Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday offered a full-throated defense of President Donald Trump against the Democrats’ new impeachment inquiry, attempting to justify the president’s push to investigate Vice President Joe Biden and his son's relationship with Ukraine as “worth looking into.”
“One of the major reasons we were elected was to drain the swamp,” Pence told reporters at an event in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I think the American people have the right to know if the Vice President of the United States or his family profited from his position as vice president during the last administration.”
“That is about looking backwards and understanding what really happened,” Pence continued. “I mean, the fact that my predecessor had a son who was paid $50,000 a month to be on a Ukrainian board, at the time that Vice President Biden was leading the Obama administration's efforts in Ukraine, I think that's worth looking into.”
Pence emphasized that Trump “made it very clear” that other nations around the world, in addition to Ukraine, should also look into the Biden family’s business dealings.
“The simple fact is, when you hold the second highest office in the land, it comes with unique responsibilities,” Pence observed. “There are legitimate questions that ought to be an asked. We will continue to ask them because the American people have a right to know whether or not the Vice President of United States or his family profited from his position.”
The president and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, have charged that Hunter Biden benefited financially in Ukraine and China with the help of his father and that the former vice president had sought to remove Ukraine's top prosecutor because he was looking into the energy company where Hunter Biden served on the board. That prosecutor, however, was already facing widespread criticism from the international community for failing to more aggressively crack down on corruption.
Joe Biden has rejected the accusations.
Pence's press secretary Katie Waldman blasted a Washington Post report, attributed to former officials, that said Trump used Pence to pressure Ukraine's president, making military aid contingent on investigating corruption, but that Pence may have been unaware of Trump's push to investigate the Bidens. Waldman called the report a “masquerading piece of journalism” even as she celebrated the report as “a clear vindication of the Administration.”
“Despite the Post’s attempts to glorify a grand conspiracy being concocted by a select number of disgruntled former employees, it is crystal clear that the Vice President directly and effectively delivered the President’s anti-corruption and European burden sharing messages overseas and, upon his return, the financial aid to Ukraine was released,” Waldman noted. “But these facts don’t fit the Post’s pre-planned, pre-conceived hopes and dreams to curry favor with Speaker Pelosi and Adam Schiff.”
The Washington Post also reported a Pence aide listened in on Trump’s July 25 call during which he pressured Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens, but Waldman would not directly comment on that detail.
On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week, Trump told reporters to look into Pence’s conversations with Ukrainian officials “because he had a couple of conversations also.”
“I could save you a lot of time,” Trump said. “They were all perfect. Nothing was mentioned of any import other than congratulations.”
Pence also appeared in the whistleblower’s complaint, with the U.S. intelligence official claiming that on or around May 14, Trump instructed Pence to cancel a planned trip to Ukraine to attend the inauguration of Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the new Ukrainian president, on May 20. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry led the president’s delegation instead.
Meanwhile, a Trump administration official insisted that Pence never broached the Bidens with the Ukrainians, although he did discuss corruption more broadly with Zelenskiy during a visit to Warsaw, Poland as well as a follow-up phone call with the Ukrainian president last month.
While the president’s July 25 conversation with the Ukraine president has raised allegations from Democrats about the possibility of a quid pro quo – dangling U.S. military assistance in exchange for an investigation into the Biden family – Pence attempted to flip the script against the Democratic presidential front-runner.
“You look at the video of Vice President Biden, and you see there was clearly a quid pro quo,” Pence said Thursday.” He said, if the prosecutor was not fired -- who, among other things, was investigating the company he has a son on the board of -- that he was going to withhold a billion dollars. Contrast that to the president's phone call with President Zelenskiy, where there was no quid pro quo, there was no pressure.”
ABC News' Ben Gittleson contributed to this report