President Donald Trump wasn’t planning to attend the recent National Rifle Association convention — that is, until he learned that Vice President Mike Pence would be giving the keynote address.
That led to a change of plans in the West Wing, according to two people familiar with the arrangement, and nearly a week after the NRA announced Pence would speak, the president was added to the schedule to speak moments after Pence.
It wasn’t the first time Trump has changed his plans to one-up the veep. It was originally Pence, not Trump, who planned to travel to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But upon seeing who else would be attending, Trump decided to make the trip himself instead, bumping Pence off the schedule, according to a person familiar with the matter. A White House official said that neither scheduling decision was based on the vice president’s plans.
And Trump is elbowing Pence out in other, smaller, ways: on Tuesday, the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List announced Trump would be headlining its annual Washington gala this year, after Pence gave the keynote address last year. An official said that plan was weeks in the making.
From the start, the former Indiana governor has avoided criticizing Trump or even disagreeing with him publicly, and has silently stepped aside when Trump has decided the spotlight should be his — so much so that the conservative columnist George Will recently accused him of “groveling.” Pence has played the role of loyal surrogate, enthusiastic cheerleader and constant defender, calling on special counsel Robert Mueller to wrap up his investigation and dismissing questions swirling around Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen as a “private matter.”