“Expect decisions soon”: Experts say Pence’s “sharply incriminating” testimony is bad news for Trump

Pence appeared before a grand jury investigating Trump's role in the Jan. 6 attack for hours on Thursday

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published April 28, 2023 8:49AM (EDT)

U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence stand together during a homecoming campaign rally at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence stand together during a homecoming campaign rally at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Former Vice President Mike Pence testified on Thursday before a grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, according to Politico.

Pence fought the subpoena issued by special counsel Jack Smith's office but a court ultimately ruled that he would have to testify, though it limited the scope of the questions he had to answer. Trump tried to intervene and block Pence's testimony, citing executive privilege, but an appellate court rejected his motion as well just hours before Pence's appearance.

Pence arrived at the federal courthouse in D.C. at around 9 am on Thursday and did not leave until around 4:30 pm, according to NBC News. He apparently entered the courthouse through a parking garage entrance that allows witnesses to avoid being seen in public areas.

Pence is a critical figure in the Justice Department's probe of the events surrounding the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Trump repeatedly pressured Pence to block the certification of President Joe Biden's win and later lashed out at him after the former veep refused. Trump supporters who overran the Capitol marched through the halls chanting "hang Mike Pence" as he was whisked away to safety by Secret Service.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejected Trump's executive privilege claims and a three-judge appeals panel upheld the ruling on Wednesday. Boasberg also rejected Pence's bid to avoid testifying but ruled that he has immunity from testifying on topics related to his role as president of the Senate on Jan. 6.

"I don't know what he said, but I have a lot of confidence in him," Trump told NBC News on Thursday.

Pence, who may challenge the former president for the 2024 Republican nomination, has criticized the former president over the Capitol attack even as he refused to cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee and fought the DOJ subpoena.

"President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election," Pence said during a speech last month. "And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable."

Pence's testimony may be crucial in Smith's probe.

Pence had "access to information that few or no other people have," explained MSNBC host Ari Melber. "It's the kind of information that the DOJ wants because it could inform quite decisively whether other people are indicted or not in this coup probe."

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Former federal prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner called the testimony a "historic benchmark."

Pence "just testified in the grand jury about the crimes of his former boss," he tweeted. "Take it from this old prosecutor-Pence's testimony is sharply incriminating of Trump & moves the needle further in the direction of a Trump indictment."

Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who served on special counsel Bob Mueller's team, said that there was "very little reason to dawdle" by prosecutors after Pence's testimony.

"Expect decisions soon from Jack Smith," he wrote.

"We're so close to events that some times it's hard to see their significance," noted former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman. "The former VPOTUS just testified in a criminal investigation of his former POTUS.  That is basically breathtaking."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Aggregate Capitol Riot Donald Trump Jack Smith January 6 Mike Pence Politics