MANCHESTER, NH (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday implored fellow Republicans to stop hitting the FBI over the search of Donald Trump’s Florida home, condemning calls by some of the former president’s allies to defund the FBI and said it was “just as wrong” as a push by Democratic activists to divert money from the police.
Pence also said he would have “due consideration” if asked to testify before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 US Capitol riots.
His pleas for restraint come as law enforcement officials warn of an escalating number of violent threats against federal agents and government entities since agents searched Mar-a-Lago last week as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into discovering classified White House records on Trump’s estate earlier this year.
In New Hampshire, Pence was asked what went through his mind when he heard about the FBI’s search of Trump’s home. Pence, who like Trump is considering running for president in 2024, said he was concerned by what he called the politicization of the FBI. He also said the Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland should be more open about what prompted authorities to conduct the search.
But Trump’s former vice president also had a message for the GOP.
“I also want to remind my fellow Republicans that we can hold the attorney general accountable for the decision he made without attacking the FBI’s junior law enforcement officers,” he said at the Politics & Eggs event at St. Anselm Uni.
“The Republican Party is the law and order party,” Pence continued. “Our party stands with the men and women who stand on the thin blue line at the federal, state and local levels, and these attacks on the FBI must stop. Demands to disappoint the FBI are just as wrong as demands to disappoint the police.”
Federal authorities and private extremism watchdogs have warned that a growing number of ardent Trump supporters appear ready to hit back at the FBI or others they think are going too far in the investigation of the former president.
In Ohio, a man wearing a body armor and armed with an assault rifle and nail gun was shot dead after trying to break into the FBI’s Cincinnati office. A man has been arrested in Pennsylvania after posting death threats against agents on social media.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has said that threats against agents and the Justice Department are “regrettable and dangerous.” The FBI has warned its agents to take precautions, citing an increase in social media threats to bureau employees and facilities. Some GOP lawmakers and others are calling for the FBI to be dismantled and defunded.
Pence, who has strategically tried to distance himself from his ex-boss, began his response by saying, “Look, it’s pretty well known that President Trump and I have had our differences.” Still, Pence has made sure, frequently to cite the achievements of the “Trump-Pence administration” in the hope that he can appeal to voters who have supported Trump’s policies but are turned off by Trump’s behavior.
They parted ways on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of angry Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to stop Congress from formally confirming Joe Biden’s election victory. Trump condemned his vice president for refusing to object or delay certification — something Pence had no authority to do. A false gallows was erected on the National Mall and people breaking into the Capitol chanted, “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! ”
Pence had previously declined to say if he would contact the House Inquiry Committee if the panel requested his testimony. On Wednesday he said he would think about it.
“If there was an invitation to attend, I would think about it,” Pence said, adding he will first “think about the unique role” he has as vice president.
“It would be unprecedented in history for a vice president to be subpoenaed to testify on Capitol Hill, but like I said, I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” he said. “Should a formal invitation ever be sent to us, we would give it due consideration.”