The Justice Department is seeking to question former Vice President Mike Pence as a witness concerning the criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump's efforts to remain in power after losing the 2020 election, according to The New York Times.
According to people familiar with his thinking, Pence is open to considering the request.
Trump may invoke executive privilege to stop him or at least limit his testimony, something he has tried to do with other officials with some success.
Pence, seen by some as a 2024 presidential hopeful, is believed to have played a critical role as Trump and allies sought to block the congressional certification of Joe Biden's victory. Pence drew Trump's ire at the time of the Capitol breach when he said he lacked legal authority to interfere with the certification.
Vice presidents oversee the certification process, but Pence insisted he had no legal right to try to derail the Electoral College tabulation.
Thomas Windom, one of the lead investigators, reached out to Pence's team in the weeks before Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to oversee the Jan. 6 investigation and a separate inquiry into Trump's handling of classified materials.
Pence has not yet been subpoenaed, which could take months because Trump can block or slow his testimony by trying to invoke executive privilege.
Trump has used executive privilege to stop two of Pence's top aides: his former chief of staff, Marc Short, and his general counsel, Greg Jacob. Both men eventually returned for grand jury interviews behind a closed-door court proceeding.
Pence has been publicly critical of Trump's conduct in the run-up to Jan. 6. In interviews for the release of his new book, "So Help Me God," however, Pence asserted that "Congress has no right to my testimony" about what he witnessed.
"There's profound separation-of-powers issues," Pence told The New York Times in an interview. "And it would be a terrible precedent."
Pence's testimony could be compelled by subpoena, but none has been issued.
The former vice president is represented by Emmet Flood, a veteran Washington-based attorney who served as the lead Trump White House lawyer dealing with the Robert Mueller investigation into alleged Trump-Russia campaign collusion in 2016.
As part of the Justice Department's inquiry, an increasing number of high-ranking officials in the Trump administration are finding themselves as witnesses to various congressional and Justice Department investigations.
Pence is considering running for president in 2024. Biden's Justice Department seeks to use Pence as a potential witness against Trump, which could pit them against one another. In his book, Pence has already detailed his belief that Trump was intent on staying in office through extraordinary means.
He claims he had one interaction in which Trump brought him to the Oval Office on Jan. 4, 2021 to meet with attorney John Eastman, who repeatedly argued that Pence could exceed the ceremonial duties of overseeing the Electoral College certification by Congress. Eastman was promoting the idea that Pence had the power to set aside the result from states where Trump was still trying to challenge the outcome.
Pence wrote that he told Trump he didn't have the authority.
Trump has been accused of pressuring Pence and officials in Georgia to go along with the effort. He used his Twitter account to draw attention as well. (For his part, he has alleged electoral fraud but has firmly denied undue pressure on election officials.)
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