After years of breaking from former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence offered a limited defense of Trump, questioning whether Trump broke any laws, while denouncing Attorney General Merrick Garland and a politicized Justice Department.
"I don't know if it is criminal to listen to bad advice from lawyers," Pence told NBC News' "Meet the Press" on Sunday about the continued pursuit of Trump for the Jan. 6 Capitol protest, calling efforts to investigate, if not jail, the former president as projecting the image of a "third-world country."
Additionally, Pence rebuked the Justice Department which circumvented normal procedures to secure presidential records for the National Archives. Both the records and Jan. 6 led Garland to appoint another DOJ special counsel to look for criminality of Trump.
"I've not hesitated to criticize the president when I think he was wrong — and clearly, possessing classified documents in an unprotected area is not proper," Pence told NBC host Chuck Todd. "But I have to tell you, I was on the Judiciary Committee for 10 years in the House of Representatives. I know how the Justice Department works. And there had to be many other ways to resolve those issues and collect those classified documents.
"They didn't try everything. And I have to tell you, going to the last resort of executing a search warrant against a former president of the United States I think sent the wrong message. It was a divisive message in this country."
Pence said he once considered the U.S. the "gold standard" of justice in the world, but seeking to find wrongdoing against Trump, including raiding his private residence at Mar-a-Lago in August is something a "third-world" nation does.
"I put the blame for the decision to execute a search warrant at the personal residence of the former president of the United States on the leadership of the Justice Department," Pence said. "It's inconceivable to me that that wasn't a decision that was made at the very highest levels, and approved at the highest levels.
"It was a divisive message in this country. But I think worse still, it was the wrong message to the wider world that looks to America as the gold standard.
"I want to see the credibility of the Justice Department restored after years of politicization during the Trump-Pence administration.
Pence added, "America should never be associated with that image at all," and while he admits "no one is above the law," Pence said assigning yet another special counsel to look for crimes has him skeptical of Garland.
"I have great difficulty with the decision that he made," Pence said. "I have great concerns about his judgment and his leadership at the Justice Department."
"But I would hope the Justice Department would give careful consideration before they take any additional steps in this matter," he concluded.
In another interview with CBS's "Face the Nation," Pence blasted the partisan nature of the House Jan. 6 Select Committee to host Margaret Brennan.
"I served for 12 years in the Congress: It's inconceivable to me that one party would appoint every member of a committee in Congress," Pence said. "That's antithetical to the whole idea of the committee system. That being said, I never stood in the way of senior members of my team cooperating with the committee and testifying. But Congress has no right to my testimony. We have a separation of powers under the Constitution of the United States.
"And I believe it would establish a terrible precedent for the Congress to summon a vice president of the United States to speak about deliberations that took place at the White House.
"I am closing the door on that."
That same argument is used by Trump in his claims of executive privilege, which was quashed by the Justice Department and President Joe Biden in their continued pursuit of their chief political rival.
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