Trump alarms his confidantes with questions about Mike Pence's loyalty

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  • President Donald Trump has been asking advisers lately about whether Vice President Mike Pence is loyal, according to people familiar with the discussions cited by The New York Times on Friday.
  • The question, which The Times said had been asked repeatedly, alarmed advisers and could indicate possible doubts Trump may have about his second-in-command.
  • Some people in the White House described Pence as a loyal supporter of the president, and Pence himself has made clear in public statements that he is committed to Trump and his agenda.
  • According to The Times, outside advisers have suggested Pence may not be a strong running mate for the 2020 presidential election.
  • White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley brushed off the rumours, saying that Trump “absolutely supports the vice president.”

President Donald Trump has been asking advisers lately about whether Vice President Mike Pence is loyal, according to people familiar with the discussions cited by The New York Times on Friday.

The question, which The Times said had been asked repeatedly, alarmed advisers and could indicate possible doubts Trump may have about his second-in-command.

Some people in the White House described Pence as a loyal supporter of the president, and Pence himself has made clear in public statements that he is committed to Trump and his agenda.

According to The Times, outside advisers have suggested Pence may not be a strong running mate for the 2020 presidential election.

The advisers who floated the idea reportedly believe that Trump ought to select a vice presidential candidate who appeals to female voters – a demographic with which Trump struggles to appeal to – despite his claims that he is already “doing well with women.”

Other sources told The Times that Trump’s inquiry about Pence’s loyalty was actually in reference to Nick Ayers’ fealty to his cause. Ayers, Pence’s chief of staff, is reportedly a front-runner to replace White House chief of staff John Kelly, who has long been rumoured to be on his way out.

Trump hit back at the report Saturday morning, telling reporters outside the White House that Pence is “100% loyal” and has been a “trooper” within the administration.

Hours later, Trump tweeted to lash out at the “phony story” and insisted he “can’t imagine any President having a better or closer relationship with their Vice President then the two of us.”

White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley reportedly brushed off the speculation on Trump’s alleged doubts about Pence, saying the president “absolutely supports the vice president and thinks he’s doing an incredible job helping to carry out the mission and policies of this administration.

Pence hasn’t always been complimentary of Trump. He expressed disapproval of him as a candidate during the 2016 presidential race after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape revealed Trump boasting about manhandling women.

Pence said at the time that he was “offended by the words and actions” in the recording – a statement Trump has reportedly not forgotten.

People familiar with Trump’s thinking suggested that after loyalists like his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, turned on him, Trump has become paranoid about who his allies and enemies are.

“It’s quite likely that the president has been reflecting on who’s loyal, who’s not loyal … and he’s starting to be paranoid in a way that’s almost feral,” Pulitzer Prize winning biographer Michael D’Antonio said during a CNN interview on Friday. “This is a cornered animal who really can’t be trusted by anyone.”

Despite Trump’s questions about Pence, he has not indicated he would look for a new running mate for 2020.

During a press conference earlier in November, Trump jokingly turned to Pence and asked “Mike, will you be my running mate,” to which Pence responded by nodding and raising his right hand.

“Thank you,” Trump said. “OK, good. The answer’s yes, OK? That was unexpected, but I feel very fine.”

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