Pence Subpoena Gives Him a Pass on Looking Like a Trump Traitor
Former Vice President Mike Pence has been subpoenaed by the special counsel that’s overseeing two criminal probes of former President Donald Trump.
Federal prosecutor Jack Smith is leading the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into Trump’s efforts to remain in office after losing his reelection bid in 2020, as well as the criminal probe of classified documents found in Trump’s Florida Mar-a-Lago home in August.
Pence is facing the subpoena after months of negotiations between his legal team and federal prosecutors, reported Reuters, who cited ABC News and other media outlets who first reported on Pence’s subpoena.
The DOJ also subpoenaed Robert O’Brien, national security adviser under the Trump administration, who’s been asserting executive privilege to avoid participating in prosecutors’ investigations of his former boss, reported Reuters.
While the nature of Pence’s subpoena was not immediately known, the DOJ is likely seeking his testimony regarding the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.
“Pence is a key witness because Trump reportedly pressured him to refuse to certify the electoral votes on January 6th or to delay and send the matter back to the states,” Mariotti tweeted Thursday evening. “His staff testified regarding this pressure campaign, but Pence had some private conversations with Trump.”
Since the riot at the Capitol, which followed a “Stop the Steal” rally hosted by the former president, Pence has described Trump’s actions in January 2021 as “reckless,” and has blamed Trump’s actions on “bad advice” from his lawyers.
Despite Trump seemingly defending his supporters who called to hang Pence if he did not overturn the results while Congress certified the 2020 election, the former running mates have seemed to end their relationship on amicable terms. Trump defended Pence in January after investigators discovered classified documents at the former vice president’s home in Indiana.
Mariotti noted on Twitter, however, that Pence is likely one of Smith’s last witnesses as he builds his case around Trump’s involvement on January 6, meaning the investigation is “far along.”
“So does this mean Pence will try to fight the subpoena?” he added in his thread. “Don’t be so sure. Often witnesses who want to testify *ask* for grand jury subpoenas so they can say they were compelled to testify even when they are willing (or even eager) to come in and talk.”
Other experts echoed that Pence’s subpoena may be a cover for him to not appear like he is turning his back on Trump. Legal analyst Lisa Rubin tweeted that Pence’s lawyers “may have insisted on the cover of a subpoena as they continue to toe the line between fidelity to the rule of law and the subservience to the rule of Trump.”
Legal affairs columnist for Los Angeles Times, Harry Litman, also tweeted Thursday evening that being subpoenaed by the DOJ was a “strategic call” for Pence.
“Does he want to resist and bring an executive privilege claim that he probably will lose?” Litman added. “Or tell the truth, under compulsion, so it doesn’t look as if he’s overeager.”
According to Reuters, Smith’s office declined requests to comment from CNN and ABC News.
Newsweek has reached out to Pence’s office for comment.