The U.S. Justice Department has asked Mike Pence to testify in the criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results, a person familiar with the case said.
The request came before Attorney General Merrick Garland, who last week appointed special counsel to oversee investigations into Trump that focus on two areas: possible national security mishandling of documents, and the assassination attempt. the Capitol on January 6.
Pence is considering testifying because, unlike the congressional investigation, which he has panned, the New York Times previously reported, the department wants him to appear before a federal grand jury and compel his cooperation with a subpoena.
But even if Pence is willing to testify, things could get even more complicated if Trump tries to block Pence’s testimony by invoking executive privilege — potentially leading to months of legal wrangling over what Pence is allowed to reveal. .
So far, Trump’s lawyers seem to have had limited success blocking testimony from Pence’s aides: His former chief of staff Marc Short and former legal counsel Greg Jacob appeared before a federal grand jury in Washington in July.
Moments federal prosecutors are likely to ask Pence about include a phone call between Trump and Pence at 11:20 a.m. ET on the morning of the attack on the Capitol, when Trump attempted to bully Pence into denying the ceremonial certification of Biden’s election victory in Congress. command and postpone.
Trump’s words and the gist of the call were revealed when Oval Office aides described it to the House select committee on Jan. 6. What Pence said in response remains unclear.
Both Short and Jacob, who also testified before the select committee, told investigators they didn’t know what Pence had said because he walked out of the room to take the call; it was his standard practice not to inform others about his talks with Trump.
After the call, Pence went to the Capitol and said in a statement circulated through his office that he would not carry out Trump’s wishes. He then confirmed Biden’s victory as Trump supporters and far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys stormed the Capitol.
The former vice president could also shed light on Trump’s intent and overt participation in the effort to overturn the 2020 election results, and whether Trump had been warned that those efforts were illegal, which would be critical to prosecutors in the United States. considering charges. .
At issue is the concept of willful blindness — and whether Trump continued to pursue strategies he had been warned could break the law.
Emmet Flood, Pence’s attorney, did not respond to a request for comment.
A person close to Trump suggested it was too soon to know if Trump would assert executive privileges, as Pence had not yet agreed to cooperate. Pence said in an interview with TSTIME News last week that he would not cooperate with the select committee’s investigation into the U.S. Capitol bombing.
“Congress has no right to my testimony on the Constitution’s separation of powers,” Pence said. “And I believe it will set a terrible precedent for Congress to call a Vice President of the United States to speak about deliberations that took place at the White House.”
On NBC on Sunday, Pence was asked if he thought Trump had committed a crime related to the January 6 events, when some Trump supporters attacking the Capitol chanted “hang Mike Pence,” to which he replied, “I don’t know if the criminal is to listen to bad advice from lawyers.”
Pence is looking at a presidential run for which he seems to be pursuing a balancing act, trying to distance himself from Trump while appealing to Republican voters.
His new memoir, So Help Me God, which details his version of events during his time on Trump’s side, contains a comprehensive account of Pence’s role in and views on Trump’s efforts to remain in office.
Trump, he writes, said he was “too honest” to participate in a plot based on claims of widespread election fraud. He also says Republicans were right to object to the results in key states because it “meant we would have a substantive debate.”
But the former vice president also made it clear that he considers Trump responsible for the attack on the Capitol. In a recent interview with TSTIME News on Jan. 6, he said Trump’s words and actions “made me angry.”
“But I turned to my daughter who was standing nearby. And I said, ‘It doesn’t take courage to break the law. It takes courage to uphold the law.’ The president’s words were reckless. Clearly he decided to be part of the problem,” Pence said.