WASHINGTON – According to a person familiar with the situation, former Vice President Mike Pence appeared Thursday before a federal grand jury investigating efforts by then-President Donald Trump and his allies to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Pence’s appearance before a grand jury in Washington, DC, to question the president he once loyally served, marks a watershed moment in the Justice Department’s investigation and is likely to provide prosecutors with a critical first-person account of certain conversations and events in the weeks leading up to the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, insurgency at the US Capitol. It also has enormous political ramifications, as Pence has hinted about running for president in 2024, possibly against Trump, the Republican front-runner.
The testimony, verified by a person familiar with the subject who requested anonymity to discuss a secret grand jury topic, came hours after a federal appeals court denied Trump’s lawyers’ plea to block Pence’s presence in a sealed order.
Earlier this year, Pence was summoned to testify, but Trump’s lawyers resisted, citing executive privilege issues. A judge refused to prohibit Pence’s presence in March, however he did agree with the former vice president’s constitutional assertions that he could not be forced to answer questions concerning his role as presiding over the Senate’s vote certification on Jan. 6.
“We’ll obey the law, and we’ll tell the truth,” Pence said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “And the story I’ve been telling the American people all across the country, the story I wrote in the pages of my memoir, that’ll be the story I tell in that setting.”
It was unclear what Pence may have told the grand jury, but he is the highest-ranking Trump administration official to be called before the panel. Security was high inside the federal building where the grand jury has been meeting, just steps from the US Capitol, due to Trump’s visit, with an extraordinary level of activity by US Marshals.
Pence has written extensively about Trump’s pressure campaign in the days leading up to the presidential election, pressing him to reject Democrat Joe Biden’s triumph, notably in his book “So Help Me God.” Pence, as vice president, had a ceremonial role monitoring Congress’ counting of the Electoral College vote but had no capacity to influence the outcome, despite Trump’s assertion.
Pence, a former Indiana governor and congressman, has stated that Trump put his family and everyone else there at the Capitol that day in peril, and that history will hold him “accountable.”
“We had a close working relationship for four years.” “It did not end well,” Pence wrote, summarizing their encounter in the Oval Office.
When news of Pence’s grand jury appearance broke, Trump was speaking in New Hampshire. When asked if he was concerned about his testimony at a diner, Trump replied, “No, I’m not, and I don’t know anything about it.”
Pence’s lawyers had filed their own, narrower objection to the subpoena. They argued that because Pence was serving as President of the Senate when the electoral votes were counted in Congress on Jan. 6, he was not required to testify about that process under the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, which protects members of Congress from being questioned about official legislative acts.
That argument was accepted by the judge, effectively limiting the scope of his expected testimony.
The investigation’s special counsel, Jack Smith, has conducted extensive interviews and requested the testimony of a long list of former Trump officials, including ex-White House attorney Pat Cipollone and senior adviser Stephen Miller.
Smith is also looking into Trump’s probable mishandling of hundreds of secret documents at his Palm Beach, Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, as well as any attempts to hinder the investigation.
It is unclear when either special counsel’s inquiry will conclude or who, if anyone, would be charged.