Department of Justice (DOJ) special counsel Jack Smith, who is overseeing a two-pronged investigation into former President Donald Trump, has subpoenaed Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence.
Smith’s investigation is looking into Trump’s removal of classified documents from the White House and his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election after his loss to President Joe Biden. His subpoena of Pence is focused on the latter of those two inquiries.
According to reports from several news outlets, Smith requested that Pence hand over any documents in his possession relating to the attempted overturn of the 2020 election. Smith also wants Pence to testify on Trump’s motivations during the end of 2020 and the start of 2021.
It’s unclear whether Pence will comply with the subpoena or try to invoke executive privilege, which could send the matter to a lengthy review process within the federal court system. Though Pence has been critical of Trump in the years since they departed office, he risks upsetting the conservative voter base he’ll need to win a potential GOP primary for 2024 if he complies with Smith’s subpoena.
Pence has been uncooperative with requests to testify in other inquiries relating to the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol building and Trump’s attempts to overturn the election. Though several former members of his staff testified before the January 6 committee, Pence refused to do so, arguing that the legislative branch had “no right” to his testimony.
The subpoena demonstrates that the DOJ’s two-year investigation of Trump may be focusing on the fake electors scheme that Trump and his campaign employed in order to overturn the election.
The plan by Trump and his allies was to forward fake elector votes from key states that Trump lost to the Electoral College, with hopes that Pence would include them in the final count in place of legitimate votes. Failing that, Trump hoped Pence would view the fake electors’ votes as equal to the real ones, and discount the entire Electoral College due to the confusion. From there, the issue would likely be sent to the House of Representatives, where each state delegation would receive one vote to choose who should win, a move that undoubtedly would have benefited Trump.
Legal experts noted at the time that the vice president didn’t have the power to comply with Trump’s demands. Pence consulted with his lawyers about it anyway — and when they told him that it would probably be illegal, he informed Trump that he wouldn’t participate, one day before the certification ceremony.
Trump continued to pressure Pence on the day Congress convened for the certification of the election. As the attack on the Capitol building was underway, Trump tweeted that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage” to alter the outcome of the Electoral College — prompting dozens of Trump loyalists to chant for Pence to be hanged, a development that reportedly pleased Trump, who was watching the violence unfold on live TV.
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