Donald Trump delays vice-president announcement after attack in France

Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump (right) and Indiana Governor Mike Pence wave to the crowd before addressing the crowd during a campaign stop at the Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Indiana, July 12.
Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump (right) and Indiana Governor Mike Pence wave to the crowd before addressing the crowd during a campaign stop at the Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Indiana, July 12. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON/NICE (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - Mr Donald Trump's planned unveiling of his running mate at a Friday event in Manhattan has been postponed "in light of the horrible attack in Nice, France", he announced on Thursday evening.

At least 70 people are dead and scores injured when a truck ploughed into a crowd in the southeastern French city of Nice on Thursday in an "attack" after a Bastille Day fireworks display.

Mr Trump's announcement followed hours of reports that the presumptive Republican nominee had decided to pick Indiana Governor Mike Pence, and pushback from the campaign saying no decision had yet been made.

Then, several national television networks reported on Thursday afternoon that it was a done deal: Mr Trump had offered the position, and Mr Pence had accepted.

The reports, all sourced to anonymous people, emerged as Mr Pence was reportedly sighted leaving his home state of Indiana and then landing in a small airport outside New York City.

The campaign released a statement saying the announcement would take place on Friday at the New York Hilton Midtown at 11 am. Mr Pence is the pick and is dropping his re-election bid in order to join Mr Trump's ticket, the Indianapolis Star reported.

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call and other outlets also reported that Mr Pence was selected or that Trump and Pence allies were strongly signalling so. A representative for Mr Pence did not respond to requests for comment. 

Two Trump officials who asked not to be named said that Roll Call's report was not based on information from inside the campaign, but did not deny the report either.

Mr Pence, 57, is a former US representative who could help Mr Trump, 70, boost his standing with social conservatives and in midwestern states where Mr Trump aims to build a line of defence against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Mr Trump and Mr Pence have spent extensive time together on the campaign trail and with each other's families in recent days. Mr Pence lauded Mr Trump after meeting with him on Wednesday, saying it was humbling for his family to meet the next US president.

"We will not rest until we elect" Trump, he said on Twitter on July 12. He has not always agreed with the candidate, though, blasting Mr Trump's proposed temporary ban on Muslim immigration in December as "offensive and unconstitutional".

The reports of Mr Pence's selection were greeted positively by Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican usually critical of Mr Trump, who said that if the Pence news is true as he assumes, it is the best thing Mr Trump has done.

Mr Flake hopes Mr Pence can get Mr Trump to change his positions and statements about Hispanics, he said.

Mr Trump's promise to build a wall on the US-Mexico border to curb illegal immigration-and his comments likening Mexican immigrants to rapists-have turned off many Hispanic voters.

Mr Pence was also complimented on Thursday at the White House, where press secretary Josh Earnest noted the governor had been doing "important work with the administration to expand Medicaid in his state".

Another possible Trump running mate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, took questions in a Facebook Live broadcast on Thursday afternoon and did not confirm whether he was out of the running, but seemed to suggest it had come down to Mr Pence and him.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the third person believed to be on Mr Trump's short list.

"I'm a competitive person so I'm not going to say it won't bother me if I'm not selected," Mr Christie said on MSNBC in an interview that aired on Thursday.

If not chosen, "I'll just go back to work", he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Pence is expected at the National Governors Association Meeting in Des Moines on Friday and Saturday. His staff have not called to cancel plans to attend, so organisers are still expecting him, said Ms Elena Waskey, a spokesman for the association.