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Mike Pence says he’s not convinced Trump’s Jan. 6 actions were criminal

Former Vice President Mike Pence, a Republican presidential contender, said Sunday that Donald Trump’s actions leading up to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, were “reckless” but he’s “not yet convinced” they were criminal.

“While his words were reckless, based on what I know, I am not yet convinced that they were criminal,” Pence said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” referring to the former president.

Trump said last week that he had been notified in a letter from special counsel Jack Smith that he is the target of an investigation by a Washington-based grand jury examining the Jan. 6 riot and efforts to overturn the 2020 election, adding that effectively means he will be indicted for a third time.

The letter mentions three federal statutes related to the deprivation of rights, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and tampering with a witness, two attorneys with direct knowledge of the document previously told NBC News.

“I hope it does not come to that,” Pence said, arguing that it should be left up to the American people to make judgment about Trump’s conduct around Jan. 6.

“I don’t honestly know what his intention was that day,” he added. “But for my part, from what I saw, as I’ve said is, his actions were reckless. I believe that history will hold him accountable.”

Trump recently issued an indirect warning to Smith, saying it would be “very dangerous” if he were to be sent to prison. Pence said Sunday that the former president’s rhetoric “doesn’t worry me because I have more confidence in the American people.”

In the days leading up to the Capitol attack, Trump attacked Pence for refusing to comply with his demands to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election win. Then on Jan. 6, some rioters were overheard chanting “hang Mike Pence.”

After breaking with his former running mate over Jan. 6, Pence has publicly excoriated Trump over his baseless claims of widespread election fraud in the 2020 election.

“President Trump was wrong,” Pence said during remarks at the annual white-tie Gridiron Dinner in March, which was attended by politicians and journalists. “I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day.”

Pence, however, has not gone after Trump directly since he announced his presidential campaign last month. The former vice president defended his strategy to a voter who confronted him at a town hall in New Hampshire last week.

“I’m not interested in trading insults with my old friend. I’m not,” Pence said. “Some people think that’s the way to win the presidency. But laying out the choice for the American people, we’ve been doing it. We’ll keep doing it.”

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