MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence pleaded with fellow Republicans Wednesday to stop attacking the FBI over the search of Donald Trump’s Florida home and denounced calls from some of the president’s allies former president to defund the FBI, saying it was “as bad” as a push by Democratic activists to shift police money.
Pence also said he would give “due consideration” to being asked to testify before the House committee investigating the riots at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Their pleas for restraint come as law enforcement officials warn of a growing number of violent threats against federal agents and government facilities since agents last week he looked for Mar-a-Lago as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into the discovery of classified White House records recovered from Trump’s property earlier this year.
Speaking in New Hampshire, Pence said he has been concerned about what he called the politicization of the FBI. He also said the Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland should be more forthcoming about what led authorities to conduct the search.
But Pence, who is trying to chart his own policy path as he and Trump consider the 2024 presidential campaigns, 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 rank-and-file staff of the FBI,” he said at the Politics & Eggs event, a breakfast gathering. at St. Anselm College for business leaders that has become a regular stop for White House hopefuls in the early voting state.
“The Republican Party is the party of law and order,” Pence continued. “Our party stands with the men and women on the blue line at the federal, state and local levels, and these attacks on the FBI must stop. The calls to defund the FBI are so misguided like the calls to defund the police.”
Trump and some other Republican lawmakers have tried to capitalize on the search by portraying it as an act of political persecution and an attack on the rule of law.
For the former political allies, their paths diverged on January 6, 2021, when a mob of angry Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to stop Congress from formally certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory. Trump denounced his vice president, who presided over the Senate, for refusing to oppose or delay the certification, which Pence had no power to do. A fake gallows was set up on the National Mall and people storming the Capitol chanted, “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!”
Before Wednesday, Pence had declined to say whether he would engage with the House committee investigating the insurgency if the panel asked for his testimony.
“If there was an invitation to participate, I would consider it,” Pence said, adding that he would first reflect “on the unique role” he played 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 prejudge,” he said. “If we were ever given a formal invitation, we would consider it.”
A committee spokesman declined to comment on Pence’s remarks.
The committee and Pence’s team have had an open line of communication since Pence’s former chief of staff, Marc Short, agreed to testify privately in December 2021 after receiving a subpoena. Short was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and accompanied Pence as the then-vice president fled the Senate chamber and hid from rioters calling for his hanging.
In Short’s taped testimony, aired at public committee hearings this summer, he described attending White House meetings before the uprising during which Trump allies discussed ways to overturn the election results of 2020.
At one point, Trump had banned Short from the White House grounds because Short objected to pressuring Pence to reject the legitimate election results.
Committee members so far have not decided to call for Pence’s testimony, saying Short and former Pence lawyer Greg Jacobs have provided investigators with plenty of evidence.
Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri in Washington contributed to this report.
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