Former US Vice President Pence testifies before grand jury

Mike Pence was subpoenaed to testify about the events leading up to the 2021 US Capitol attack, led by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

Mike Pence waves, as he speaks into a microphone
Former US Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Spring Kick-off in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 22 [File: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters]

Former United States Vice President Mike Pence has testified before a federal grand jury investigating efforts by then-President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

The person requested anonymity to discuss the private appearance before the grand jury.

Pence’s appearance in Washington, DC – scrutinising the president he once loyally served – is a milestone in the US Department of Justice’s investigation.

It likely gives prosecutors a key first-person account of certain conversations and events in the weeks preceding the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. It also carries significant political implications, coming as Pence hints at entering the 2024 presidential race with a potential run against Trump, the Republican frontrunner.

The testimony came hours after a federal appeals court, in a sealed order, rejected a bid by Trump’s lawyers to block Pence’s appearance.

Pence was subpoenaed to testify earlier this year but Trump’s lawyers objected, citing executive privilege concerns.

Lawyers for Pence had raised their own, more narrow challenge to the subpoena.

They argued that because Pence was serving in his capacity as president of the Senate as the electoral votes were being counted in Congress, he was protected from being forced to testify about that process. The lawyers cited the US Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, which is intended to protect members of Congress from being questioned about official legislative acts.

A judge in March refused to block Pence’s appearance, though he did side with the former vice president’s constitutional claims that he could not be forced to answer questions about anything related to his role presiding over the Senate’s certification of votes on January 6.

“We’ll obey the law, we’ll tell the truth,” Pence said in an interview with the CBS News show “Face the Nation” that aired Sunday. “And the story that I’ve been telling the American people all across the country, the story that I wrote in the pages of my memoir, that’ll be the story I tell in that setting.”

Pence has spoken extensively about Trump’s pressure campaign, urging him to reject Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory in the days leading up to January 6, including in his book, So Help Me God.

Pence, as vice president, had a ceremonial role overseeing Congress’s count of the Electoral College vote, but he did not have the power to affect the results, despite Trump’s contention otherwise.

Pence, a former Indiana governor and congressman, has said that Trump endangered his family and everyone else who was at the Capitol that day and history will hold him “accountable”.

“For four years, we had a close working relationship. It did not end well,” Pence wrote, summing up their time in the White House.

The Justice Department’s special counsel leading the investigation, Jack Smith, has cast a broad net in interviews and has sought the testimony of a long list of former Trump aides, including ex-White House counsel Pat Cipollone and former adviser Stephen Miller.

Smith is separately investigating Trump over the potential mishandling of hundreds of classified documents at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, as well as possible efforts to obstruct that probe.

On Wednesday, Trump’s lawyers in that investigation called the Department of Justice investigation “severely botched” and “politically infected”.

They urged the House Intelligence Committee to step in by holding hearings and introducing legislation to correct classified document handling procedures in the White House and to standardise procedures for presidents and vice presidents for when they leave office.

“DOJ should be ordered to stand down, and the intelligence community should instead conduct an appropriate investigation and provide a full report to this Committee, as well as your counterparts in the Senate,” the lawyers wrote.

It is unclear when either of the special counsel’s investigations will end or who, if anyone, will be charged.

Source: The Associated Press