The former vice-president Mike Pence will not appeal an order compelling him to testify in the US justice department investigation of Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, attempts which culminated in the deadly January 6 attack on Congress.
The order was handed down last week. A spokesperson for Pence announced the decision on Wednesday, clearing the way for Pence to appear before a grand jury in Washington.
Other Trump administration officials have testified in the investigation, as well as in an investigation of Trump’s retention of classified documents. Pence would be the highest-profile witness to appear before a grand jury.
His closed-door testimony could offer a first-hand account of Trump’s state of mind in the weeks after he lost to Joe Biden and further expose a rift in Trump’s relationship with his former vice-president.
Lawyers for Trump objected to the subpoena on grounds of executive privilege, an argument rejected by James Boasberg, a federal district court judge in Washington. Boasberg did accept arguments by Pence’s lawyers that for constitutional reasons he could not be questioned about his actions on January 6.
Lawyers for Pence argued that because he served that day as president of the Senate, overseeing the certification of electoral college results, he was protected from being forced to testify under the “speech or debate” clause of the US constitution, which protects members of Congress from questioning about official legislative acts.
On Wednesday, Pence’s spokesperson, Devin O’Malley, said: “Having vindicated that principle of the constitution, vice-president Pence will not appeal the judge’s ruling and will comply with the subpoena as required by law.”
Lawyers for Trump could still appeal the executive privilege ruling.
The justice department investigation, under the special counsel Jack Smith, is just one form of legal jeopardy faced by Trump, even as he continues to enjoy big leads in polls regarding the Republican presidential nomination.
The former president was indicted in New York this week on charges related to a hush money payment to a porn star who claims an affair.
Trump also faces a Georgia state election subversion investigation, the federal investigation of his retention of classified documents and civil suits in New York over his business practices and a defamation case arising from an allegation of rape.
Trump denies all wrongdoing and claims to be the victim of political witch-hunts.
Pence, who is expected to announce his own run for the presidency, was almost a victim of the mob Trump sent to the Capitol on 6 January 2021, seeking to block certification of Biden’s win. As rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence” and erected a makeshift gallows, Pence was sent running for safety.
Nine deaths have been linked to the attack, including law enforcement suicides. More than a thousand people have been arrested and hundreds convicted, some of seditious conspiracy.
Pence has publicly addressed his interactions with Trump after election day and up to and including January 6, not least in a book, So Help Me God, seemingly meant to prepare the ground for a presidential run.
As he tries to balance his own ambitions with Trump’s dominance among Republican voters, Pence has sought to distance himself from his former president.
Last month, Pence told the Gridiron dinner in Washington: “President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election, and his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
Associated Press contributed reporting
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