Former US vice-president Mike Pence must testify in front of a grand jury investigating Donald Trump’s election subversion and incitement of the January 6 attack on Congress, a federal judge reportedly ruled on Tuesday.
Multiple news outlets reported the ruling, which remained under seal.
Trump and Pence himself have both sought to stop Pence from testifying in the justice department investigation of Trump’s attempt to overturn his defeat by Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
At issue are conversations between Pence and Trump leading up to January 6 and the attack on the Capitol, which is now linked to nine deaths, more than a thousand arrests and hundreds of convictions.
Lawyers for Trump cited executive privilege, the concept that communications between a president and aides are protected.
Lawyers for Pence argued he was protected by the separation of powers, via the vice-president’s role as president of the Senate, which he performed on 6 January 2021, the day supporters who were told to “fight like hell” by Trump tried to block certification of Biden’s win.
On Tuesday, James E Boasberg, a judge in federal district court in Washington DC, reportedly rejected both arguments.
Pence is not expected to have to answer questions about his own actions on 6 January 2021, when he was spirited away from a mob which chanted about hanging him while a makeshift gallows went up outside.
Pence has described that experience in a book, So Help Me God, published ahead of an expected run against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. He has also criticised Trump’s actions in public remarks. Trump has said the January 6 Capitol attack was Pence’s fault.
On Tuesday, Pence was reportedly considering an appeal. Robert Costa, a CBS correspondent and co-author with Bob Woodward of the bestselling book Peril, about Trump’s attempt to cling onto power, said: “Pence has said he might see this all the way to the supreme court.”
The Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe has described Pence’s defence as “meritless”, saying: “Pence needn’t file a foolish appeal just to prove his [pro-Trump] credentials. He’s done enough in that regard. Now he needs to show he’s law-abiding.”
Reporting the ruling on Tuesday, the Associated Press said it set up the “extraordinary scenario of a former vice-president potentially testifying against his former boss in a criminal investigation”.
Trump faces legal jeopardy on multiple fronts.
An indictment is expected in New York, over a hush money payment to an adult film actor. His attempted election subversion is under investigation in Georgia and at the federal level. Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by the US attorney general, Merrick Garland, is also investigating Trump’s retention of classified material.
Authorities in New York have mounted a civil suit over Trump’s business affairs. In the same state, Trump also faces a defamation trial over an allegation of rape from the writer E Jean Carroll.
Trump denies all wrongdoing, claiming to be the victim of prosecutors motivated by political and racial animus.
He continues to lead polling regarding the Republican nomination for president.
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