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Pence Launches Campaign, Faceplants on Trump Indictment Issue
The former VP wants to stand for law and order—except when it comes to his former boss.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE, who officially launched his 2024 bid for the presidency on Wednesday, is positioning himself as a faithful proponent of law and order—with one glaring exception: the indictment of a former president.
When CNN anchor Dana Bash asked Pence in a town hall Wednesday evening about the breaking news that the Department of Justice notified Donald Trump that he was the target of a criminal investigation, Pence said he hoped the federal prosecutors would back down:
Now more than ever, we ought to be finding ways we could actually come together. And this kind of action by the Department of Justice would only fuel further division in the country.
And let me also say, I think it would also send a terrible message to the wider world. I mean, we’re the emblem of democracy, 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. I hope the DOJ thinks better of it and resolves these issues without an indictment.
Bash followed up by asking, “Sir, I just want to clarify: What you’re saying is if they believe he committed a crime, they should not go forward with an indictment? You just talked before about committing to the rule of law.”
Pence replied by hemming and hawing about what he called the “unique circumstances” pertaining to Trump:
I would just hope there would be a way for them to move forward without the dramatic and drastic and divisive step of indicting a former president of the United States. We’ve got to find a way to move our country forward and restore confidence in equal treatment under the law in this country. We really do.
This Mar-a-Lago-sized carveout for legal accountability undermines Pence’s positioning in the race. A big part of his campaign rollout on Wednesday centered on the idea that he is a committed adherent of constitutional law, as demonstrated by his unwillingness to overturn the election for the president he served.
Consider what Pence told an Iowa audience in his announcement speech: Trump “demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution. . . . I chose the Constitution, and I always will.” The audience stood and applauded him, which for Pence must have been a welcome change from MAGA audiences that usually curse his name. Pence also boldly stated that Trump should “never” be returned to the nation’s highest office: “Anyone who asks someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be president of the United States again.”
And, Pence defied his former running mate a few more times in the CNN town hall. First, in contrast to Trump, Pence said he believed January 6th rioters should be prosecuted to the “fullest extent of the law.”
He then said January 6th defendants should not be pardoned, as Trump has said he would do if elected president again.
And what about pardoning Trump? When Bash asked him about this, Pence laughed it off. “I don’t want to speak about hypotheticals. I’m not sure I’m going to be elected president of the United States,” he joked, awkwardly dodging the question.
THERE WAS ONE OTHER huge Trump-related flaw in Pence’s campaign rollout. Despite saying in his announcement speech that Trump should “never” be president again, the former veep in an appearance on Fox News mid-day affirmed his support for the Republican National Committee’s pledge to back whoever becomes the GOP presidential nominee.
Meaning that if Trump—who is far and away the leading candidate in the GOP primary polls—wins the nomination, Pence would willingly endorse a man he has said should “never” be president.
Perhaps someone could explain to Pence what “never” means. Some of us Never Trumpers would be happy to clue him in. And while we’re at it, how about teaching Pence what “equal treatment under the law” means, too?
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