President Donald Trump said Saturday that he does not question the loyalty of Vice President Mike Pence and slammed The New York Times for publishing a story suggesting that he had.
"No, I don't question his loyalty at all. He is 100% loyal. It was a phony story," Trump told reporters at the White House as he departed for California.
"Mike Pence is 100%," Trump said. "Not even a doubt about it in my mind. He's been a trooper. He's been with me from as soon as I won the primaries. I could not be happier."
Trump claimed the Times "never called me for a comment" before publishing a story Friday that reported the President had asked confidants whether they thought Pence was loyal to him.
The President has not publicly suggested he is considering replacing Pence either before or for a 2020 re-election bid.
Overseas in Papua New Guinea, Pence told reporters that he and Trump discussed the Times story and had a "good laugh" about it.
On Friday, the White House denied the Times' reporting.
"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," Hogan Gidley, the deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement.
Trump publicly asked Pence to be his 2020 running mate during his post-midterm election press conference at the White House.
Asked by a reporter if he would lock down his 2020 ticket, Trump asked Pence, "Mike, will you be my running mate?"
The vice president stood up from his seat in the audience and nodded yes.
"That was unexpected, but I feel very fine," Trump concluded.
Previous presidents have mulled replacing their vice presidents, although few have done so.
In 2004, President George W. Bush's campaign and White House denied they were considering replacing Vice President Dick Cheney, a strong proponent of the unpopular Iraq war whom critics claimed had wielded outsize power within the White House.
But six years later, Bush wrote in his memoir that he did indeed consider replacing Cheney with Tennessee Republican Sen. Bill Frist, then the Senate majority leader, but declined to make the switch because he valued Cheney's even hand and friendship.
President Barack Obama's top aides reportedly commissioned focus groups and polling to gauge the popularity of replacing Joe Biden with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the 2012 ticket, but the results ultimately didn't prove the change would provide a boost. Later, aides insisted the research was simply due diligence at a moment when Obama's approval ratings were bottoming out.
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