With Trump in crisis, Pence waits in his shadow

(CNN)Vice President Mike Pence was among the first to make the “I didn’t write it” pledge in the wake of a shocking anonymous essay — “I Am Part of the Resistance” — that revealed a conspiracy to save America from an unhinged President. Pence would likely pass the lie detector test that Sen. Rand Paul suggested to find the author, but this wouldn’t prove Pence had no influence on the thoughts of the anonymous writer or is preparing for Trump’s departure. The op-ed, published in The New York Times, notes that members of the Cabinet considered using the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to declare Donald Trump unfit and replace him with the vice president. (This is what is meant by those who suggest a “soft coup” is underway.) Although this scenario seems unlikely, Trump’s response to Anonymous — for example, asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate who wrote the op-ed — could prompt him to act in ways that would finally alienate supporters in Congress and elements of his base. Thus weakened, Trump’s departure by impeachment or other means would also open the door of the Oval Office to the vice president. The grave possibility of a crisis that ends the scandal-scarred Trump presidency could explain the vice president’s remarkable record of praising the chaotic commander-in-chief while making himself scarce at moments of crisis. Between his sycophancy, which moved George Will to say that Pence could be “America’s most repulsive figure,” and his widely noted absences, Pence has established a record that would make him blameless but also acceptable as a successor. In the role of loyal but often absent vice president, Pence has retained the support of the Trump base, which means there would be no great uprising if he assumes the presidency. Calm would prevail and no proof would be found linking him to the Resistance.