Former Vice President Mike Pence was in New Hampshire Friday where he shared his reaction in the immediate aftermath of the federal indictment this week against former President Donald Trump related to his handling of classified documents.
Less than 24 hours after Trump said he had been indicted and on the same day that the indictment was unsealed, Pence expressed deep skepticism of Special Prosecutor Jack Smith’s move to bring federal charges against a former president for the first time.
He called the day a “sad day in America.”
“Well, look, no one knows the facts,” he separately said when asked if he believes the indictment is political.
“It’s not just a sad day, it’s a troubling day for millions of Americans,” Pence said. “And it invites a divisiveness in this country that can only be answered with facts.”
Pence made multiple campaign stops in New Hampshire in his first visit to the state since he launched his own presidential campaign on Wednesday.
In comments, he went on to say no one is above the law, adding that handling of classified documents is a serious matter.
Pence, though, also expressed suspicion of the Justice Department going back to its Hillary Clinton email investigation, the Russia investigation and the handling of his own classified document discoveries compared to those of President Joe Biden.
“They were on my doorstep in a day,” Pence said. “According to press reports, they didn’t go to President Biden’s offices or home for 80 days. It doesn’t sound like equal treatment under the law to me.”
As Trump faces charges, 7NEWS’ Dan Hausle asked Pence if he would pardon Trump if he were convicted.
“There’s assumptions in there that I’m not gonna speak to hypothetical questions,” he responded.
Politicians react to Trump indictment
The new indictment against Trump details more than three dozen felony charges.
Among other things, the indictment says Trump kept classified documents in unsecured locations at his Mar-A-Lago home including in ballrooms and bathrooms after he left the White House.
In addition to comments from Jack Smith on Friday afternoon, Massachusetts political leaders have spoken out about the case, with Sen. Ed Markey weighing in at an event in Cambridge.
“There are now more counts against Donald Trump than a boxer in a losing match,” Markey said. “Donald Trump stole documents, violating the Espionage Act. He lied about it. He hid the documents. He obstructed the federal government’s attempts to reclaim those documents.”
“No one is above the law,” Markey continued.
Elsewhere, Utah Senator and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney also reacted.
“By all appearances, the Justice Department and special counsel have exercised due care, affording Mr. Trump the time and opportunity to avoid charges that would not generally have been afforded to others,” Romney said in a statement.
“Mr. Trump brought these charges upon himself by not only taking classified documents, but by refusing to simply return them when given numerous opportunities to do so,” he continued.
Constitutional law expert discusses what’s next after Trump indictment
Before his federal indictment, Trump was already facing state charges in New York.
With Trump now due in federal court next week, there is a legal fight shaping up over how Trump’s case in Miami could play.
In the classified documents case, Trump has repeatedly claimed that he declassified all of the documents involved before he left office, at one point saying a president could declassify the documents with his mind. Trump has also attempted to claim executive privilege.
If that’s the route the defense plans to go, Northeastern University Law Professor Jeremy Paul said, it may not hold up.
“I don’t think there really is any legitimate claim of immunity for this conduct because it all took place after the president had left office,” Paul said.
On the prosecution’s side of the case, Paul said prosecutors are facing a legal tight-rope walk as the DOJ needs to prove its case while avoiding accusations of political motivation.
“We don’t want, in this country, I think everyone would agree with that, for one political party to use the Department of Justice as a vehicle for political issues,” Paul said. “I think that, of course, on the other hand, we don’t want the other political party to say that it’s immune from normal legal accountability because it’s political.”
Trump has taken to his social media site to attack both Special Council Jack Smith and the DOJ, claiming President Biden received preferential treatment after the FBI found classified documents in his possession, despite major differences between the cases.
“President Trump, by all accounts, is not being charged merely with having the documents,” Paul said. “He’s being charged with having the documents and knowingly refusing to turn them over, which is something no one is accusing President Biden of doing.”
On the broader scale, Paul said the case is a historic look at the issue of whether a US president is above the law and what the damage could be to the office of the president, no matter a potential ruling.
“Think how horrible it would be if anybody who was president felt ‘I can break any law that I want because, if someone tries to prosecute me, I can say it’s political and get away with it,’” Paul said. “We don’t want that either.”
House Judiciary Chair and Rep. Jim Jordan sent a letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland late Friday afternoon calling Trump’s indictment “a miscarriage of justice” and asking the DOJ for all documents and communications related to the FBI’s search of Mar-A-Lago last summer, meaning the upcoming case surrounding the Trump indictment could play out in a congressional hearing as well as in front of a judge.
Back in New Hampshire, Pence said he wishes the Justice Department could have worked something out with Trump short of bringing charges, saying such an outcome would have been better for everyone.
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