After disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn admitted to discussing sanctions with Russia during the transition, special counsel Bob Mueller has questions for the man who oversaw the transition: Vice President Mike Pence.
Last week, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about repeated conversations he had with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak about Russian sanctions, as well as a United Nations vote on illegal Israeli settlements.
Flynn told Mueller’s prosecutors he made those calls at the behest of top officials in the transition.
Advisers have long claimed that Pence was not aware that Flynn discussed sanctions with Kislyak on the day they were announced by the Obama administration in December.
But the court filings in the Flynn case that were unsealed last week indicate that a large number of advisers were aware of Flynn’s sanctions discussion with Kislyak.
“The new questions raised by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation signal what could be a pivotal moment in Pence’s careful calibration of trying to keep a safe distance from the Russia probe even while maintaining his credibility for being left out of the loop by the West Wing,” CNN reports.
Officials claim that Pence, who ran the transition, knew Flynn contacted Kislyak but was not aware of the discussion about sanctions.
Pence’s inner circle is now concerned his role in the transition will result in a phone call from Mueller.
“They are preparing for that,” a source close to Pence told CNN. “Chairing the transition would make it possible regardless of who it was.”
Pence’s spokeswoman Alyssa Farah denied that the vice president is preparing to be interviewed by Mueller.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. The vice president is focused on passing the largest tax cut in American history,” she told CNN.
But Congressional investigators are also interested in speaking with Pence and are not keeping it a secret.
“I think he has new questions to answer,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who wants Pence to speak with the Senate Judiciary Committee about what he knew about Flynn’s actions.
CNN reports that while numerous officials claim that Pence did not know about the Kislyak conversation, “Pence would have been largely alone in his lack of knowledge” among top transition officials.
According to court filings, Flynn told “senior members of the Presidential Transition Team” about his conversation regarding sanctions.
Playing dumb when it comes to the Trump team’s dealings with Russia has been a constant for Pence.
“Pence has remained largely oblivious to contacts between Trump officials and Russian operatives, at least according to his aides,” CNN reports. “Aside from the Flynn episode, Pence’s aides said he did not know Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have damning information about Hillary Clinton. And his office similarly claimed that Pence wasn’t aware of Trump Jr.’s contact with WikiLeaks in the closing days of last year’s presidential campaign.”
A Pence adviser claims that Pence was “genuinely stunned” when he learned about Flynn’s conversation.
“He was genuinely stunned and pissed when he found out that Flynn misled him and let him go out on national TV with inaccurate information,” a senior adviser told CNN.
But Pence officials believe that the effort to “mislead” the veep may be deeper than just Flynn.
There is “concern,” CNN reports, that “the vice president had been purposefully misled and that even White House officials had kept the vice president in the dark.”