AP

On Saturday, The New York Times published a story about Republicans who may be eyeing a run for the White House in 2020 in what the newspaper described essentially as a “shadow campaign” behind President Trump’s back.

It was an intriguing story, considering that Trump is barely six months into his term, yet “luminaries in his own party have begun what amounts to a shadow campaign for 2020 — as if the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue weren’t involved.”

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But equally engrossing is the reaction to that story on Sunday, with pushback from certain camps within the administration, particularly that of Vice President Mike Pence. Pence and his advisers don’t want you (or the president) to think he’s anything but a loyal servant to Trump for the next seven or so years (wink wink).

Pence tweeted an emphatic statement on Sunday in response to the “absurd” New York Times story that offended him so (emphasis is Pence’s):

“Today’s article in the New York Times is disgraceful and offensive to me, my family, and our entire team. The allegations in this article are categorically false and represent just the latest attempt by the media to divide this Administration

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The American people know that I could not be more honored to be working side by side with a president who is making America great again.

Whatever fake news may come our way, my entire team will continue to focus all our efforts to advance the President’s agenda and see him re–elected in 2020. Any suggestion otherwise is both laughable and absurd.”
 


Pence’s staffers also went on a blitz to discredit the Times’ reporting, with Pence’s press secretary Marc Lotter and chief of staff Nick Ayers calling it “#FakeNews.” Ayers also called it “a total lie,” according to ABC News.


Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway told ABC News host George Stephanopoulos the story was “complete fiction,” and that “Pence is a very loyal, very dutiful, but also incredibly effective vice president.”

But herein lies the problem with an administration that has gaslighted the public from day one. Why should we believe them now? Especially when the pushback on this story has been so forceful and swift. Is this a tell? Almost every time someone in this administration has labeled a story “fake news,” that story has turned out to be accurate.

Reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns cited 75 Republican sources “at every level of the party” who expressed doubt that Trump would be on the ballot in 2020. Questioning the validity of this story would require blindly believing that Pence has no ambition in the Oval Office beyond his current position as vice president.

Or at least it requires Trump to believe that.