DERRY, N.H. – Former Vice President Mike Pence walked a fine line in discussing the unprecedented indictment of his one-time boss — former President Donald Trump.
Pence called the news of the indictment “not just a sad day, but a troubling day for millions of Americans,” repeating in a Fox News Digital interview what he had said a during a nationally syndicated radio appearance, a campaign rally, and during a scrum with reporters.
“I think it’s important that people remember that no one is above the law” he said.
But he immediately added that “no one is beneath the law either. Every American entitled to be innocent until proven guilty and the former president is entitled to a presumption of innocence. And any decision about the campaign or his way ahead should be built on a presumption of innocence.”
And during his campaign speech he had emphasized that the “handling of classified materials of the United States is a serious matter.”
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Pence’s comments came a couple of hours after he made similar points during a national radio interview with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt. Pence repeated his stance Friday afternoon as he took questions from reporters during a retail campaign stop at Mary Ann’s Diner in downtown Derry, New Hampshire.
“This is a sad day for America,” Pence said minutes later during a one-on-one interview with Fox News Digital. “The very notion that a former President of the United States would face indictment from a government of the man against whom he ran, and seeking to run again, is deeply troubling to me and to millions of Americans. I had hoped that the Department of Justice would see their way clear to resolve this issue without bringing an indictment.”
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Pointing to the Justice Department, the former vice president added that “I’m deeply troubled. I believe it’s extraordinarily divisive at a time when our politics is more divided than ever before.”
Pence spoke the day after Trump was indicted around his alleged improper retention of classified records at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida, after leaving the White House in 2021
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Trump was indicted on federal charges Thursday evening stemming from Special Counsel Jack Smith’s months-long investigation. The stunning development marks the first time that a former president’s faced federal charges.
“I did absolutely nothing wrong,” Trump told Fox News Digital on Thursday evening.
Early Friday, Pence repeatedly urged Attorney General Merrick Garland “to unseal the indictment and stand before the press and the American people and explain the reasons for this unprecedented indictment of a former President of the United States. Attorney General Merrick Garland, you need to stop hiding behind the special counsel. You need to stand up and explain to us why this was necessary before the sun sets today.”
Hours later, the 37-count federal indictment was unsealed. It accused Trump of lying and scheming, and of misleading federal investigations, in order to continue holding sensitive materials that allegedly the former president knew were still classified. The indictment accuses the former president of breaking seven different laws.
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Asked if the former vice president was trying to have it both ways in his responses to the Trump indictment, a Pence campaign spokesperson told Fox News defended the former vice president’s approach.
“I think over the last several years the American people have lost a lot of trust in our federal justice system and I think he’s correct to point that out. But at the same time, it’s true that no one is above the law. I think that’s simply the point that he’s trying to make,” the aide said.
“The two can be true,” the aide added.
Longtime Republican strategist and communicator Ryan Williams suggested that “Pence is in a very tight spot.”
“He clearly has reservations about the way his former boss operates,” Williams observed. “He’s trying to state the obvious which is that Trump’s behavior is troubling, but not alienate the type of Republican primary voters that he needs to woo if he wants to be the nominee.”
An indictment for any alleged crime, the accompanying perp walk and ensuing court hearings would sound like a death knell for a politician on the ballot. But for Trump — who’s hardly a normal politician — it appears to be a gift in the race for the GOP nomination.
Trump enjoyed a boost in Republican primary polls after he was indicted and arraigned in New York City two months ago for allegedly giving hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in 2016 to keep her quiet ahead of that year’s presidential election.
Asked if the federal indictment will bolster Trump again and make his own bid to secure the nomination more difficult, Pence said he’s “Iconfident the Republican primary voters here and in Iowa and in all the upcoming Republican primaries are going to sort through all these issues.
“I believe they’re going to give us a standard-bearer fitted to the times who can lead not just our party but lead our nation back to security and prosperity,” Pence said.
Pence is among the 10 Republicans running against Trump for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. Trump, who in November launched his third straight White House run, is the commanding front-runner right now in the latest Republican primary polls.
Pence, who launched his campaign Wednesday in Iowa, was making his first stop in New Hampshire as a declared candidate. Iowa and New Hampshire are the first two states to vote in the GOP nominating calendar.
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Williams, a veteran of multiple Republican presidential and statewide campaigns, predicted that “Republicans will likely rally around Trump as they did after his first indictment.”
“If you’re not seen as being upset by this indictment no matter what the facts are, you run the risk of losing voters in the Republican primary process. It’s a difficult position, especially for someone who’s served under Trump as his vice president,” he added.