Former Vice President and 2024 hopeful Mike Pence speaks at the North Carolina Republican Party convention in Greensboro, North Carolina on Saturday, June 10.
GREENSBORO, North Carolina — Former Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday criticized the Justice Department, rather than Donald Trump, for a devastating 37-count indictment accusing his former boss of conspiring to hiding top secret documents from the authorities demanding their return.
“The American people have a right to know the basis of this decision,” Pence told Republicans in North Carolina gathered for their state convention, where Trump was scheduled to speak hours later. “Attorney General Merrick Garland, stop hiding behind the special counsel and stand up before the American people and explain why this indictment was brought forward.”
Pence, as he left after his 40 minutes on stage, ignored repeated questions from reporters asking if he had read the indictment and if he believed it would have happened if Trump had handed over classified documents improperly preserved when requested by the FBI.
Pence’s choice to blame prosecutors for charging Trump with a crime — rather than Trump for refusing to turn over hundreds of documents, even in the face of a subpoena — aligns him with most of the other candidates in the running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination against Trump.
Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy went so far as to promise to pardon Trump on his first day in office, if he won.
Only former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have said Trump was to blame for his own problems and that his behavior made him unfit for the presidency.
After the FBI searched Trump’s country club in Florida following his failure to turn over all classified documents in his possession last summer, and after aides to Joe Biden also discovered files at the president’s home Democrat, Pence searched his own residence and also found classified documents. . He called the FBI, which prompted a new search. The DOJ recently announced that its investigation into Pence has been closed without charge.
“I took full responsibility and was delighted that the Justice Department found this to be an innocent mistake,” he said at a campaign stop on Friday. in New Hampshire. “But it was a mistake. We have to protect our nation’s secrets.
Pence was nearly killed during Trump’s January 6, 2021 coup attempt in Washington. A crowd, boiling into rage as Trump criticized Pence for lacking “courage” to help reverse his 2020 election defeat, came within yards of meeting Pence at the Capitol. Many Trump supporters chanted, “Hang Mike Pence,” as they scoured the halls looking for him.
Despite this, Pence remained measured in his criticisms of Trump. It was only in his campaign announcement last week that Pence said, for the first time, that Trump’s behavior after the 2020 election up to the Jan. 6 uprising had disqualified him from standing again. president.
He echoed that belief in later appearances, and did so again on Saturday in North Carolina.
“Anyone who places themselves above the Constitution should never be President of the United States,” Pence said in his remarks. Republicans at the Sheraton Ballroom in Greensboro cheered politely as Pence explained his actions on Jan. 6 when he refused Trump’s demands.
Lincoln County party committee delegate Melissa Crespo said she couldn’t possibly support Pence.
“I feel like he shouldn’t run against Trump. I just feel like it’s disloyal,” she said. “He’s betraying the people who supported him by as Vice President.”
Pence’s “First in Freedom” luncheon drew 600 convention attendees, who paid $75 each to attend the fundraiser. It was one of three paid meals the party is hosting. A dinner with fellow GOP hopeful Ron DeSantis drew about 900 attendees who paid $150 a ticket, while a Saturday night dinner with Trump sold nearly 1,000 tickets at $150 each.