Former Vice President Mike Pence called the Manhattan grand jury’s decision to indict former President Donald Trump on a campaign finance issue an “outrage” in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that aired on Thursday night.
Pence, who would face his former boss in the GOP primary if he decides to run for president, said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation into Trump for alleged hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels appears to be a “political prosecution.”
“I think the unprecedented indictment of a former president of the United States on a campaign finance issue is an outrage,” Pence said.
In a historic development, Trump on Thursday became the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges. The charges concern a $130,000 payment made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, and another $150,000 payment made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Hush money payments made to both McDougal and Daniels were revealed and reported by Fox News in 2018. Those payments had been investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York and by the Federal Election Commission
Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York opted out of charging Trump related to the Stormy Daniels payment in 2019, even as Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen implicated him as part of his plea deal for making an unlawful campaign contribution. Cohen claims that he arranged those payments to McDougal and Daniels at Trump’s behest. The Federal Election Commission also tossed its investigation into the matter in 2021. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
“This evening we contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan D.A.’s Office for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal,” a spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said in a statement Thursday. “Guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected.”
Reactions to Trump’s indictment have mostly fallen on predictably partisan lines. Republicans have expressed various forms of outrage. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., accused Bragg of doing irreparable damage to the nation and said he has “weaponized our sacred system of justice against President Donald Trump. Democrats welcomed the criminal charges as long-time coming, with Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead Democrat in Trump’s first impeachment trial, saying the charges were just.
“If justice demanded that Michael Cohen go to jail for a scheme directed by someone else, justice also requires that the person responsible for directing the scheme must answer for their offenses against the law — and that person is Donald Trump,” Schiff said.
Pence said that charging Trump is a “disservice to the country” and warned that the charges will divide Americans, noting that millions still support Trump.
“I think the American people will look at this and see it as one more example of the criminalization of politics in this country,” he said.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Marta Dhanis contributed to this report.