Former US vice-president Mike Pence testified before a federal grand jury on Thursday in Washington DC about Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
The former vice-president’s testimony lasted for around seven hours and took place behind closed doors, meaning the details of what he told the prosecutors hearing evidence in the case remains uncertain.
It came a day after an appeals court rejected a last-ditch motion to block his appearance.
Mr Pence’s appearance is a moment of constitutional consequence and potential legal peril for the former president.
He is considered a major witness in the criminal investigation led by special counsel Jack Smith, since Mr Trump pressured him to unlawfully reject electoral college votes for Joe Biden at the joint session of Congress, and was at the White House meeting with Republican lawmakers who discussed objections to Mr Biden’s win.
The two interactions are of particular investigative interest to Mr Smith as his office examines whether Mr Trump sought to unlawfully obstruct the certification and defrauded the United States in seeking to overturn the 2020 election results.
Mr Pence had privately suggested to advisers that he would provide as complete an account as possible of what took place inside and outside the White House in the weeks leading up to the January 6th Capitol attack, as well as how Mr Trump had been told his plans could violate the law.
His appearance came the morning after the US court of appeals for the DC circuit rejected an emergency legal challenge seeking to block Mr Pence’s testimony on executive privilege grounds, and Mr Trump ran out of road to take the matter to the full DC circuit or the supreme court.
The government has been trying to get Mr Pence’s testimony for months, starting with requests from the justice department last year and then through a grand jury subpoena issued by Mr Smith, who inherited the complicated criminal investigation into Mr Trump’s efforts to stay in power.
The subpoena came under immediate challenges from Mr Trump’s lawyers, who invoked executive privilege to limit the scope of Mr Pence’s testimony, as well as from Mr Pence’s lawyer, who argued his role as president of the Senate on January 6th meant he was protected from legal scrutiny by the executive branch.
Both requests to limit the scope of Pence’s testimony were largely denied by the new chief US judge for the court James Boasberg.