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VP Watch: July 5, 2016

Welcome to VP Watch, NBC's roundup of the latest news about each presumptive nominee's search for a running mate.
Tom Cotton, Mike Pence, John Thune, Bob Corcker, Joni Ernst and Newt Gingrich
Tom Cotton, Mike Pence, John Thune, Bob Corcker, Joni Ernst and Newt Gingrich

Welcome to VP Watch, NBC's roundup of the latest news about each presumptive nominee's search for a running mate.

Top headlines: The GOP

  • Donald Trump’s personal vetting of his VP prospects continues this week with an appearance on the stump in North Carolina with Bob Corker, and an appearance at a fundraiser in Cincinnati on Wednesday with Newt Gingrich.
  • Although Trump and GOP leadership seized on the FBI’s decision not to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton as evidence of the “rigged” political system, most of his VP prospects — aside from South Dakota Sen. John Thune — stayed mum.

Top headlines: The Democrats

  • Sen. Tim Kaine was the first potential VP pick of Hillary Clinton's to respond to the news that the FBI is not recommending criminal charges against her when reporters notified him of the news during a panel discussion on the Zika virus in Richmond. His initial reaction: "I’m not surprised.”
  • Both Sens. Tim Kaine and Sherrod Brown continued to dodge questions about vetting for the VP job when asked by reporters in their states on Tuesday.

More VP News: The GOP

NEWT GINGRICH: Newt Gingrich, who is coming off a weekend in which he questioned his own desire to be VP, will attend a fundraiser and campaign rally tomorrow for Trump in Cincinnati, Ohio. This will be his first campaign stop with the GOP’s presumptive nominee. Jonah Goldberg, columnist for the LA Times, laid out the parallels between Trump and Gingrich this way: "He laid the groundwork for Trumpism. In the 1990s, he used talk radio much the way Trump has exploited social media to get his message past the gatekeepers. In 2012, Gingrich leveraged the debates to dominate the news cycle like a force of nature, attacking – often with devastating efficacy – the presumptions and arrogance of the media."

BOB CORKER: Corker campaigned with Trump at a rally on Tuesday night in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is Corker’s second known meeting with Trump since becoming the presumptive GOP nominee in May. Corker, who also built a career in business and real estate, first met with the business mogul at Trump Tower to advise him on foreign affairs. Corker currently serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Washington Post reports, and NBC confirms that Corker has completed his vetting questionnaire.

MIKE PENCE: After a full schedule of Independence Day parades, Pence returned to the Indiana Capitol on Tuesday before heading over to the Shelby County Fair as he continues his campaign quest to win re-election to the governor’s office in November. The governor is in a neck-and-neck race against the former Democratic Indiana House Speaker, whom he narrowly beat by three percentage points four years ago. Pence is also staring at a deadline of next Friday, July 15, to remove himself from the Indiana ballot, moving up Trump’s possible deadline for announcing Pence as his VP pick. State law says an individual can’t appear on the ballot for a statewide position and federal office.

Take this notion from an Indy Star column into account — some Republicans in Indiana suggest it may be best for the state party if Pence leaves Indiana to join Trump’s ticket: "If Pence does abandon Indiana, that only helps his state party. Democratic candidate for governor John Gregg has remained competitive for one overriding reason: He is running against Pence. Democrats have a shot at the winning because of the mistakes Pence has made and because many moderates are uncomfortable with the state’s hard-right turn on social issues.”

MARY FALLIN: Fallin’s state is reeling from the loss of Kevin Durant.

JONI ERNST — Donald Trump further fueled speculation around Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s prospects with a tweet issued the day after they met one-on-one in which he said he “will see her again!”

JOHN THUNE — Thune tweeted his response to the FBI recommending no charges against Hillary Clinton in the probe of her emails, saying “Bottom line: FBI found that Hillary Clinton was not honest with the American people. Her carelessness jeopardized our national security.”

CHRIS CHRISTIE The Observer is reporting that David Samson, a close ally of Christie who he appointed as chairman of the Port Authority, will plead guilty to a single felony charge in the coming days. The charge, according to an anonymous source cited by The Observer, is related to the Chairman’s flight scandal — a direct flight offered by United from New Jersey to Columbia, S.C., near where Samson has a vacation home, that ended shortly after Samson resigned. Christie is still vacationing out of the country.

More VP News: The Dems

TIM KAINE: The senator continued to brush aside questions about whether he is being vetted by Clinton’s campaign for the VP role, telling reporters in Richmond today after a panel on the Zika virus, “The only role I’m playing is trying to help her win Virginia. I have lived in Virginia long enough to remember when we were a state that didn’t matter in presidential politics. It is now nice to be in a state that matters a lot so the work that I can do to be helpful to her is just right here at home.”

As FBI director James Comey announced that the agency is not recommending criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while secretary of state, Kaine gave a quick reaction when reporters informed him of the news (he had not yet had a chance to hear Comey’s announcement): “I’m not surprised,” he said, adding in part later, “I never believed this was going to be something in the criminal realm or even close to it.”

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post has a piece about how Kaine’s wording and actions around abortion lately have moved much more into Clinton’s direction, just as his abortion record is scrutinized: “Now that Clinton, the most pro-choice presidential candidate in American history, is vetting him for vice president, Kaine needs to bring his record more in line with hers — and he’s starting to do that.”

SHERROD BROWN: Brown declined to talk about whether he was being vetted when questioned by local reporters in Canton, Ohio Tuesday, telling them, "I'm not going to speculate or talk about that as I did on ABC the other day," Brown told The Canton Repository. "I have no comment on that. ... It's up to Secretary Clinton to make that decision."

Meanwhile, Brown’s wife, columnist Connie Schultz, tweeted a photo yesterday of Brown’s grandchildren watching him getting camera ready for his ABC interview.

ELIZABETH WARREN: The AP takes a look at how the Native American heritage issue that Donald Trump attacks her for — and that former opponent Scott Brown hammered her for in 2012 — came about. Elizabeth Warren will address the NCLR’s conference in Orlando on the afternoon of Saturday July 23 – the weekend before the Democratic convention, an NCLR spokesperson confirms.

MIKE MULLEN: Voice of America sums up Mullen’s VP credentials: "As the highest-ranking officer in the U.S. Armed Forces, Mullen has strong military and foreign policy credentials. Mullen is familiar with Clinton, having worked with her when she was secretary of state. A retired Navy admiral, he was only the third officer in the Navy's history to receive four different four-star assignments."

TOM VILSACK: Just a few facts to remember about Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. 1) He was vetted in 2004 to be then-senator John Kerry’s running mate, though he was not ultimately selected; 2) Vilsack was a two term Governor of Iowa (swing state); 3) Vilsack grew up in Pennsylvania (a swing state); 4) Vilsack’s family has a long relationship with Hillary Clinton, as Vilsack’s brother-in-law worked with then Hillary Rodham on the House Nixon impeachment team when she was in her early 20’s.