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Mike Pence has outright denied the House Select Committee on January 6 the opportunity to speak with him about the day almost two years ago when his boss’s supporters broke into the Capitol and threatened to hang him. But according to the New York Times, he is considering speaking with Justice Department investigators, who reached out to him in recent weeks as part of their criminal inquiry into the Trump team’s effort to stop the election certification.
Pence has not yet been subpoenaed, so at this point, his testimony would be voluntary. But if he does appear, it could be a major step forward for the DOJ, which just appointed a special counsel, Jack Smith, to determine whether Donald Trump should be charged in the January 6 probe or in the mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.
The former vice-president was obviously in the room during many of the conversations in which Trump’s bumbling team of legal advisers looked for ways to keep Trump in office. And according to recent reports, prosecutors have compelled grand-jury testimony from Pence’s former chief of staff, Marc Short, and his former attorney Greg Jacob. Both have described to House investigators how Trump conspired with conservative lawyer John Eastman — whom Jacob once called a “serpent in the ear of the president” — to obstruct Congress on January 6 by pressuring Pence into stopping the Electoral College vote count. The potential for legal exposure in Eastman’s scheme could be significant: When it fell apart, the attorney asked to be on Trump’s pardon list “if that is still in the works.” And in an opinion filed in March, U.S. District Judge David Carter wrote that Trump’s and Eastman’s plan on January 6 was a “coup in search of a legal theory” that might have constituted a conspiracy to defraud the United States.
If Pence does agree to talk, Trump will probably try to block the testimony, citing executive privilege. But that option hasn’t worked so far in the DOJ probe: Trump also tried to block the testimony of Jacob and Short, but the attempt only managed to delay their conversations with prosecutors. And if Pence does talk, Trump will have to add that to the growing list of legal problems bogging down his 2024 run.