Court Battles

Pence must appear before Jan. 6 grand jury: reports

Former Vice President Mike Pence
Greg Nash
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a Coolidge and the American Project luncheon to celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of President Coolidge’s term at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, February 16, 2023.

Former Vice President Mike Pence has been ordered to appear before a grand jury weighing efforts to overturn the 2020 election, according to reports from multiple outlets on Tuesday, after a top federal judge ruled that executive privilege could not entirely shield him from answering questions.

The sealed order rejected former President Trump’s claims of executive privilege in special counsel Jack Smith’s Jan. 6, 2021, investigation, a sign that D.C. District Court Chief Judge James Boasberg may align with his predecessor in pushing Trump-era officials to cooperate with the probe.

Pence must answer questions that address any criminality by Trump, Boasberg reportedly ruled, though the judge did accept some arguments from Pence’s legal team that he should not be questioned about his role that day as President of the Senate — something that could limit inquiries into his actions on Jan. 6 itself.

An attorney for Pence did not immediately respond to request for comment, nor did Trump’s team.

Pence’s attorneys appeared in court just last week to fight a subpoena from Smith. Pence’s team planned to roll out an unusual argument in the case, saying testimony would violate the “speech and debate” clause of the Constitution which shields legislators from being questioned in any other place” beyond legislative chambers.

It’s not clear if either Pence or Trump will appeal the ruling.

Pence previously suggested he would be willing to take such a battle to the Supreme Court if necessary, telling ABC News’s Jonathan Karl last week, “We’re going to respect the decisions of the court, and that may take us to the highest court in the land.”

Trump’s team attacked the Justice Department’s approach in a statement.

“The DOJ is 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,” a spokesman said by email.

“There is no factual or legal basis or substance to any case against President Trump. The deranged Democrats and their comrades in the mainstream media are corrupting the legal process and weaponizing the justice system in order to manipulate and influence an election in which President Trump is dominating all across the board.” 

The ruling appears to be Boasberg’s first dealing with the special counsel’s probe, taking over as chief judge after Judge Beryl Howell stepped down from the role, which oversees arguments in sealed matters.

Howell has rejected Trump’s executive privilege claims for a number of former White House officials, recently ordering then-chief of staff Mark Meadows and others to comply with subpoenas.

Updated: 2:20 p.m.

Tags Beryl Howell Donald Trump Jack Smith James Boasberg Jan. 6 Capitol riot Mike Pence Mike Pence

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