US justice department seeks to question Mike Pence

Former vice-president could be key witness in criminal investigation into efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to stay in power after 2020 election

The United States Department of Justice is seeking to question the former vice-president Mike Pence as part of its criminal investigation into efforts by the former president Donald Trump to remain in power after losing the 2020 election, it has emerged.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday, based on talking to people familiar with the thinking of Mr Pence, that he was considering the request.

The former vice-president has declined to participate in the separate investigation by a committee of the US House of Representatives into the attacks on the US Capitol on January 6th last year by supporters of Mr Trump in a bid to delay official certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the election.

The New York Times, which first reported details of the Department of Justice’s approach to Mr Pence, said sources had maintained he recognised that the criminal investigation was different from the January 6th inquiry by politicians in the House of Representatives.


Mr Pence, who has said he was considering a bid for the White House in 2024, was present for some of the key moments following the November 2020 presidential election when Mr Trump and his allies allegedly made plans about trying to remain in power.

The newspaper said on Wednesday that one of the lead investigators examining the efforts to overturn the election had contacted Mr Pence’s team before the appointment by US attorney general Merrick Garland last week of a special counsel to oversee the January 6th investigation and a separate inquiry into Mr Trump’s handling of classified documents that were found at his home and club in Florida.

The New York Times said discussions between the Department of Justice and Mr Pence were at an early stage.

It said Mr Pence has not been subpoenaed by the Department of Justice and the process could take months, because Mr Trump could seek to block or delay testimony from the former vice-president by trying to invoke executive privilege.

Mr Trump has cited executive privilege to try to stop other former top officials from talking to investigators. While those efforts have generally been unsuccessful in preventing testimony by the officials to a federal grand jury, they have significantly slowed the process.

Mr Pence has recently published a book and has undertaken several media interviews about the aftermath of the 2020 elections, the riots at the Capitol Hill on January 6th and his interactions with Mr Trump.

In an interview with US broadcaster ABC about Mr Trump’s speech to supporters at a rally on the morning of January 6th, Mr Pence said: “I mean, the president’s words were reckless. It was clear he decided to be part of the problem.”

However Mr Pence has refused to tell his story about January 6th to the House of Representatives committee.

He said “Congress has no right to my testimony” and there were “profound separation-of-powers issues” involved.

In his book, Mr Pence details how Mr Trump summoned him to the Oval Office in the White House on January 4th to meet a conservative lawyer named John Eastman. Mr Eastman promoted a theory that the then vice-president could set aside the votes in the electoral college process – to determine who would be the next president – from states where Mr Trump was seeking to challenge the outcome.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent