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VP Pence walks high wire over Trump scandals

Washington, United States | AFP | Mike Pence is the loyal wingman, the ever-discreet figure who rises above the Washington fray. But as the Russia scandal encroaches ever further on Donald Trump’s White House, the vice president is also walking a political tightrope.

The 58-year-old former governor of Indiana is currently the man closest to the US presidency — either as Trump’s immediate successor should his term end prematurely, or as his heir apparent in 2020 or 2024 elections, depending on how many terms Trump serves.

As the troubles of his boss grow deeper by the day, ensnared in a widening investigation into his campaign ties to Russia, experts say the 48th US vice president remains compelled to stand by his man — at least for now.

“Pence is in a very difficult position,” Joel Goldstein, an expert on the vice presidency at Saint Louis University School of Law, told AFP.

“A vice president is expected to be loyal to the president, but President Trump imposes a heavy burden on his subordinates by saying and doing things that often are hard to defend.”

The two men could hardly be more different: where Trump likes to blur ideological lines, Pence is a committed Christian conservative, as stiff and disciplined as his boss is exuberant and unpredictable.

While Trump tweets about a high-stakes health care bill, it is Pence who has been shuttling between the White House and Congress in a behind-the-scenes effort to rescue the imperiled legislation.

In Trump’s turbulent Washington, Pence is seen as the administration’s steadying force, the “ax behind the glass you’re supposed to break in case of emergency,” as The Daily Beast news website put it recently.

– ‘Hang on’ –

Pence offered a glimpse of his guiding principles as he rides the political rollercoaster, during a speech on leadership delivered to students at American University.

“You need to keep your arms and legs in the ride at all times,” he told them.

“Pull the roll bar down, because you just got to hang on.”

Yet Pence has taken low-key steps that suggest he could be laying the groundwork for his political future.

In an unusual move, two close advisors to Pence have founded a political action committee, The New York Times reported.

He has also begun hosting Republican mega-donors at his Washington residence, according to the daily.

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