U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is pushing back on suggestions that he is already plotting a run for the presidency in 2020 if President Donald Trump does not seek a second term in the White House.
Pence said he found "disgraceful and offensive" a report in The New York Times Sunday that he is forming a "shadow campaign," and that aides have "intimated" to Republican donors that he would seek the presidency if Trump does not run for re-election.
Pence and Trump were inaugurated six and one-half months ago, but the early months of the president's four-year term have proved chaotic. National opinion surveys show only about a third of American voters approve of Trump's performance so far.
That has led some Republican operatives, according to The Times, to consider the possibility that Trump might not run again, even though he has already declared that he will.
Pence, a former Indiana governor before Trump tapped him as his vice-presidential running mate last year, declared the newspaper report was "categorically false," and said it was "just the latest attempt by the media to divide this administration."
The vice president said he plans to focus all his efforts on advancing Trump's agenda, and on seeing him re-elected in 2020.
With Trump's White House notable for political infighting among aides, his administration has been marked by the failure so far to win congressional passage of any major pieces of legislation. Notable among the unsuccessful efforts has been Trump's vow to dismantle the country's health care law championed by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.
Trump has ousted numerous key aides, including his first chief of staff and his initial pick as national security adviser. Numerous congressional investigations and a criminal probe are underway into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election aimed helping Trump win, but he has largely been dismissive, calling them a "witch hunt" and an effort by Democrats to explain his upset win.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has convened a grand jury in Washington to hear testimony whether Trump aides illegally colluded with Russian interests to help Trump claim the White House and whether he obstructed justice by firing Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey, who headed the Russia investigation before Mueller was appointed.