Vice President Mike Pence is expected to appear in Utah next week to speak on the topic of international trade, sources have confirmed to The Salt Lake Tribune.
At least three sources, speaking off the record, were aware of the planned visit, with one confirming it is scheduled for Aug. 22.
Utah leaders said they had not received official confirmation of the trip, and few details are known.
Pence has long been more popular in Utah than the man he answers to — President Donald Trump. The vice president has often been praised by state leaders as their preferred side of the tandem, including by Gov. Gary Herbert, who got to know Pence when he was governor of Indiana.
As Pence called for Republicans to unite behind Trump, some in the audience vented their frustration at the absence of any elected Utah leader on the stage with him.
Herbert, Sen. Mike Lee, and then-Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Mia Love, had denounced the nominee — at least briefly — after release of an explosive video in which Trump bragged of groping women.
Trump won the election in Utah with less than a majority of the vote, but some of his anti-regulatory policies and Supreme Court appointments have helped boost his popularity with Republicans here. Utahns as a whole, however, have never moved much from an approval rating at or below 50%, polls have shown.
The Deseret News reported Thursday that Pence had originally been going to speak at the headquarters of Overstock.com in Midvale but pulled the plug on those plans following controversial comments by the company’s top executive.
Patrick Byrne, CEO for the Utah-based online retailer, claimed late Monday he’d played a key role in scandal over Russian interference in U.S. elections and indicated that he’d had a romantic relationship with alleged Russian spy Maria Butina. Byrne said he’d been acting as an informant for the FBI at the time.
The bizarre claims, contained in a company statement released on business wires, sent the company’s share prices tumbling by 38.7% from early Monday to Wall Street’s closing bell on Wednesday, to $15.97 per share. Shares rebounded a bit Thursday to $18.46.
When asked whether Pence was ever expected to visit the company’s headquarters, an Overstock.com spokesman referred the question to the vice president’s office.
Pence’s office did not respond to a request for comment.