Trump: ‘Surprise’ question about Pence led him to hesitate

Politics
Donald Trump
 Melania Trump

President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen, speaks from the Truman Balcony of the White House during the annual Congressional Picnic on the South Lawn, Friday June 21, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he hesitated to back a possible 2024 presidential run by Vice President Mike Pence because he was caught off-guard by the question. Given a chance at a do-over, however, Trump still did not endorse his loyal lieutenant.

“You can’t put me in that position,” Trump said June 14 when a host of Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends” asked him about endorsing Pence should the vice president seek to succeed Trump in 2024. Pence hasn’t explicitly said he’ll run in 2024, but is widely expected to.

Offered a chance to explain, Trump told NBC News he hesitated “because it was a surprise question.”

“I’m not even thinking of it. It’s so far out. I mean, It’s so far out,” Trump told “Meet the Press” in a wide-ranging interview taped Friday and broadcast Sunday. “Now what happens in 2024? I don’t know that Mike is going to run. I don’t know who’s running or anything else.”

Also in the interview, Trump criticized Fed chairman Jerome Powell and said his biggest mistake was choosing Jeff Sessions to be attorney general.

For his part, Pence glossed over the flap Trump’s comments caused, telling CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that Trump’s comment reflected “the fact that the only election he and I are focused on is 2020.” Trump formally announced his 2020 reelection bid last week with Pence at his side.

In the NBC interview, Trump lashed out at Powell over past interest rate hikes and denied threatening to demote him to the Fed’s No. 2 job.

The Federal Reserve voted last week to leave its key interest rate unchanged, but the independent agency also signaled that it is prepared to begin cutting rates to protect the U.S. economy from trade conflicts and other threats.

Trump did not answer directly last week when he was questioned about news reports that the White House in February had explored whether Trump had the authority to demote Powell. Trump denied to NBC that such a threat has been issued.

“I have the right to do that. But I haven’t said that,” the president said.

Trump has previously explored firing Powell, who, by law, can only be fired for cause.

The interview was airing locally Sunday as Trump arrived at his golf club in Sterling, Virginia, by helicopter from the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, where he spent part of the weekend.

Trump also returned to the White House on the helicopter instead of by motorcade, his usual means of transportation to and from the club.

White House officials did not respond to requests for comment on the change in the president’s mode of travel.

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