Vice President Mike Pence’s hiring decision for a new national security advisor landed him directly in President Trump’s crosshairs this week when the president discovered that Pence’s choice was one of those rare breeds of “Never Trump” Republicans.
According to Axios, Trump was reportedly furious when he found out that Pence wanted to hire Jon Lerner, a deputy to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and the man behind a series of scathing anti-Trump ads funded by the establishment Republican Club for Growth during the primaries. That he found out through a story leaked to The Washington Post only made matters worse.
White House sources told Axios that Trump exclaimed: “Why would Mike do that?” when told of Pence’s choice and told his chief of staff John Kelly to make it all go away.
The blindsided vice president was on a flight to Peru to fill in for Trump at the Summit of the Americas, of which the president bailed out at the last minute to oversee his unauthorized bombing of Syria, when Pence learned of his boss’s displeasure with his hiring decision.
When he landed in Lima, Pence got on the phone with Trump to talk him off the ledge.
While Trump’s staff was concerned that Lerner would have a difficult time splitting his attention between Pence and Haley and didn’t have enough actual foreign policy experience, the president’s own objections were largely due to personal loyalty issues. In addition, Trump’s chief of staff Kelly blamed Pence’s chief of staff Nick Ayers for not informing him of Lerner’s prior history of working against the president.
Whatever Pence told Trump on the phone, he was apparently successful in rescuing Lerner’s appointment. While this personnel kerfluffle is the first conflict that’s been publicly disclosed between Trump and his low key vice president, Pence’s team is dismissing its significance, calling it a “minor confusion” that should never have escalated to Trump and that could have been avoided had Pence not been traveling when the president was seething over the issue.
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