Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Thursday confirmed the swirling rumors that he has been on presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s shortlist of potential running mates.
Gingrich is no stranger to being scrutinized by the general public and the news media. He first ran for office in 1974, ran for president in 2012 and served as House speaker for four years. But, he said, the process of being vetted for a vice presidential run is actually “much more rigorous.”
Using Facebook Live on Thursday afternoon, the Georgia Republican told viewers that the Trump campaign asked if he and his wife, Callista Gingrich, would be open to the possibility of him signing onto their campaign as his running mate.
“It’s a great honor, and I felt like we should make ourselves available. I’m a very strong supporter of Donald Trump and believe that defeating Hillary Clinton is vital to our country’s survival. I think she’d be the most corrupt person ever to be put in the White House,” Gingrich said.
Addressing the elephant in the room, he said it’s pretty clear that the Trump campaign has whittled down the list to him and his old friend, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, whose Religious Freedom Restoration Act sparked fierce debate about LGBT rights last year. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is also said to be on Trump’s shortlist, and other names bandied about include Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
A.B. Culvahouse, a prominent lawyer in Washington, D.C., who served as counsel to former President Ronald Reagan, called Gingrich and said he had been asked to vet him for the position.
Culvahouse told Gingrich that the process might be more intensive than he would have expected because vice presidential candidates are not in the public eye as much as presidential candidates and don’t need to go through primaries.
“I pointed out to him … probably if he just Googled my name he’d have more material than he needed. He laughed and said, ‘Yeah, but they have a process.’ Over the years, this process has evolved into 113 questions. It’s really quite amazing,” Gingrich recalled.
Among other things, Gingrich said, he had to list everything he had written and gather all of his taxes dating back to 2004. Then Culvahouse and three other lawyers asked Gingrich and his wife questions for three hours to see if anything embarrassing from their past might blow up in the media.
“If you have three or four really good candidates, the people who do the vetting are sort of able to point out, ‘Here are the strengths, here are the weaknesses, here are the complexities,’” he said. “So it’s a very serious, very elaborate process.”
Subsequently, Gingrich said he spoke at length with several people in Trump’s organization and met for 2½ hours with Trump and his team on Wednesday.
“What Mike Pence and I have gone through until now,” he said, “has been a very substantial process of trying to sort out where we are, what we’re doing and what we should be concerned about.”
According to Gingrich, there are three major issues to take into account when looking at potential vice presidents: Can they serve as president if need be, do they avoid hurting the campaign and what is their chemistry with the presidential candidate?
When asked what he found most impressive about Trump, Gingrich said he admires the businessman-turned-politician’s courage. He lauded Trump for establishing himself in New York’s challenging real estate market and then succeeding in reality television with “The Apprentice.”
“He’s had the courage again and again to take on new projects, new approaches, and he’s had the courage to run for the president of the United States and speak his mind and be who he is, with strengths and weaknesses,” Gingrich said. “And done it in a way that I think is very impressive, and apparently many Americans think is impressive.”