A few months ago, former Vice President Mike Pence appeared in New Hampshire and said he would consider testifying before the January 6 committee. Last week, the Republican reversed course, saying he was closing the door on cooperating with the congressional investigation and concluding that the bipartisan panel had “no right” to his testimony.
It was, by any fair measure, a deeply flawed answer.
However, there is a qualitative difference between blowing off a US House panel that is about to complete its work and browning federal prosecutors as they weigh possible indictments. The New York Times reported this afternoon:
The Justice Department is attempting to question former Vice President Mike Pence as a witness in connection with its criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to stay in power after his defeat in the 2020 election, according to two people familiar with the matter .
According to Times reporting, which has not been independently verified by either MSNBC or NBC News, the Republican is “open to considering investigators’ request.”
In the absence of obvious evidence, there is no indication that the Department of Justice wishes to question Pence as a possible target of the investigation. In fact, the opposite is true: the former vice president is one of the key witnesses to one of the most important instances of political violence in modern American history.
As the Times added: “Mr. Pence was present at some of the critical moments when Mr. Trump and his allies plotted to keep him in office and block congressional certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.”
Surely Donald Trump would do that Absolutely are trying to invoke executive privileges, in large part because the former president has reason to fear what Pence might tell prosecutors. However, Trump’s previous claims to executive privileges have not fared particularly well.
Also, let’s not forget that a Justice Department grand jury has already heard from top members of Pence’s team, and it stands to reason that investigators would also sit down with the former vice president himself.
It’s likely the next steps will take a while — at least Pence hasn’t been subpoenaed yet — and the privilege claims could take months to process.
But it’s clearly a worthwhile pursuit and a symbol of an intensifying investigation. On January 6, Pence was in mortal danger due to Trump’s reckless lies and desire for illegitimate power. Prior to January 6, Pence was the target of an outrageous lobbying campaign by the then-President and his team of crackpots and charlatans, each imagining that the then-Vice President would play a key role in an attempted coup.
Pence has been willing to share his thoughts on the subject in public appearances, in media interviews, in published commentary, and even in his book. Offering his perspective to federal law enforcement seems like the next obvious step.