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Behind the scenes, Pence does more than just sit next to Trump 


To be sure, it’s not unusual for the vice president to let the president have the floor while reporters and cameras are allowed in for the beginning of official events. But as Tuesday’s meeting wore on, the contrast between Pence and the three other people he was sitting with became increasingly sharp.

Part of the reason things got so weird was that Pence had never intended to participate in the talks, a White House official told Pence was there to listen, and then to relay information back to Capitol Hill about the status of negotiations.

As a matter of practice, Pence gives the president his feedback in private, the official said, and on a typical day, the two men have several opportunities to touch base.

Still, the extraordinary exchange in the Oval Office underscored, yet again, how different Trump’s and Pence’s public personas are. As the president grew increasingly angry, Pence stayed almost preternaturally calm and quiet.

Yet as soon as the meeting was over, it was Pence who remained focused on the high-stakes negotiations underway to prevent a government shutdown, while Trump turned his attention elsewhere.

Pence went to Capitol Hill, where he briefed Republican senators at their weekly lunch about what had just happened in the president’s office.

While Pence was on the Hill, Trump turned to another pressing issue on his mind. The president took to Twitter to rail against former FBI Director James Comey, who has emerged as one of the president’s principal antagonists in the ongoing special counsel probe.

In his first tweet following the momentous meeting, Trump wrote that Comey “had no right heading the FBI at any time, but especially after his mind exploded!”

Trump fired Comey in May 2017, telling NBC News’ Lester Holt soon afterward that he was thinking of the Russia investigation when he decided to fire the FBI director. In turn, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then appointed Robert Mueller to be the special counsel in the Russia probe.

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