WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday called on Republicans to stop attacking the nation’s top law enforcement agencies over the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald J. Trump’s Palm Beach, Fla., home.
Congressional Republicans, including members of leadership, have reacted with fury to the Aug. 8 search, which is part of an investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of classified material. Some lawmakers have called to “defund” or “destroy” the F.B.I., even as more moderate voices have chastised their colleagues for their rhetoric.
Speaking at a political event in New Hampshire, Mr. Pence said that Republicans could hold the Justice Department and the F.B.I. accountable for their decisions “without attacking the rank-and-file law enforcement personnel.”
“Our party stands with the men and women who stand on the thin blue line at the federal and state and local level, and these attacks on the F.B.I. must stop,” Mr. Pence went on. “Calls to defund the F.B.I. are just as wrong as calls to defund the police.”
The remarks by Mr. Pence, who appears to be positioning himself to run for president, highlight his readiness to separate himself from the wing of the Republican Party most loyal to Mr. Trump. They also illustrate the political dangers in criticizing a law enforcement agency, particularly for a party that purportedly bills itself as defenders of law and order.
The calls for a more cautious tone came as threats emerged against law enforcement. A gunman attacked an F.B.I. office in Cincinnati last week, and the Department of Homeland Security distributed an intelligence bulletin to law enforcement around the country that warned of “an increase in threats and acts of violence” after the Mar-a-Lago search.
Mr. Pence also said on Wednesday that he would consider talking to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — the clearest indication to date that he might be willing to participate in the panel’s ongoing efforts. The panel is set to resume public hearings on its findings next month.
Mr. Pence has rarely spoken publicly about how he would respond to a request from the committee to be interviewed, but his lawyers began talking with the panel as early as last summer, indicating that they were unsure of what Mr. Pence might do.
“If there was an invitation to participate, I would consider it,” Mr. Pence said. But adding a note of caution, Mr. Pence went on to say it would be “unprecedented in history” for a vice president “to be summoned to testify on Capitol Hill.”
In recent weeks, the panel has been discussing what to do about some of the more high-profile potential witnesses, like Mr. Pence or Mr. Trump himself, and lawmakers have not reached a conclusion about how to proceed with either man.
The panel had initially believed that both men would fight attempts to get them to testify, and some lawmakers worried that a public battle over getting them under oath would distract from the work of gathering facts about the Jan. 6 attack and the events leading up to it.
Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the committee chairman, has previously said that the committee ruled out a subpoena for Mr. Pence, citing the “significant information” it had received from two of his aides, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, both of whom sat for depositions. Mr. Jacob also testified live during one of the panel’s hearings in June, calling a plan by the lawyer John Eastman to have Mr. Pence single-handedly throw the election to Mr. Trump during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, “certifiably crazy.”
Beyond speaking to the House committee, Mr. Short and Mr. Jacob have both appeared before a federal grand jury in Washington that is hearing testimony in the Justice Department’s parallel inquiry into Jan. 6. The men were present in the Oval Office for a meeting on Jan. 4, 2021, at which Mr. Trump had Mr. Eastman try to persuade Mr. Pence that he could delay or block congressional certification of Mr. Trump’s Electoral College defeat.
While it remains unclear whether Mr. Pence will speak to the committee, if he does he could presumably give the panel a fuller picture of the effort by Mr. Trump and Mr. Eastman to strong-arm him into disrupting the traditional democratic process.
A spokesman for the panel declined to comment Wednesday on Mr. Pence’s latest statements.
Another potentially high-profile witness, Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a supporter of Mr. Trump’s efforts to stay in power after the 2020 election, is still on the committee’s list of witnesses to call, even though she has rebuffed attempts to interview her.
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