Mike Pence, who, in his role as Vice President under Donald Trump, and as a target of the January 6th rioters, has a uniquely close perspective on the events leading up to the attack on Congress, but he’s not interested in discussing it with the Justice Department so the DOJ is asking a judge to order him to testify.
Pence is refusing to testify on the ground that he feels he was acting as a member of the legislative branch, as the President of the Senate, on January 6th, as he carried out his duties in solemnizing the electoral vote.
The separation of powers, as laid out in the speech and debate clause of the Constitution, has been broadly interpreted as protecting Members of Congress from being forced to testify about actions carried out during their official work.
It’s not clear whether Pence has willingly spoken to the Grand Jury about other matters surrounding the election denial efforts, but when it comes to conversations between himself and the then-president about his duties on January 6th, he’s invoking the speech and debate clause and says its a matter of principle.
A clip below shows him explaining that he’ll fight the subpoena, because to testify would “undermine the relationship between the president and vice president for generations to come.”
The DOJ isn’t accepting Pence’s excuse lightly.
Instead, they’re asking US District Court Judge Beryl Howell to compel him to testify. From The Independent:
“The novel [defense], which has never been vetted by a court of law, has been questioned by legal and constitutional experts who have said the so-called “speech and debate” immunity only extends to elected members of the House and Senate.”
The report notes that critics wonder whether Pence is actually just protecting his reputation with MAGAs whose votes he could potentially seek in a future presidential run.
Judge Howell has been fairly firm on both January 6th riot participants, and, in cases where she’s felt they were being let off too softly, the Justice Department.
In the months following the attack, she called the DOJ “almost schizophrenic,” according to Politico, for letting defendants who she described as “tarnishing America’s reputation” take plea deals that reduced their crimes to “petty offense[s].”
Pence says he’s going to fight the subpoena because it’s unconstitutional and testifying would undermine the relationship between the president and vice president for generations pic.twitter.com/XO5DCvpSz0
— Acyn (@Acyn) February 16, 2023