Pence says Trump conduct around Capitol riots was reckless but not criminal

The former president said he received a letter saying he is a target of a grand jury investigation into attempts to overturn his 2020 presidential election defeat

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they push barricades to storm the US Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021. AFP
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Republican presidential candidate Mike Pence said on Sunday that he felt Donald Trump's words and actions leading up to the Capitol attacks on January 6, 2021, were reckless, but probably not criminal.

“Let me be very clear: President Trump was wrong on that day. And he’s still wrong in asserting that I had the right to overturn the election,” Mr Pence, Mr Trump's vice president, told CNN.

“But … criminal charges have everything to do with intent, what the president’s state of mind was. And I don’t honestly know what his intention was that day.”

Mr Trump said on Tuesday he had received a letter saying he is a target of a grand jury investigation into efforts to overturn his 2020 presidential election defeat.

The letter was the clearest sign to date that the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination may face federal criminal charges around his attempts to remain in power after losing the election to Democrat Joe Biden.

“I hope it does not come to that,” Mr Pence said of a Trump indictment over efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

He said it should be left to the American public to determine whether Mr Trump was responsible.

“His actions were reckless,” Mr Pence said.

Before the 2021 Capitol attacks by Mr Trump supporters, he repeatedly criticised Mr Pence for refusing to try to prevent Congress from certifying Mr Biden's win in the 2020 election.

Mr Pence said on Sunday that Mr Trump was wrong in thinking the former vice president could overturn the outcome of the election.

Some rioters chanted “hang Mike Pence” during the Capitol riots.

“Virtually everyone in our movement are the kind of Americans who love this country, who are patriotic, who are law-and-order people, who would never have done anything like that there or anywhere else,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump was indicted in June on charges that he unlawfully kept national security documents when he left office and lied to officials who sought to recover them. He has pleaded not guilty.

He was recently also charged with falsifying business records to conceal hush money payment to an adult film star.

With reporting from AP.

Updated: July 23, 2023, 6:30 PM