President Donald Trump has called the media "the enemy of the American people," but Vice President Mike Pence must think that they are his best friends. So far, Pence had received a free pass from much of the media for his false statements to the American people. According to a now standard account, Pence is the innocent victim of deceptions by others – former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the president himself.
But this is supposition only, with no hard evidence behind it. It is equally plausible that Pence is complicit in the lies propagated by the Trump administration and perhaps even involved in a cover-up of potentially impeachable transgressions. That's why he must be investigated thoroughly by the Congress and the FBI along with the president and other members of the Trump campaign team and administration.
For a seasoned politician who served for 12 years in Congress and three years as governor of Indiana, Pence has seemed remarkably easy to fool. Supposedly, Mike Flynn fooled Pence into affirming that Flynn's conversations with Soviet Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were "strictly coincidental" and had nothing "to do with United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia."
Flynn's alleged lying to Pence provided a convenient cover story for Trump's firing of the National Security Advisor. It enabled Trump to shirk the much more serious charge that the Russians had compromised Flynn as Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned the White House counsel 18 days before.
Pence was allegedly fooled again when he said that Trump fired FBI Director Comey because he accepted "the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general." Trump later admitted that he had intended to sack Comey before he received any Justice Department recommendations and that "this Russia thing with Trump" was on his mind when he made the firing decision.
The theory of Pence as innocent victim lacks credibility because he has a history of lying that extends from his candidacy to his tenure as vice president. None of these lies can be blamed on anyone else's deception. A PolitiFact comparison of vice presidential candidates during the 2016 campaign rated 42 percent of Pence's statements as mostly false or false, compared to 23 percent for Democratic candidate Tim Kaine.
For example, on July 24, 2016, Pence said that Hillary Clinton "took 13 hours to send help to Americans under fire" during the terrorist attack in Benghazi. In fact, Hillary Clinton and the State Department had nothing to do with the response to the Benghazi attack. That responsibility fell upon the Defense Department, as the government-savvy Pence should have known full well.
In this vice-presidential debate, Pence charged that "less than 10 cents on the dollar from the Clinton Foundation goes to charitable causes." Yet the American Institute of Philanthropy's Charity Watch reported that the Foundation spends 88 percent of the money it raises on charitable services and only 12 percent on overhead.
As vice president on March 9, 2017, Pence said that regarding stories about Flynn's lobbying for Turkey, "Hearing that story today was the first I'd heard of it." Yet Pence was the head of the transition team that recommended Flynn for National Security Adviser and news reports in November 2016 had disclosed Flynn's lobbying for Turkey.
Beyond press reports, on November 18, 2016, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to Pence warning: "Recent news reports have revealed that Lt. Gen. Flynn was receiving classified briefings during the presidential campaign while his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, Inc., was being paid to lobby the U.S. Government on behalf of a foreign government's interests. … Lt. Gen. Flynn's General Counsel and Principal, Robert Kelley, confirmed that they were hired by a foreign company to lobby for Turkish interests"
Lies spoken softly by Mike Pence are no less insidious than lies bellowed and blustered by Donald Trump. Pence must be part of all investigations of the Trump administration. Under Article 2, Section 4 of the constitution, a vice president no less than a president is subject to impeachment.
Commentary by Allan Lichtman distinguished professor of history at American University in Washington, DC and author of the new book The Case for Impeachment. Lichtman is known for a model he developed that has accurately forecast the outcome of every presidential contest since 1984, including Trump's recent win. Follow him on Twitter @ AllanLichtman.
Follow CNBC's Opinion section on Twitter @CNBCopinion.
Correction: Under Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution, a vice president no less than a president is subject to impeachment. An earlier version of this op-ed misstated the article and section of the Constitution.
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