Irreconcilable differences? Trump, Pence aides fear relationship has reached point of no return

Keith Kellogg, adviser to both men, says he believes the relationship has hit a "hard break" and expects them to "go their separate ways."

Updated: February 13, 2022 - 10:43pm

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From the podium at a Christian convention four years ago, then-Vice President Mike Pence heralded that "good friend of mine" Donald Trump and praised the 45th president for "delivering every day on his promise to protect faith and restore freedom."

These days, the 45th president and his vice president don't talk at all, instead trading barbs in media statements about the episode that crushed a close relationship: the certification of the 2020 election and subsequent Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

Pence recently criticized Trump for suggesting he could have overturned the election that day. (Actually, at the time Trump was asking the vice president to delay certifying the election and ask state legislatures anew if they believed the vote was accurate.)

"President Trump is wrong," Pence said in a speech last week to the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization. "I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone."

Trump fired back. "I was right and everyone knows it," he said in a statement where he suggested Pence acted on Jan. 6 like "an automatic conveyor belt for the Old Crow Mitch McConnell to get Biden elected President as quickly as possible."

Even amid such tensions, both sides agree that most of what Trump and Pence accomplished together during their tenure was a win for Republicans — but post-presidency, the relationship seems beyond repair.

"I think it's a hard break," retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, a national security adviser to both men, told Just the News last week. "I mean, which is unfortunate, because we had one bad day. I stayed in for four years, and Vice President Pence was very loyal to President Trump. But I think there's there's a schism."

Kellogg said he fears that "others are going to push" on the narrative of the break and make it self-fulfilling.

"I just don't think that relationship will come back to the way that I remember seeing it for the most part," he said. "And they just have to go their separate ways and see what's going to happen in 2022 and 2024."

Privately and publicly, most Republicans believe the ship for reconciliation has sailed.  But they also know a public, protracted feud will be bad for the GOP.

The delicate balancing act of acknowledging the split but not pouring gas on it was evident as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was asked whether he could pick sides, either as pro-Trump or pro-Pence.

"I love the question. I'm pro-America. It is really important," Pompeo answered diplomatically, quickly pivoting to a discussion about fixing the many vote counting and voting law irregularities that have surfaced since the November 2020 election.

"People are concerned about the fact that they don't know that when we say that Alice or John won the election that it really happened that way," Pompeo said. "That's just unacceptable in America. We have to get that right. We know how to do it. We know how to make people show voter IDs to make sure folks vote one time."

"If we get this right," he added, "then Team America will prevail. And in 2022, and in 2024, we'll have good safe sound elections. I'm counting on it.”

In the meantime, Trump remains the undisputed head of the GOP and the preferred frontrunner for the 2024 nomination, polling shows, though the ex-president has been mostly coy about his intentions.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told radio host Hugh Hewitt last week he expects Pence to run for president in 2024 regardless of whether Trump jumps in.

To do so, political experts say, he has to separate himself from Trump's personality while embracing the popular principles of Trumpism he helped implement as vice president.

"I think Pence is trying to build a brand separate from Trump, but neither Trump nor Pence benefit from all-out war between their two camps," Republican strategist Alex Conant told The Hill last week.