Former Vice President Mike Pence, a Republican presidential candidate, said Sunday that Donald Trump’s actions that led to the riots on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021, were «reckless» but that he is «still not convinced» they were criminal.
«While their words were reckless, based on what I know, I’m still not convinced that they were criminal,» Pence said during an interview. interview on CNN’s «State of the Union» referring to the former president.
Trump said last week that he had been notified in a letter from special counsel Jack Smith that he is the target of an investigation by a Washington-based grand jury looking into the Jan. 6 riots and efforts to overturn the 2020 election, adding that that effectively means he will be indicted for a third time.
The letter mentions three federal statutes related to disenfranchisement, conspiracy to defraud the US and witness tampering, two attorneys with direct knowledge of the document previously told NBC News.
«I hope it doesn’t come to that,» Pence said, arguing that it should be left to the American people to judge Trump’s conduct around January 6.
«Honestly, I don’t know what his intention was that day,» he added. “But for my part, from what I saw, as I said, his actions were reckless. I think history will hold him accountable.»
Trump recently issued an indirect warning to Smith, saying it would be «very dangerous» if he were sent to prison. Pence said Sunday that the former president’s rhetoric «it does not worry me because I have more confidence in the American people.»
In the days before the attack on the Capitol, Trump attacked Pence for refusing to comply with his demands to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory. Then, on January 6, some rioters were heard chanting «hang Mike Pence.»
After breaking up with his former running mate on January 6, Pence publicly criticized Trump for his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
“President Trump got it wrong,” Pence said during remarks at the annual white-tie Gridiron Dinner in March, which was attended by politicians and reporters. “He had no right to annul the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone in the Capitol that day.»
Pence, however, has not gone after Trump directly since announcing his presidential campaign last month. The former vice president defended his strategy to a voter who confronted him at a town hall in New Hampshire last week.
“I’m not interested in trading insults with my old friend. I’m not,» Pence said. “Some people think that’s the way to win the presidency. But presenting the choice to the American people, we have been. We will continue to do so.»