Former vice president Mike Pence has given evidence in private to a federal grand jury investigating efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, according to a source.
Mr Pence’s appearance before a grand jury in Washington scrutinising the ex-president he once loyally served is a milestone in the Justice Department’s investigation and is likely to give prosecutors a key first-person account about certain conversations and events in the weeks preceding the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6 2021.
It also carries significant political implications as Mr Pence hints at entering the 2024 presidential race and a potential run against Mr Trump, the Republican front-runner.
The evidence came hours after a federal appeals court in a sealed order rejected a bid by Mr Trump’s lawyers to block Mr Pence’s appearance.
Th ex-vice president was subpoenaed to give evidence earlier this year, but Mr Trump’s lawyers objected, citing executive privilege concerns.
“We’ll obey the law, we’ll tell the truth,” Mr Pence said in an interview with CBS News aired on Sunday. “And the story that I’ve been telling the American people all across the country, the story that I wrote in the pages of my memoir, that’ll be the story I tell in that setting.”
He has spoken extensively about Mr Trump urging him to reject Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory in the days leading up to January 6, including in his book So Help Me God.
Mr Pence, as vice president, had a ceremonial role overseeing Congress’s counting of the Electoral College vote but did not have the power to affect the results, despite Mr Trump’s contention otherwise.
The former Indiana governor and congressman has said Mr Trump endangered his family and everyone else who was at the Capitol that day and history will hold him “accountable”.
“For four years, we had a close working relationship. It did not end well,” he wrote, summing up their time in the White House.
Lawyers for Mr Pence had raised their own, more narrow challenge to the subpoena. They argued that because he was serving in his capacity as president of the Senate as electoral votes were being counted in Congress on January 6, he was protected from being forced to give evidence about that process under the constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, which is intended to protect members of Congress from being questioned about official legislative acts.
A judge agreed with that argument, effectively narrowing the scope of his expected evidence.
The Justice Department special counsel leading the investigation, Jack Smith, has cast a broad net in interviews and has sought the evidence of a long list of former Trump aides, including ex-White House counsel Pat Cipollone and former adviser Stephen Miller.
Mr Smith is separately investigating Mr Trump over the potential mishandling of hundreds of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, as well as possible efforts to obstruct that probe.
On Wednesday, Trump lawyers in that investigation called the Department of Justice investigation “severely botched” and “politically infected” and urged the House Intelligence Committee to step in by holding hearings and introducing legislation to correct classified document-handling procedures in the White House and to standardise procedures for presidents and vice presidents for when they leave office.
“DOJ should be ordered to stand down, and the intelligence community should instead conduct an appropriate investigation and provide a full report to this committee, as well as your counterparts in the Senate,” the lawyers wrote.