Pence Calls Report That He's Prepping for 2020 'Laughable and Absurd'

Leading Republicans skeptical of speculation that Trump will fire Mueller from Russia probe

Special counsel Robert MuellerSource J. Scott Applewhite AP

US Vice President Mike Pence confirms President Donald Trump will sign a Congressional bill imposing new sanctions on Russian Federation and warns North Korea that "all options are on the table".

The New York Times reported Sunday that the turmoil around the presidency of Donald Trump - including investigations into links between his presidential campaign and Russian Federation - had prompted several top Republicans, including Pence, to begin "what amounts to a shadow campaign for 2020".

According to operatives, Pence is preparing for a 2020 scenario in which Trump does not run: "multiple advisers to Mr. Pence have already intimated to party donors that he would plan to run if Mr. Trump did not", the Times reports.

The New York Times published Sunday an article stating that Mike Pence many meetings with potential donors and conservative groups to begin in the race for the presidency in 2020.

In a statement on Sunday, Pence slammed the Times, saying he "could not be more honored to be working side by side with a president who is making America great again". The aide appealed to Al Hubbard, an Indiana Republican who was a former adviser for the George W. Bush Administration and chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, for support. "The allegations in this article are categorically false and represent just the latest attempt by the media to divide this Administration", Pence said.

The statement went on to say the suggestion that Pence was not working exclusively for Trump's agenda and re-election was "laughable and absurd".

The New York Times cited interviews with more than 75 Republicans who expressed uncertainty about whether Trump, 71, would run for re-election.

The daily admitted in its report, however, that Pence has been loyal to Trump both publicly and in private and "has made no overt efforts to separate himself from the beleaguered president". He might have some company from 2016 primary veteran John Kasich, too.

Trump has said repeatedly that he intends to be a two-term president and has held several campaign events in advance of the 2020 election.

Denials from Pence or anyone else aside, what may be a trickle of 2020 preparations now could become a torrent later, should the GOP get its clock cleaned in the 2018 midterms and blame Trump for the comeuppance.

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