Mar 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Pence took Adelson private jet to Israel

President Trump is seen presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Miriam Adelson in 2015.

President Trump presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Miriam Adelson in 2018. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Mike Pence flew to Israel this week on the private jet owned by arguably the most powerful donor in Republican politics, Miriam Adelson, two sources familiar with the situation told Axios.

Why it matters: The former vice president, who fell out with Donald Trump because he refused the former president's demands to unilaterally overturn the 2020 election result, is contemplating challenging Trump in the 2024 GOP presidential primaries.

  • A close relationship with Adelson — widow of former casino mogul and megadonor Sheldon Adelson — could potentially bring tens of millions of dollars to a pro-Pence political machine.
  • Pence currently trails well behind Trump in speculative 2024 polls of Republican voters.

The big picture: The Adelsons gave more than half a billion dollars to Republican campaigns, party organs and interest groups during the past five election cycles, topping out at nearly $220 million during the 2020 cycle.

  • Trump benefitted considerably from that largesse. And he reciprocated, awarding Miriam Adelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018.
  • It remains to be seen how heavily she'll spend after her husband's death last year. Her only political donation last year was $5,000 to the PAC for former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, herself a prospective 2024 candidate.
  • But Republicans are optimistic Adelson will spend big because she was every bit as enthusiastic a political operator as her late husband, according to lawmakers who've met privately with the couple over the years.

What they're saying: Pence's senior adviser Marc Short declined comment to Axios.

  • Adelson adviser Andy Abboud also declined comment.

Behind the scenes: Pence arrived in Israel on Monday and had dinner with Miriam Adelson that night.

Jewish Insider, which first reported the meeting, said Pence joined Adelson on Tuesday morning to pay his respects at her husband's gravesite on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem's Old City.

Axios confirmed these details.

  • Pence also had dinner Tuesday night with former Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a source briefed on the meeting.
  • Pence broke news in the Israeli press by declaring the next Republican administration — which he predicted would take office in 2025 — would tear up any resurrected nuclear deal President Biden strikes with Iran.
  • Trump trashed the 2015 deal negotiated by former President Obama.

Between the lines: Pence has been making aggressive political moves lately — building his profile as a potential 2024 contender.

  • His advocacy group this week announced it was spending $10 million on TV ads targeting vulnerable House Democrats on energy policy and Ukraine.
  • As Axios reported, that $10 million buy is the most expensive move by a 2024 GOP contender not named Donald Trump.

Pence publicly distanced himself from Trump by criticizing GOP "apologists" for Putin during a speech last week to Republican National Committee donors in New Orleans.

  • In that same speech, Pence took another swipe at Trump's 2020 stolen election obsessions, encouraging Republicans to stop "re-litigating the past."
  • That came after a February speech to the Federalist Society.
  • During those remarks, Pence said the former president "is wrong" to say Pence had the power to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
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