Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday said he hopes the Justice Department doesn’t indict Donald Trump for his handling of classified documents, adding that a criminal prosecution would be “terribly divisive.”
In a CNN town hall following the announcement of his 2024 presidential campaign, Pence said bringing charges against the former president would send a “terrible message to the wider world” at a time when he said the country should unite to fight other crises, including high inflation.
“This kind of action by the Department of Justice I think would only fuel further division in the country,” Pence told an audience in Iowa.
“We’re the symbol of justice in the world. And the serious matter, which has already happened once in New York, of indicting a former president of the United States, sends a terrible message to the world,” he added. “I hope the DOJ thinks better of it and resolves these issues without an indictment.”
Trump already faces a trial scheduled for next year on New York charges related to paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels. He’s also under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors for the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, and by Georgia authorities for his attempts to overturn his 2020 election defeat there.
Despite his prosecution reservations, Pence on Wednesday came out with his sharpest rebuke yet of his former boss, suggesting Trump’s actions surrounding Jan. 6 show he’s unfit for office.
“Anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States, and anyone who asks someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be president of the United States again,” Pence said.
The Justice Department has reportedly informed Trump’s legal team that he is a target in the classified documents probe as special counsel Jack Smith appears near the end of his investigation. Legal experts have said this suggests an indictment is imminent.
Trump’s lawyers were spotted leaving the DOJ earlier this week after reportedly urging prosecutors to not indict Trump.
“No one has told me I’m being indicted,” Trump wrote on Truth Social Wednesday. “And I shouldn’t be because I’ve done NOTHING wrong, but I have assumed for years that I am a Target of the WEAPONIZED DOJ & FBI.”
Prosecutors are using a grand jury in Florida, in addition to the one in Washington, in the case.
Smith’s investigation revolves around two main questions: whether Trump obstructed government efforts to retrieve classified records he took with him after leaving the White House, and whether he broke the law in relation to classified files.
Pence, who had also notified the DOJ of classified documents he found in his own records, last week was informed the department wouldn’t pursue criminal charges against him.
Trump was hit with 34 criminal charges in April in New York alleging he falsified business records related to hush money payments prior to the 2016 presidential election. He has pleaded not guilty.