For nearly two full weeks, nobody told Vice-President Mike Pence that he had been misled by national security adviser Michael Flynn.

After privately being assured by Flynn that he had never had any discussions about Russian sanctions with that country's ambassador, Pence went on TV in mid-January and publicly parroted Flynn's denial. But on January 27, President Donald Trump and a small group of senior aides learned that the Justice Department had evidence that Flynn had, in fact, discussed sanctions and misled the Vice-President.

Yet it would take almost a fortnight for Pence to learn the truth - and only then because of a report in the Washington Post, according to Marc Lotter, a spokesman for Pence.

Flynn resigned as national security adviser on Tuesday and leading members of the Republican Party have joined calls for a wide investigation into his links with Russia.


Throughout the campaign and now in office, Pence has largely managed to avoid the infighting and warring factions of the young White House by keeping his head down and soldiering loyally forward.

But the incident with Flynn reveals both the benefits and risks of his approach - he has emerged largely unharmed by the scandal that led to Flynn's resignation, but his influence within the West Wing has come increasingly into question given how little he knew about his own situation.

"Does this episode strengthen Pence or weaken Pence?" asked William Kristol, editor at large of the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, and who served as chief of staff to Vice-President Dan Quayle. "That's what everybody is trying to figure out."

Pence's decision to try to stay out of the cliques that have plagued the White House has allowed him, so far, to maintain his standing as a neutral player committed to forwarding Trump's agenda on Capitol Hill.

But it also appears to have left him at times outside the inner circle of Trump's brain trust.

Aides to both the President and Vice-President say the two men speak on the phone or in person multiple times a day. But despite their frequent communication, the President never told his No 2 that he had been misled by Flynn - and that in defending him on TV shows had put himself in a publicly compromising and embarrassing situation.

Several people close to Pence said he was "blindsided" and "frustrated".

On Saturday, Pence, chief of staff Reince Priebus and White House counsel Don McGahn held a conference call with Flynn - who had originally denied any improper communications with the Russian envoy - to go over his story again, according to two officials familiar with the call. Flynn was at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's private club in Palm Beach, Florida, during the call, while the other three men were in Washington.

Pence left the conversation troubled, as did Priebus, who expressed dismay both with Flynn's answers and the dawning reality that Flynn had deceived Pence.

By Tuesday, Pence was in full agreement with Priebus and others that it would be best for Flynn to go and remained involved in all top-level talks that day.

Asked how the Vice-President could be kept in the dark about the Flynn controversy for so long, two White House officials said it was a result of the muddled and uncertain way events unfolded rather than an intentional desire to keep him out of the loop.

On January 27, when acting Attorney General Sally Yates contacted McGahn about discrepancies of Flynn's account of his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the US, McGahn took the information directly to Trump in the Oval Office that day. Trump quickly brought in chief strategist Stephen Bannon and Priebus to join the discussion with McGahn, said two White House officials, who were not authorised to speak publicly.

McGahn then conferred with Yates again the following day to try to glean more information about what Yates knew and to probe the matter further.

But McGahn did not share the information beyond that group because he had already informed the President and his top two advisers, with the expectation that anyone else who needed to know would be informed by those principals.

The two-week lag between when Trump, Bannon and Priebus learned of Flynn's misdirection and when Pence himself found out through news reports has raised speculation as to Pence's true clout - or lack thereof - within the White House.

A Republican who works closely with Hill lawmakers said that Pence has repeatedly gone to the Capitol to assuage fears, only to have his reassuring words upended by a tweet from Trump and upheaval within the West Wing.

The question that legislators are trying to figure out, that Republican said, is if Pence - like most everyone else - is simply a victim to a rash and erratic President, or if he is deliberately being shut out by senior White House advisers.

The latest incident with Flynn, he added, further undermines the Vice-President. "This is hurtful to Pence," he said, speaking anonymously to offer a candid insight. "It's another example of him not being totally in the loop."

The Trump log

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