By Andrew Restuccia and Bob Davis 

WASHINGTON -- President Trump's top economic adviser criticized his boss's handling of the riot at the U.S. Capitol and said he was disappointed in the way Mr. Trump treated Vice President Mike Pence, while defending the administration's policy legacy.

"I was hoping that he would come out quickly and make statements calling everybody back and stopping the violence," White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said during an 80-minute interview with The Wall Street Journal. He praised the video the president made earlier this week condemning violence, adding that he wished he had released it earlier.

Mr. Trump, in a speech to thousands of protesters gathered near the Washington Monument on Jan. 6, falsely asserted he had won the election and urged his supporters to march to the Capitol, where lawmakers were certifying President-elect Joe Biden's electoral victory. As the protesters began breaching security lines, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. Pence on Twitter for not blocking the certification. After hundreds had broken into the Capitol, Mr. Trump called on the rioters to remain peaceful and avoid violence.

But later that day, the president tweeted, "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long."

Mr. Kudlow joined the ranks of administration officials who have publicly criticized the president's actions in relation to the riot. Three cabinet secretaries and several senior officials across the administration have stepped down in the aftermath of the attack

The NEC director weighed the possibility of resigning in the aftermath of the riot, but ultimately decided against it. After speaking to other senior White House officials, Mr. Kudlow said, "we decided we needed to do the work of the country in the last 10 days or so."

Still, he took issue with the president's rhetoric. He said the president shouldn't have continued to argue that he had won the election, arguing it was a mistake not to shift focus to policy matters.

"Once the electoral college declared Mr. Biden to be president-elect, we would have been better advised to acknowledge that and to pivot toward talking about our positive achievements and the policies that generated those policy achievements," Mr. Kudlow said.

But Mr. Kudlow nonetheless made the case that Mr. Trump's speech before the riot did not incite the violence and did not amount to an impeachable offense.

Asked if he was frustrated by Mr. Trump's public criticism of Mr. Pence, Mr. Kudlow said, "I was very disappointed in the president."

The president's assertion that Mr. Pence could prevent Mr. Biden from taking office had little legal basis.

"The vice president's legal experts were very clear in providing Mike with the knowledge that he had a very, very limited role in the congressional certification of the electors and virtually, except for a few extremists, the entire legal profession agreed with Pence," Mr. Kudlow said.

--Alex Leary contributed to this article.


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 15, 2021 17:41 ET (22:41 GMT)

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