Pence Must Testify to Jan. 6 Grand Jury, Judge Rules
A federal judge has ordered former Vice President Mike Pence to appear in front of a grand jury investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, largely sweeping aside two separate legal efforts by Mr. Pence and Mr. Trump to limit his testimony, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The twin rulings on Monday, by Judge James E. Boasberg in Federal District Court in Washington, were the latest setbacks to bids by Mr. Trump’s legal team to limit the scope of questions that prosecutors can ask witnesses close to him in separate investigations into his efforts to maintain his grip on power after his election defeat and into his handling of classified documents after he left office.
In the weeks leading up to the Capitol attack by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021, the former president repeatedly pressed Mr. Pence to use his ceremonial role overseeing the congressional count of Electoral College votes to block or delay certification of his defeat.
Prosecutors have been seeking to compel Mr. Pence to testify about Mr. Trump’s demands on him, which were thoroughly documented by aides to Mr. Pence in testimony last year to the House select committee that investigated the Jan. 6 riot and what led up to it.
This month, Mr. Trump’s lawyers asked Judge Boasberg’s predecessor as chief judge for the court, Beryl A. Howell, to limit Mr. Pence’s testimony by claiming that certain issues were off limits because of executive privilege, which protects certain communications between the president and some members of his administration.
Understand the Events on Jan. 6
At the same time, lawyers for Mr. Pence asked to limit his testimony by arguing that his role as the 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. That provision is intended to protect the separation of powers.
While Judge Boasberg issued a clear-cut ruling against Mr. Trump’s attempts to assert executive privilege, his ruling on the “speech or debate” clause was more nuanced, according to a person familiar with the matter.
How Times reporters cover politics. We rely on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.
The judge affirmed the idea that Mr. Pence had some protection under “speech or debate” based on his role in overseeing the certification of the election inside the Capitol on Jan. 6. But Judge Boasberg also said that Mr. Pence would have to testify to the grand jury about any potentially illegal acts committed by Mr. Trump, the person familiar with the matter said.
People close to Mr. Pence have said for weeks that they expected he would have to testify to some degree to the grand jury. The New York Times reported that the Justice Department had been seeking an interview with Mr. Pence as far back as late last year.
Judge Boasberg’s decisions concerning Mr. Pence came a little more than week after Judge Howell issued a ruling that more than a half dozen other former Trump administration officials — including Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s final chief of staff — could not invoke executive privilege to avoid testifying to the grand jury investigating Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn the election.
The ruling by Judge Howell, who stepped down as chief judge on March 17, paved the way for grand jury testimony from Mr. Meadows; one of his deputies, Dan Scavino; Robert C. O’Brien, who served as national security adviser; John Ratcliffe, the former director of national intelligence; and Stephen Miller, one of Mr. Trump’s speechwriters and top advisers.
Mr. Trump and some witnesses in the election inquiry have tried for months to limit their scope of grand jury testimony, prompting a pitched behind-the-scenes battle waged — like all issues involving grand juries — in sealed court filings and closed-door hearings.
Mr. Pence was one of the last major witnesses to litigate the boundaries of his grand jury testimony. Two of his closest aides — Marc Short and Greg Jacob — were ordered to appear before the grand jury last year, as were two top lawyers in Mr. Trump’s White House, Pat A. Cipollone and Patrick F. Philbin.
In one of her final acts as chief judge, Judge Howell issued a similar ruling in the classified documents inquiry. She ordered that M. Evan Corcoran, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, would have to testify to the grand jury conducting that investigation in spite of assertions of attorney-client privilege he had made on Mr. Trump’s behalf.
In making her decision, Judge Howell found that prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, who is overseeing both grand jury investigations, had met the threshold for what is known as the crime-fraud exception. That allows prosecutors to work around attorney-client privilege if they have reason to believe that legal advice or services were used to further the commission of a crime.
Source: Read Full Article