Vice President Mike Pence's recent maneuvers have signaled to several of President Donald Trump's allies and other GOP operatives that the second-in-command is attempting to distance himself from controversies surrounding the White House.
On June 16, 17 White House aides, Trump allies and GOP operatives offered their assessment of Pence's recent actions, several asserting that the vice president was working to separate himself from Trump's controversies.
Pence has already taken action to protect himself from the Department of Justice probe into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election.
On June 15, Pence hired attorney Richard Cullen as an outside legal counsel to represent him during the congressional investigations and federal probe into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to subvert the election.
"The Vice President is focused entirely on his duties and promoting the President’s agenda and looks forward to a swift conclusion of this matter," Pence spokesman Jarrod Agen said.
A Pence ally asserted that the controversy stemming from the Russia probe has the vice president at "wits' end."
Sources close to the vice president said that he was frustrated by Trump contradicting him publicly. The most prominent example came when Pence asserted that former FBI Director James Comey's firing was not related to the Russia probe, only for Trump to confirm that it was a day later.
"And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said 'you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story," Trump told NBC News on May 11.
"It’s tough to be Donald Trump's vice president, because Trump says flamboyant things and then if you’re the vice president, you have to go on TV and defend things that are hard to defend,” said Stephen Moore of the Heritage Campaign, a former Trump campaign adviser.
On May 18, Pence raised the eyebrows of several Trump allies when he launched his own political fundraising group, dubbed the Great American Committee, according to Salon.
Pence adviser Nick Ayers stated that the PAC would be used to "support House and Senate members who are helping pass the president's agenda."
Roger Stone, an informal Trump adviser, took to social media to voice suspicion of Pence's motives, pointing out "No Vice President in modern history had their own PAC less than 6 months in the President's first term."
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway blasted suspicions that Pence had eyes for Trump's chair.
"People can't have it both ways," Conway said. "They can't say he's loyal to a fault and then also say he's somehow competing with the president."
Meanwhile, an anonymous White House official believes that Pence is hedging his bets in case the DOJ probe ends in a Trump impeachment.
"[Pence] doesn't know when his time will be -- it could be seven-and-a-half years, it could be seven-and-a-half months," the official told Politico. "But he had better be ready."