twitter posts denigrating his predecessor, Barack Obama, who has begun campaigning for Democratic candidates in the midterm elections.
He also derided National Football League ratings, blaming “take a knee” protests; hailed the state of the economy; defended his trade tariffs; and cited Fox News, his favorite news outlet, as saying North Korea is committed to full denuclearization. Regional and nuclear experts have cast doubt on that claim.