Pence denounces suggestion he is eyeing 2020 presidential bid

FILE PHOTO - U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity chaired by Vice President Mike Pence (R) at the White House in Washington, U.S. on July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday denied a New York Times report suggesting he is eyeing a 2020 run for president, calling it “disgraceful and offensive.”

“The allegations in this article are categorically false and represent just the latest attempt by the media to divide this Administration,” Pence said in a statement.

The New York Times story said some Republicans were moving to form a “shadow campaign” for 2020 as though President Donald Trump were not involved. It said multiple advisers to Pence “have already intimated to party donors that he would plan to run if Mr. Trump did not.”

But Pence called the article “fake news” and said his entire team was focused on advancing Trump’s agenda and seeing him re-elected in 2020. “Any suggestion otherwise is both laughable and absurd.”

The Times said Pence had not only kept a full political calendar but also had created his own independent power base, including a political fund-raising group called the “Great America Committee.”

On a trip to Eastern Europe last week, Pence repeatedly made hawkish statements about Russia that differed from Trump’s public comments.

During his trip, Pence condemned Russia’s presence in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, with which Moscow fought a brief war in 2008. He also said ties with Russia would not improve until Moscow changed its stance on Ukraine and withdrew support for countries like Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Trump only reluctantly signed into law a bill for new sanctions against Russia that had overwhelming support in Congress. He said U.S. relations with Moscow were at an “all-time” low and blamed lawmakers for it.

White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway on Sunday also slapped down speculation about Pence.

Conway told ABC’s “This Week” that Trump “plans on being a two-term president” and that she had “zero concern” that Pence was setting up a “shadow campaign” of his own.

“It is absolutely true that the vice president is getting ready for 2020 – for re-election as vice president,” Conway said.

“Vice President Pence is a very loyal, very dutiful, but also incredibly effective vice president, and active vice president,” said Conway, who added that she had worked for Pence for a decade as his pollster and senior adviser.

“(Pence) is a peer to the president in the West Wing,” she said.

Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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