Former Vice President Mike Pence will not appeal a federal judge’s ruling forcing him to testify in front of a grand jury investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to thwart the transfer of power after the 2020 election, an aide said Wednesday.
The decision by Mr. Pence could clear the way for potentially consequential testimony that federal prosecutors have long sought as they explore Mr. Trump’s attempts to stay in office. It is unclear whether lawyers for Mr. Trump, who lost a parallel effort to limit Mr. Pence’s testimony, will also appeal the judge’s ruling.
In a statement, Mr. Pence’s adviser, Devin O’Malley, noted that Mr. Pence had “prevailed” on his attempts to argue that his testimony should be limited because as the president of the Senate on Jan. 6, 2021, 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.
“The court’s landmark and historic ruling affirmed for the first time in history that the speech or debate clause extends to the vice president of the United States,” Mr. O’Malley said. “Having vindicated that principle of the Constitution, Vice President Pence will not appeal the judge’s ruling and will comply with the subpoena as required by law.”
Still, Judge James E. Boasberg, who heard the “speech or debate” arguments last month at a closed-door hearing in Federal District Court in Washington, said in his ruling that Mr. Pence would still have to testify about any potentially illegal acts committed by Mr. Trump on Jan. 6 or on the days leading up to it.
Understand the Events on Jan. 6
Should Mr. Pence end up testifying, it would mark a turning point in a monthslong behind-the-scenes battle waged by Mr. Trump and several witnesses close to him to block the disclosure of details about plans to overturn the election. The former president’s lawyers have often sought — and have repeatedly failed — to limit the testimony of important witnesses with assertions of executive privilege.
On Tuesday, a federal appeals court in Washington turned down an emergency request from Mr. Trump’s legal team to stop the grand jury from hearing testimony from other top aides to Mr. Trump, including Mark Meadows, his former chief of staff, and Dan Scavino, Mr. Meadows’s deputy. Two chief aides to Mr. Pence, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, were forced by a judge’s order last year to testify in front of the grand jury, as were two of the top lawyers in Mr. Trump’s White House, Pat A. Cipollone and Patrick F. Philbin.
With their options narrowing, some of the witnesses who have recently lost their attempts to assert forms of privilege to avoid answering questions may soon take another tack and assert their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Pence has always been a potentially important witness in the election inquiry into Mr. Trump because of the conversations he took part in at the White House in the weeks preceding the Capitol attack. During that time, Mr. Trump repeatedly pressed him to use his ceremonial role overseeing the congressional count of Electoral College votes to block or delay certification of his defeat.
Prosecutors have been trying to get Mr. Pence to talk about Mr. Trump’s demands on him for months — first in requests by the Justice Department for an interview and then through a grand jury subpoena issued by the special counsel, Jack Smith, who inherited the investigation into Mr. Trump’s attempts to stay in power.
From shortly after the election until Jan. 6, Mr. Pence was subjected to an intense pressure campaign from a range of Mr. Trump’s associates outside the government, including John Eastman, a lawyer working with the president, and from Mr. Trump himself. Mr. Pence had his advisers research what his powers were with regard to Jan. 6. Over time, he made clear to Mr. Trump that he did not believe he had the authority that the president insisted he did to unilaterally overturn the results of the Electoral College vote.
By Jan. 5, Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign had become so heated that Mr. Short, who was then Mr. Pence’s chief of staff, called the vice president’s lead Secret Service agent to his West Wing office to tell him that Mr. Trump was going to turn on Mr. Pence, and that they may have a security risk.
The next day, Mr. Trump publicly pressured Mr. Pence in a rally address to a pro-Trump crowd near the White House, then urged his followers to march “peacefully” and “patriotically” to the Capitol. Once there, hundreds of rioters swarmed the building, some chanting “Hang Mike Pence!”
Mr. Pence, who is considering a presidential campaign of his own, has since published a memoir in which he details some of the conversations that investigators are interested in having him speak to in a closed setting.
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