Vice President Mike Pence blasted the mainstream media over its coverage of the Biden/Trump/Ukraine flap in an interview Monday evening on FOX News Channel's "Hannity."
President Trump is alleged by a so-far-anonymous whistleblower to have threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky promised to open a corruption investigation into former VP Joe Biden's son's business dealings with a Ukrainian energy company.
"The 'assume the worst' media takes one report, runs with it," Pence said. "Democrats on Capitol Hill immediately start to denounce the president before anybody has the facts."
"The president has been very clear on this. He made a congratulatory call to President Zelensky after his election, which was a landslide election, built largely on the message of an anti-corruption campaign," he explained. "The president spoke to him about our concern, investing hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars in seeing him move for a reform agenda. President Trump made it clear that we've got to see reforms. We've got to see honesty in government. And his congratulatory call was all about that."
"He mentioned Vice President Biden and his son in the context of us wanting to see honest government. That's exactly what the American taxpayer would expect," Pence said.
"The ironic thing is is that everything that our critics in the media are leveling at the president from this phone call, and leveling at our administration, everything that Democrats on Capitol Hill are running off and describing -- Vice President Joe Biden bragged about -- which was a quid-pro-quo -- withholding American aid in exchange for a specific action," he said.
SEAN HANNITY: Let’s start with this Ukraine thing. The media is just like -- it’s like manna from heaven. Oh, we didn’t have a reason to impeach, but I think we do now. We’re now discovering the whistleblower -- it was not first-hand knowledge.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right.
HANNITY: And even the media is now reporting in some places that there was no quid pro quo. What can you tell us?
PENCE: Well, here we go again. The 'assume the worst' media takes one report, runs with it. Democrats on Capitol Hill immediately start to denounce the president before anybody has the facts.
Look, the president has been very clear on this. He made a congratulatory call to President Zelensky after his election, which was a landslide election, built largely on the message of an anti-corruption campaign.
The president spoke to him about our concern, investing hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars in seeing him move for a reform agenda. President Trump made it clear that we've got to see reforms. We've got to see honesty in government. And his congratulatory call was all about that.
He mentioned Vice President Biden and his son in the context of us wanting to see honest government. That's exactly what the American taxpayer would expect.
HANNITY: Here you have -- and maybe you could put some context -- you are the vice president.
But former Vice President Biden bragging on tape that you’re not getting $1 billion. I will get (ph) -- in six hours -- and I’m leaving in six hours. You either fire the prosecutor. Why would a vice president want to fire a prosecutor? And son of a B, they fired him, bragging almost.
Why would a vice president of the United States of America want a Ukrainian prosecutor fired? What conceivable reason would that be?
PENCE: Yes, it’s -- it's really remarkable, that everything that the media wants to assume about the president's phone call in July, that Vice President Biden admitted to, on camera, in January of 2018, that he said that when he was vice president of the United States, he had a quid pro quo. He said to Ukrainian officials that you will not get over a billion dollars in American aid unless you fire a prosecutor who just happened to be investigating a company that Vice President Biden’s son was on the very board of.
I think the --
HANNITY: And make a lot of money from.
PENCE: Making a lot of money.
HANNITY: Apparently with no background in oil, gas or energy.
PENCE: The American people have a right to know. And -- but to have a vice president threatening USA, that's a quid pro quo.
But as the president has said in his conversation that everyone is very interested in now, his conversation with President Zelensky, that he spoke about congratulations -- he spoke about our support for the Ukraine. He spoke about our concern about corruption. But there was no quid pro quo.
If people want to see a quid pro quo, they just need to watch the tape of Vice President Biden explaining that he was going to withhold, again, over $1 billion taxpayer money --
HANNITY: Leverage -- leverage taxpayer dollars. It’s almost like to me, I would say blackmail. Am I wrong in that characterization?
PENCE: Sean, I’ve got to tell you, this is a country that was overrun by Russia. It's a country that is still at war. Russia takes the Crimea and the Donbass province. They still have, we believe, Russian elements there that are fomenting violence and are trying to literally tear Ukraine apart.
And so, for Vice President Biden, who is part of an administration that refused to give military aid to Ukraine, to threaten what remained of that aid unless they responded to his demand about firing a prosecutor -- who among other things was investigating a company his son served on the board of -- look, the American people just deserve to know the facts.
And that -- what they can be confident of is that throughout this process, that all of our administration’s contacts, the president's conversation, all of my discussions with President Zelensky, were all based upon proper considerations of how we support Ukraine, how we support their effort to end an era of corruption in their government and advance the interest of their sovereignty.
Look, the American people have a right to know what happened. They have a right to know what happened in 2016. And they have a right to know what the circumstances were around having a sitting vice president threaten to withhold American aid.
And, look -- and again, this all -- the ironic thing is, is that everything that our critics in the media are leveling at the president from this phone call and leveling at our administration, everything -- everything that Democrats on Capitol Hill are running off and describing, Vice President Joe Biden bragged about, which was a quid pro quo, withholding American aid in exchange for a specific action.
HANNITY: Would it help the president, would you recommend he release the transcript?
PENCE: Well, that would be a decision for the president to make.
But, remember, Sean, that would be an unprecedented act. It’s so important that the president of the United States can have conversations with leaders around the world that are candid, that are open. And for leaders to be concerned in the future that a conversation with the president might make its way into the public --
HANNITY: That’s already happened.
PENCE: -- would undermine -- would undermine the ability of the president to have those discussions in the future.
So, I know the president would like to do it. I know he's looking at all the circumstances around it. But the American people can be confident in this congratulatory call that the president spoke about issues that are of interest to American taxpayers, notably corruption, that there was no quid pro quo.