Justice Department asks Pence to testify in Trump investigation

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The US Justice Department has asked Mike Pence to testify in the criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Related: So Help Me God review: Mike Pence’s tortured bid for Republican relevance

The request came before Attorney General Merrick Garland named a special counsel last week to oversee the investigation looking into Trump, which focuses on two areas: potential mishandling of national security documents and the Jan. 6 attack. at the Capitol.

Pence is considering testifying because, unlike the congressional investigation, which it panned, the New York Times previously reported, the department wants him to appear before a federal grand jury and could force his cooperation with a subpoena.

Even if Pence is willing to testify, however, the matter could be further complicated if Trump attempts to block Pence’s testimony by asserting executive privilege, potentially resulting in months of legal wrangling over what Pence is allowed to disclose.

So far, Trump’s lawyers appear to have had only limited success in blocking testimony from Pence’s aides: His former chief of staff Marc Short and former legal adviser Greg Jacob appeared before a federal grand jury in Washington in July .

Moments federal prosecutors would likely ask Pence include a phone call between Trump and Pence at 11:20 ET the morning of the Capitol attack, when Trump attempted to force Pence to requisition and delay ceremonial certification of Trump’s election victory Biden in Congress.

Trump’s words and the gist of the call were revealed when Oval Office aides described it to the House Select Committee on Jan. 6. What Pence said in response remains unclear.

Both Short and Jacob, who also testified before the Select Committee, told investigators they didn’t know what Pence had said because he had left the room to take the call; it was his standard practice not to inform others about his conversations with Trump.

After the call, Pence went to the Capitol and said in a statement released through his office that he would not grant Trump’s wishes. He proceeded to certify Biden’s victory as Trump supporters and far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys stormed the Capitol.

The former vice president could also shed light on Trump’s intentions and open participation in the effort to overturn the 2020 election results, as well as whether Trump was warned that those efforts were illegal, which would be critical for prosecutors as they evaluate whether to issue charges .

At issue is the concept of willful blindness and if Trump continued to pursue strategies he was warned could violate the law.

Emmet Flood, Pence’s attorney, did not respond to a request for comment.

A person close to Trump suggested it was too soon to know whether Trump would assert executive privilege given that Pence had not yet agreed to cooperate. Pence said in an interview with CBS News last week that he would not cooperate with the Select Committee’s investigation into the Capitol attack.

“Congress has no right to my testimony on the separation of powers under the Constitution,” Pence said. “And I believe the summoning of a US vice president to speak about the deliberations that have taken place in the White House will set a terrible precedent for Congress.”

Pence was asked on NBC Sunday if he thought Trump had committed a crime in connection with the events of Jan. 6, when some Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol chanted “hang Mike Pence,” to which he replied, “I don’t want to know if it is criminal to listen to bad advice from lawyers”.

Pence is eyeing a presidential race for which he appears to be balancing a balancing act, trying to distance himself from Trump while appealing to Republican voters.

Her new memoir, So Help Me God, which details her version of events during her time alongside Trump, includes an extensive account of Pence’s role and views on Trump’s attempts to stay in office.

Trump, he writes, said he was “too honest” to take part in a plot based on claims of widespread vote-rigging. He also says Republicans were right to object to the results in key states, as “it meant we would have a substantive debate.”

But the former vice president also made it clear that he sees Trump as responsible for the attack on the Capitol. In a recent interview with ABC News regarding January 6, he said Trump’s words and actions “made me angry.”

“But I turned to my daughter who was nearby. And I said, ‘It doesn’t take courage to break the law. It takes courage to enforce the law.” The president’s words were thoughtless. It’s clear that he’s decided to be part of the problem,” Pence said.

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