WASHINGTON (TND) — A federal judge has ruled that former Vice President Mike Pence will have to testify before a grand jury after he was subpoenaed by the special counsel investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
That's according to two people familiar with the ruling, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it remains under seal.
The people said, however, that the Pence would not have to answer questions about his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, when a violent mob of Trump's supporters stormed the building as Pence was presiding over a joint session of Congress to certify the vote.
Specifically, the judge's ruling upheld parts of the inital subpoena challenge brought by Pence's attorneys that will exempt him from providing documents or records as well as answering certain questions concerning his specific constitutional duties as president of the Senate that day, according to reporting by ABC News.
Footage from the day, captured by reporters as well as from the livestreams of many of the rioters, showed many of the aggressors in the mob chanting "hang Mike Pence" as they entered the Capitol.
A recently revealed court video from the Department of Justice shows a timelapse of the the 30 minutes of lead up from the mob's vocal protests outside the building to when it moved in to begin the storm and siege. The footage shows that the mob began its move up towards and into the building after 2:24 p.m. – shown in military time on screen as 14:24:00:00 – which was when Trump tweeted "Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!" (the tweet has since been deleted).
Pence had argued that, because he was serving in his capacity as president of the Senate that day, he was protected from being forced to testify under the Constitution's “speech or debate” clause, which is intended to protect members of Congress from questioning about official legislative acts.
ABC further reported that, according to sources, D.C. Chief Judge James Boasberg ordered Pence should have to provide answers to the special counsel regarding any question that suggest or implicate Trump in any illegal activities.
The Special Counsel, former U.S. Attorney Jack Smith, was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November to oversee two Department of Justice investigations into Trump: one about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the other about his potential mishandling and illegal retention of classified documents found at his Mar-A-Lago estate.
Pence, who has been reluctant to explicity criticize his former boss, has recently begun to launch tactical jabs and strong, honest appraisal of Trump's role in the events of Jan 6.
At the March Gridiron Dinner – an annual white tie event in Washington that gathers politicians and journalists to poke fun at the other – Pence took the podium to offer a frank testimony of his take on that day's events.
President Trump was wrong," Pence said. "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 history will hold Donald Trump accountable.
The former Vice President also took that moment to criticize attempts by right wing lawmakers and media, especially recent on-air presentations by Tucker Carlson, to reshape the narrative of the seriousness of the events of Jan. 6.
"Make no mistake about it, what happened that day was a disgrace," Pence said later in his remarks. "And it mocks decency to portray it any other way" – his comments would be echoed by Republican colleagues in the senate like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said he would not "whitewash" Jan. 6.
Pence has also spoken extensively about Trump’s pressure campaign urging him to reject President Joe Biden’s victory in the days leading up to Jan. 6, including in his book, “So Help Me God.” Pence, as vice president, had a ceremonial role overseeing the counting of the Electoral College vote, but did not have the power to impact the results.
Trump, in fact, separately requested a federal court block Pence from testifying to the grand jury claiming executive privilege. Judge Boasberg rejected that claim in his ruling today.
The sealed ruling from Boasberg sets up the unprecedented scenario of a former vice president being compelled to give potentially damaging testimony against the president he once served. And it comes as Pence has been inching closer to announcing a run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, which would put him in direct competition with his former boss.
Pence’s team is discussing whether it will appeal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report