A chummy discussion between Vice President Pence and former vice president Richard B. Cheney quickly turned into a vigorous back-and-forth over President Trump's foreign policy at a private gathering Saturday, with Cheney comparing the president's instincts to those of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, according to a transcript obtained by The Washington Post.
Cheney, whose daughter Liz Cheney is a Republican congressional leader from Wyoming, doesn't often criticize Trump publicly, though he did speak out against Trump's racist claim during an early 2016 campaign speech that Mexicans are "rapists".
Pence responded to Cheney's concerns at one point by saying that "when the American people elected this president, they elected a president who expressed concern about American deployments around the world, and they knew this was going to be a president that came and asked the fundamental questions about - you know, where are we deployed and do we really need to be asking men and women in uniform to be deployed in that part of the world?"
Cheney, at the American Enterprise Institute's annual World Forum on Sea Island, Ga., pressed Pence about President Trump's habit of making major policy announcements on Twitter, according to The Washington Post. President Donald Trump has repeatedly insisted that American allies should contribute more towards their collective security and has reportedly even mulled leaving North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
"I don't know, that sounded like a NY state real estate deal to me", Cheney said, according to The Post.
But the impression from one person there was that Pence relied too much on platitudes rather than addressing the criticisms directly. A spokesperson for Pence confirmed to the Post that the exchange took place.
Cheney reportedly referenced a Bloomberg report that claimed Trump was formulating a so-called "Cost Plus 50" demand - a plan for foreign allies to reimburse the U.S. for its military presence in the country.
Trump's own foreign policy is full of contradictions.
"We're going to continue [to] train", Pence said.
"It's possible to demand that your allies do more to provide for the common defence of all of our nations and, at the same time, reaffirm our strong commitment - whether it be to the transatlantic alliance or to our allies across the Indo-Pacific", he said.
US President Donald Trump has previously repeatedly castigated America's NATO allies for not reaching the organisation's official spending goals. "The AEI event was off the record, as a result I have nothing to share", she said.
The civil but tense standoff put a spotlight on enduring fissures in the Republican Party over its foreign policy.