WASHINGTON – The picture Bob Woodward paints in his new book of a White House, where top aides engage in "an administrative coup d'etat" to block President Donald Trump's most dangerous impulses, rarely includes his vice president.
"As usual, (Vice President Mike) Pence was staying out of the way," the Washington Post journalist writes in "Fear: Trump in the White House."
That particular observation was made regarding one of economic adviser Gary Cohn's attempts to enlist Pence's help. Trying to stop Trump from imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum, Cohn reminded Pence that no state would be hurt worse than his home state of Indiana.
The nation's most manufacturing-intensive state includes Elkhart, the boat and RV capital of the world, which would be killed by higher prices for steel and aluminum, Cohn argued.
"Doing everything I can," Pence told Cohn, according to the book.
Bob Woodward on Donald Trump and 'Fear': Is it time to feel afraid?
But Woodward writes that Pence's default mode is to not do anything that would prompt Trump to tweet about him or call him an idiot.
"If he were advising Pence," Woodward adds, "Cohn would have had him do exactly that – stay out of it."
Pence appears to have done his best to stay out of Woodward's book.
Pence was also largely absent from Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House."
“Little leaked out of the Pence side of the White House,” Wolff wrote in his January book that similarly described a chaotic and dysfunctional administration.
The few appearances Pence makes in Woodward's book are in scenes with others who presumably provided the details. For example:
- Pence was among the Oval Office participants when Trump, in April of 2017, said he wanted to sign within days an executive order withdrawing the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement. According to Woodward, Pence was among those who were "silent and only seemed to be encouraging Trump."
- After The Washington Post reported in February 2017 that then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had discussed sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador – contrary to what Flynn had told Pence – the vice president joined White House Counsel Donald McGahn and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in the Situation Room to review FBI transcripts of Flynn's communications. But the book doesn't say how Pence reacted to that revelation.
- When Cohn wanted to resign over Trump's reluctance to condemn the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, Pence helped Trump convince him to stay. The president didn't want Cohn to leave before Congress completed a package of tax cuts. Trump gave Cohn permission to speak out about Charlottesville, which Pence also encouraged both in the Oval Office meeting and again in Cohn's own office. "Say whatever you need and want to say, and continue to serve your country," was the gist of Pence's message, according to Woodward.
- Pence was ready to serve his party by replacing Trump on the ticket after publication of the "Access Hollywood" tape in which Trump bragged about groping women, according to the book. The Atlantic reported last year that within hours of the tape becoming public, Pence had made it clear to the Republican National Committee that he was ready to take Trump’s place as the party’s nominee. Both that article, and Woodward's book, state that Priebus told Trump that Pence was prepared to step up with Condoleezza Rice as his running mate if Trump withdrew. Pence's spokeswoman has previously denied that account.
Pence, on Sunday, called Woodward's book a "complete misunderstanding of how this White House works."
Trump has called it "a joke...using now disproven unnamed and anonymous sources."