Mike Pence to appear before Grand Jury, “Federal Judge” Rules
According to The New York Times, a federal judge has ruled that former Vice President Mike Pence must appear before a grand jury investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
The ruling largely dismisses separate legal efforts by Pence and Trump to limit his testimony. The judge’s rulings are the latest setbacks to attempts by Trump’s legal team to limit the scope of questions prosecutors can ask witnesses close to him in ongoing investigations into his efforts to maintain power after losing the election and his handling of classified documents after leaving office.
Before the January 6th attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, Trump repeatedly urged Pence to use his ceremonial role overseeing the congressional count of Electoral College votes to block or delay certification of his defeat.
Prosecutors are seeking to compel Pence to testify about Trump’s demands, which were extensively documented by Pence’s aides in testimony last year to the House select committee investigating the events leading up to the riot.
In an attempt to limit Pence’s testimony, Trump’s lawyers asked a previous chief judge for the court, Beryl A. Howell, to claim that certain issues were off-limits due to executive privilege, which protects certain communications between the president and some members of his administration.
At the same time, Pence’s lawyers argued that his role as president of the Senate meant he was protected from legal scrutiny by the executive branch, including the Justice Department, under the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause. This provision is intended to protect the separation of powers.
While the judge dismissed Trump’s attempt to assert executive privilege, his ruling on the “speech or debate” clause was more nuanced.
The judge affirmed that Pence had some protection under “speech or debate” based on his role in overseeing the certification of the election inside the Capitol on January 6th. However, the judge also said that Pence would have to testify to the grand jury about any potentially illegal acts committed by Trump.
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