The Justice Department is pursuing the prospect of testimony from former Vice President Mike Pence, who, of course, was the target of consistent pressure from then-President Trump in the lead-up to January 6 to go along with an idea of blocking Joe Biden’s presidential election victory from being certified by Congress.
Pence refused, and amid the riot that enveloped the Capitol on the day that Congress was dealing with the process of certifying the presidential election outcome some in the crowd sought violence against him for his perceived lack of sufficient loyalty — a perception further energized by Trump ranting on Twitter about him. Infamous video footage showed mob participants chanting in favor of hanging Pence, and an informant has indicated to the FBI that members of the far-right group the Proud Boys, many of whom were present during the chaos, were prepared to kill him. Although Pence has refused to answer questions for the House committee investigating January 6, a decision member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) criticized in a recent television interview considering the ex-vice president’s decision to write a book, The New York Times claims Pence is more open to the idea of answering the department’s questions, recognizing the distinctions between its inquiry and Congressional investigations.
“Mr. Pence, according to people familiar with his thinking, is open to considering the request, recognizing that the Justice Department’s criminal investigation is different from the inquiry by the House Jan. 6 committee, whose overtures he has flatly rejected,” the Times said. The department wants Pence’s testimony against the backdrop of its wide-ranging probe into attempts to undo the 2020 presidential election outcome, a list including the essentially falsified slates of electoral votes prepared on Donald’s behalf in states Biden won. Beyond the prosecutions of individual rioters, the Justice Department has also focused on figures like John Eastman and Jeffrey Clark, the latter of whom was a department official closely loyal to Trump in the post-election period who prepared a draft letter for Georgia authorities pushing false suspicion of the election results and the idea of getting behind fraudulent slates of electoral votes.
The investigation in which Pence would testify is one of those newly under the purview of new special counsel Jack Smith, but the Times specifies that the department began seeking Pence’s cooperation before Smith joined the probes. Prosecutor Thomas Windom, who was already working on the department’s investigation, was in communication with the former vice president’s team prior to Smith’s appointment. Smith, for his part, has emphasized his interest in keeping the investigative efforts under his control running according to schedule, without delay. Among the lingering factors in potentially hearing from Pence is whether a subpoena will be issued and if Trump might try to invoke executive privilege. Pence has also been floated as a potential GOP presidential primary contender, although polling suggests he’d be starting from way behind.