Former Vice President Mike Pence, pictured on Feb. 15, 2023, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has signaled he may drop efforts to avoid testifying in the Justice Department's criminal Jan. 6 probe.
WASHINGTON ― Mike Pence on Wednesday hinted that he may not pursue a legal battle to avoid testifying in the Justice Department’s criminal probe into Donald Trump’s attempts to steal the 2020 election.
“I have nothing to hide. I have written and spoken extensively about that day,” Trump’s ex-vice president, who is now considering his own bid for the White House, said during a visit to Iowa. “At the end of the day, we’ll obey the law.”
Pence had gone to court to block a subpoena from special counsel Jack Smith to appear before a federal grand jury examining Trump’s actions leading up to and on Jan. 6, 2021, when he incited a mob of his supporters to attack the Capitol in a last-ditch effort to cling to power.
James Boasberg, chief judge of the U.S. district court in Washington, D.C., ruled on Monday that Pence had to testify, but in his still-sealed ruling said that Pence was correct that, in his role as president of the Senate, Pence was protected by the “speech and debate clause” of the Constitution, according to sources familiar with the decision.
But much of prosecutors’ interest is not in Pence’s dealings with members of Congress, but about his interactions and conversations with Trump and his aides, who are not part of the legislative branch.
Pence had originally said he would take his efforts to avoid testifying all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary. In a brief question-and-answer session with reporters in Urbandale, Iowa, though, Pence said he was pleased that Boasberg had agreed that the speech-and-debate clause applied to the vice president in his role as head of the Senate.
“Now, for the first time ever, a federal court has recognized that these protections extend to a vice president,” he said.
He added that he would consult with his lawyers in Washington, D.C., later this week to decide his next steps.
While prosecutors have already presented testimony from top Pence aides to the grand jury about Trump’s efforts to pressure the vice president, Pence would be able to provide firsthand evidence of his conversations with Trump, rather than secondhand knowledge.
Trump and his inner circle had started scheming to send their own slates of fraudulent electors to Congress even before the Electoral College met to officially cast their ballots on Dec. 14, 2020. That morning, in fact, top Trump White House aide Stephen Miller appeared on Fox News to boast of that plan and said pro-Trump members of Congress would then be able to present these “alternate” slates as a way to overturn the election.
Trump began leaning on Pence to cite the existence of the fake electors as a way to simply declare Trump the winner soon after Dec. 14, and significantly ratcheted up the pressure after Christmas, including two in-person meetings on Jan. 4 and 5.
That pressure campaign morphed into an outright coup attempt when Trump used the threat of violence and then actual violence in an attempt to coerce Pence into doing as Trump had demanded. That culminated in a social media post at 2:24 p.m. on Jan. 6 ― after Trump’s mob had already breached the Capitol ― declaring that Pence had lacked the “courage” to overturn the election for him.
Four of Trump’s own supporters died that day in the melee, while five police officers died in the coming days and weeks. Another 140 officers were injured.
Trump, nevertheless, remains the most dominant voice in the Republican Party and is running for the presidency again. Although he originally denounced the violence that his supporters had carried out, he has now come to embrace what they did.
At a rally on Saturday in Waco, Texas, Trump played a recording of “The Star-Spangled Banner” sung by Jan. 6 detainees who have been charged with assaulting police officers, interspersed with Trump’s reading of the Pledge of Allegiance.