Pence ordered to testify in probe of Trump’s efforts to overturn 2020 election
A federal judge ordered former Vice President Mike Pence to comply with a grand jury subpoena issued as part of a special counsel investigation of ex-President Donald Trump‘s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, NBC News reported Tuesday.
Pence had previously vowed to challenge special counsel Jack Smith’s subpoena, arguing that the vice president’s role as president of the Senate grants him constitutional protections against testifying about certain legislative activities.
Judge James Boasberg of U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., ruled that Pence does have some limited protections regarding his role on Jan. 6, 2021, NBC reported. The then-VP on that day presided over a joint session of Congress that had convened to confirm President Joe Biden‘s victory over Trump in the 2020 election.
But Pence is not immune from testifying about alleged “illegality” by Trump, Boasberg reportedly ruled.
The judge also rejected arguments put forward by Trump’s attorneys against the subpoena on the grounds of executive privilege, according to NBC, which cited a source familiar with the sealed ruling.
Smith is investigating whether Trump or his allies unlawfully interfered with the transfer of power on or before Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump’s supporters, spurred by false claims of widespread election fraud, stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Trump had pressured Pence to reject key Electoral College votes for Biden during the congressional proceeding in hopes of sending them back to states whose officials would then pick Trump as their winner. Pence refused to aid in that plan, saying on the morning of the event that he did not have the constitutional power to unilaterally throw out electoral votes.
That decision infuriated Trump and many of his supporters, some of whom broke through police lines and entered the Capitol, forcing Pence and lawmakers to flee for safety.
Pence, who is considering a 2024 presidential run that would pit him against Trump in the Republican primary, has repeatedly defended his decision in the years since the Capitol riot.
A spokesman for Pence did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on NBC’s report.
The ruling on Pence’s testimony comes days after NBC and other outlets reported that a federal judge had ordered a number of Trump’s former aides to testify before the grand jury hearing evidence in Smith’s probe.
Trump’s legal team had also tried to block those ex-aides from testifying on executive privilege grounds.
Smith is also investigating the hundreds of classified documents that were shipped to Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida, resort home, Mar-a-Lago, where he has lived since leaving the presidency. The FBI raided Trump’s home last year.
A Trump campaign spokesperson in a statement to NBC on Tuesday accused the Department of Justice of “continuously stepping far outside the standard norms in attempting to destroy the long accepted, long held, Constitutionally based standards of attorney-client privilege and executive privilege.”
The statement also said Trump’s political foes were “corrupting the legal process” in order to influence the presidential election, where Trump is currently leading the Republican primary field.