Mike Pence said he hoped the Justice Department would not file criminal charges against Donald Trump, adding that such a decision could harm the United States.
The former vice president, who was evaluating a presidential candidacy, likely to run against the former president in 2024, seemed to downplay Mr. Trump’s actions in a recent interview.
He also dismissed the January 6 committee investigating the Capitol Hill riots for being “partisan-stained”.
Speaking to Fox News on Monday, Mr. Pence said he was disappointed by the “partisan nature” of the House selection committee appointed by a Democratic speaker.
“The president’s actions and words on January 6 were reckless, but I don’t know it’s a crime to get bad advice from lawyers,” Pence said.
“I hope the Department of Justice understands the enormity of the idea of blaming a former US president,” Pence said.
“At a time when the American people want us to be healed, I think that would be terribly divisive in the country. “This time of year we all think about the most important things in our lives, our faith, our family, and I hope the Justice Department thinks very carefully about how to move forward with this Christmas and holiday season.”
Trump’s comments precede the historic official vote by the elected committee to refer Mr. Trump to the Justice Department to stand trial on charges relating to alleged violations of at least five separate sections of the US criminal code.
The last committee meeting ended 18 months of extensive investigations into the former president’s role in the Capitol riots. The committee officially voted to refer the twice-dismissed president to the Department of Justice for prosecution.
Congressional Republicans avoided talking about the January 6 committee’s criminal referral, while Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell appeared to blame Mr Trump.
The whole nation knows who is responsible for that day. Beyond that, I have no immediate observations,” Mr McConnell said in a statement in response to Monday’s House panel vote.
But Mr Trump’s allies attacked the committee.
Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene criticized the committee and accused it of abusing her power.
“They are arming the government against their political enemies and the people who support them. They check all communications to check information,” he said in a tweet by the committee.
New York Representative Claudia Tenney, another Trump ally, said the January 6 committee was holding a “Soviet-style demonstration trial.”
“The legal process was ignored while the facts and witnesses were manipulated to support a predetermined outcome for purely political reasons,” he said.
The indictment by the panel was also dismissed by Representatives Andy Biggs of Arizona, Elise Stefanik of New York, and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.