Federal prosecutors have contacted former Vice President Mike Pence to seek his testimony for the Justice Department's intensifying criminal probe into efforts by then-defeated President Trump and his allies to retain power and subvert democracy following the 2020 election, according to the New York Times.
The department’s January 6 probe — its “most wide-ranging investigation” ever, with over 900 arrests — has expanded in scope in recent months, moving beyond the U.S. Capitol rioters to those who incited and organized them, including members of Trump’s inner circle, and their actions in the days leading up to the riot, multiple outlets have reported, citing the department’s recent flurry of subpoenas.
Thomas Windom, one of the lead investigators in the department’s far-reaching probe, reached out to Pence’s attorneys weeks before Merrick Garland, the attorney general, appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith to take over the department’s January 6 investigation and the probe into Trump’s historic theft and mishandling of classified government documents, per the Times.
Citing sources privy to Pence’s deliberations, the Times reported that the ex-vice president recognizes the difference between the department’s inquiry and the bipartisan House Select Committee’s January 6 probe, which he blew off last week, and is open to considering the department’s request.
Two of Pence’s top aides -- Marc Short, his former chief of staff, and former counsel Greg Jacob -- have testified before a federal grand jury, offering a clear, first-hand view into private communications within the White House in the tumultuous days preceding January 6.
Witnesses who testified earlier in the department’s expanding probe answered detailed questions regarding meetings Trump oversaw between December 2020 and January 2021; the Trump-led Republican pressure campaign on Pence to impede the electoral certification of Joe Biden’s victory; and the ex-president’s instructions to his bumbling team of external advisers — “Team Crazy,” led by disgraced former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and "Kraken" attorney Sidney Powell — about fake electors, according to the Washington Post.
The aides described, in subpoena-compelled testimony, to select committee investigators how Trump schemed with Republican lawyer John Eastman — whom Jacob once dubbed “a serpent in the ear of the president of the United States” — to pressure Pence into introducing a slate of illegitimate presidential electors, thereby hindering the Electoral College vote count and obstructing the congressional certification of Biden’s victory.
In a March opinion, U.S. District Judge David Carter labeled the Trump-Eastman scheme, which would have lobbed the 2020 elections into the depths of democracy-altering disarray, a “coup in search of a legal theory,” an apt description that quickly incurred the beleaguered Trump’s ire.
Although intra-department deliberations concerning obtaining Pence’s testimony are still in the early stages, as he has yet to receive a subpoena, Trump could still “seek to block, or slow, his testimony by trying to invoke executive privilege” if Pence agreed to a deposition, as he had with Short and Jacob’s depositions, noted the Times in its reporting.
In his new memoir, titled So Help Me God, Pence describes some of his interactions with the former president in the run-up to January 6 and on the day of the attack, when a mob of irate Trump supporters breached the halls of Congress, chanting “Hang Mike Pence” after erecting makeshift gallows outside the building.
“In the weeks before Jan. 6, I repeatedly told the president that I did not have the authority to reject or return electoral votes,” Pence wrote. “It was clear he was getting different legal advice from an outside group of lawyers that, frankly, should have never been let in the building.”
Trump has repeatedly attacked his former vice president, calling Pence a “wimp” for rebuffing his rabid requests to subvert democracy almost two years ago.
“Mike Pence had a chance to be great. He had a chance to be, frankly, historic,” Trump said to applause at a faith-based group function in June. “But just like Bill Barr [the former attorney general] and the rest of these weak people,” he added, “[Pence] did not have the courage to act.”