CLEVELAND — The United States would “absolutely” defend its NATO allies, Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence told the PBS NewsHour on Thursday, appearing to contradict a statement from Donald Trump a day earlier about how he would treat the obligations of the decades-old military alliance.
Trump told the New York Times on Wednesday that “if we cannot be properly reimbursed for the tremendous cost of our military protecting other countries [then] yes, I would be absolutely prepared to tell those countries, ‘Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.’”
But in an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff on Thursday, Pence, the governor of Indiana, and Trump’s newly selected running mate, seemed to interpret Trump’s comments differently.
If Trump was elected president, Pence said, “he would absolutely stand by our allies and treaty obligations.”
Pence’s NATO comments came during broad-ranging interview in which he touched on abortion, the future of the Supreme Court, and trade.
“People are tired of being told that this is as good as it gets,” Pence said in an interview at the Quicken Loans Arena here, one day after accepting his party’s vice presidential nomination. “They hear in Donald Trump someone who says, we can do better.”
Pence, a former congressman and television and radio show host who is staunchly pro-life, also touched on abortion, saying he’s had several “heart-to-heart” conversations with Trump on the issue and felt comfortable with the real estate mogul’s position.
“I’m grateful to Donald Trump’s pro-life views, and I’m grateful that he’s expressed those views so publicly and openly,” Pence said.
Pence also said he felt confident Trump would appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court, something Trump’s Republican opponents questioned in the primaries.
The court currently has one vacant seat, due to the death earlier this year of Justice Antonin Scalia, and could have one or more openings during the next presidency.
The interview with Pence came just hours before Trump’s nomination speech, in which he is expected to focus on national security, terrorism and trade, among other issues.
Trump’s speech will cap a four-day convention that has seen its share of staging and technical issues. On Monday night, Melania Trump’s speech stirred controversy after it was discovered that a section had been lifted from Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
On Wednesday night, a temporary power outage shut down the large video scoreboards behind the speaker’s podium, forcing Trump’s son Eric Trump to deliver his primetime address in front of a black backdrop.
Perhaps most significantly, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas received a strong rebuke from delegates on the floor after he gave a speech on Wednesday night at the convention in which he did not endorse Trump.
As Cruz, who finished second in the primaries, neared the end of his remarks, delegates began booing and continued until he left the stage.
The incident underscored the deep divisions that still remain in the party after a bruising primary battle in which Trump beat out several of the GOP’s biggest names, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was a runner-up for vice president.
In the interview with PBS NewsHour, Pence called Cruz a “friend” and downplayed the incident, arguing that conservative voters would coalesce around Trump ahead of the election in November.
“We had a field of outstanding candidates, and primaries get a little bit rough,” Pence said. “It takes some time for people to get beyond those things.”